Negotiating with the devil
They sounded like they were trading camels
November 28, 2000
Reza is a shrewd Iranian businessman who prides himself of being the
biggest charlatan in North America. He is a type that paints a Yugo and
sells it as a Cadillac. He cheats, lies, deceives, and manipulates with
ease and sleeps like a baby at night. Reza, the only son of a multi millionaire
bazaari from Mashhad, should be the poster child for Planned Parenthood.
They should hang a picture of him on the wall with these words, "Here
is another reason for birth control."
He is an equal opportunity swindler, who has no mercy on anyone, even
his own family. He defrauded his brother-in-law on a real estate deal which,
resulted in his in-law's bankruptcy. The common saying among Iranians here
is, "Even though Reza is not gay, you don't bend over in front of
In a nutshell, Reza is one mean, lying, cheating, cholokabab-eating
machine, who has no respect for human dignity or sense of business integrity.
You might wonder why I know so much about him? Well, he's my cousin.
Reza came to my house to share a revelation. I warned him I wasn't interested
in hearing about his latest swindle. He assured me it was a personal matter.
Reza is a private person who hardly ever shares his personal life with
his family. So I was a bit curious and mildly interested.
"This place doesn't feel like home," Reza uttered, "different
culture, language, looks. I always thought -- some day -- I would go back
home and stay. But the more I stay here the more I get used to it. So I
made up my mind. I am going to start a family here. It's time, you know."
"I'm happy for you. So I guess it's time to go to Iran and bring
back a bride?"
"Actually, I don't need to go back home," Reza smiled. "There
is this girl here that I met a little while ago. She's perfect for me.
She has the same family values, stature, and mentality as I do. She's traditional,
religious, and upright. She can cook, clean, take care of the house, do
the laundry -- did I mention clean?"
"So you want a maid."
"I want a wife. Someone I can have kids with," Reza abruptly
"So you want a maid you can have sex with."
"Whatever. I have to meet her father to ask permission for his
daughter's hand in marriage. I need a wingman, a comrade, a sidekick; someone
who can give me courage. Someone who will pick me up when I stumble. I
need you to go with me."
"Hell no...." I stepped back.
"Please -- I am desperate; I can't do this alone. Nobody in the
family talks to me except you. I have no friends. This is my future we
are talking here. I'll do all the talking. You won't have to say a word.
Reza begged for hours. He wasn't going to leave my house till I said
yes. My girlfriend was due home at any minute and she hates Reza. I had
to get rid of him; so I reluctantly agreed to go. He finally left after
finishing all my food and beers.
Reza picked me up the next day. He was uptight and visibly nervous.
He didn't say much. We drove to the nicer part of the town where all the
rich people live. He stopped the car by a huge house. We walked to the
door, and rang the bell. Reza's face looked lifeless. A short, bald, middle-aged
man opened the door. He had a long, green prayer beads in his left hand.
He asked us to take off our shoes and walk in. He was the father of the
Inside the house was drastically different from the outside. There were
mirrors stuck to the ceiling and the walls. There was no furniture anywhere;
however, there were tons of oversized Persian rugs on the floor. We walked
to a huge living room, which was completely empty, and sat on the floor.
There were a number of young women in the house. Some of the girls served
us tea, candies, and fruit. They were giggling and laughing.
Reza was sitting down motionless. He looked like a zombie. I was waiting
for him to start the introduction, but nothing came out of his mouth. I
kept looking at him but he looked dazed and confused. Things were getting
awkward. There was a long silence. I figured if I start talking, Reza might
come out of the coma and take over.
"Well sir, my cousin Agha Reza, is here to ask your permission
to marry your daughter. Reza is a man of integrity, wisdom, values and
virtues." I felt my nose growing.
"Which daughter?" the father of the bride asked.
I looked at Reza with anticipation. Reza looked as if he was dead --
he was in la-la land. He was looking through the window at some infinite
"Pardon?" I exclaimed.
"Which daughter? I have seven daughters. Which one do you have
in mind?" the man patiently asked.
I looked at Reza again. He was sleeping with his eyes open. He looked
as if he was meditating. I wanted to kill the jerk. He was embarrassing
me. I felt like getting up and kicking him in the head.
The father of the bride looked calm. He paused for a minute and said,
"Well, regardless of which daughter, here are my terms: There will
be an alimony contract that would include five hundred thousand dollars
cash, a house, SUV, apprpriate gifts, jewelry, and all the furniture. She
will walk into her husband's house with an holy Koran, clothes on her back
and her charm. I congratulate your cousin and wish them both a good life
All of the sudden, Reza came back to life. He jumped up like a wild
animal and yelled, "Do you think I'm stupid? Five hundred thousand
dollars, a car, and a house? I am not marrying the queen of England you
know. You got to be joking. Here is what I got for you old man: Two installments
of hundred thousand dollars and maybe a compact car for her alimony. Your
daughter's dowry should include two sets of furniture, big screen TV, washer,
dryer, kitchen appliances, and at least twenty Persian rugs."
The father of the bride looked stunned. He just realized that he wasn't
dealing with an average man but the devil himself.
"Young man, I'm not that rich to accommodate my daughter with such
an elaborate dowry."
"Bullshit! I've done a background check on you," Reza shouted.
"Don't even go there."
The man paused for a second. "Okay, how about a lump sum of three
hundred and fifty thousand dollars and the house for alimony and my daughter
will bring with her five Persian rugs and a big screen TV."
Reza looked at me while shaking his head and said, "Do I look stupid?
Am I wearing a head band that says, 'I am the village idiot.' Am I not
making myself clear?"
I couldn't believe this. What the hell were these guys doing? They sounded
like they were trading camels. I was speechless. Is this normal? Am I missing
something here? Do people do this nowadays? What should I do?
The father of the bride played with his prayer beads. He shifted his
weigh around and calmly said, "Agha joon, I was born at night but
not last night! You can't possibly think I would give my daughter away
to a guy like you whose two Prozac pills short of a mental hospital. You
can never find girls as virtuous as my daughters. Nobody has touched these
girls and as God is my witness, nobody will but their husbands."
Reza thought for a second and said, "Two installments of hundred
and twenty thousand dollars and a sports car; in return you will pay for
the wedding and she will bring in five Persian rugs of my choice plus a
refrigerator, bedroom set, and a big screen TV. That's my final offer and
it's non-negotiable." Reza stood up, looked at me like I was his butler
and said, "Get up. We're out of here."
I jumped up and followed him. Reza stopped on the way out and looked
at a framed miniature painting hanging on the wall. He turned around, looked
at the man and said, "I leave you my phone number. Consider my offer
and call me if you change your mind. By the way, I want you to throw in
this frame as a gesture of goodwill."
We walked out of the house and sat in the car. I looked at Reza and
asked, "What the hell just happened?"
"Nothing, he'ill come around. He has seven daughters; do you have
any idea how expensive it is to have seven daughters? He has no leverage
for negotiation. For all he's asking, I might as well marry his youngest
"You're sick -- she's only fourteen!"