Emails from home
Visiting Iran: Part 5
Part (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
August 19, 2004
Salam bar doostan,
I went to one of Tehran's "Daad-Saraa." During
Shah's days, instead of one central courthouse there were many
courthouses throughout Tehran and they were called Daad-Saraa.
After the revolution they did away with Daad-Saraas, and now Daad-Saraas
are back again.
I went to one close to Intercontinental Hotel next to Park Farah.
Actually I was accompanying a friend of mine who had sued and won
a case, but the defendant was not obeying the court order. My friend
was there to take the next legal action to recover his losses.
He had sold a piece of molding machinery to a fellow two years
ago and was now trying to collect money from him. He was semi-successful
in his ordeal.
Meanwhile I sat in the hallway, went from office
to office, and did a little eaves-dropping and people watching.
There were all kinds of cases. Two items seemed interesting to
me. One was the number of young attorneys running back and forth
with their clients. Second was how often people asked me and others
for directions to this office and to that office, where to make
copies of their documents, where the fax machine was, etc.
the one hour that I spent in Dadsara I learned where the elevators
were (by the way, no more than 4 people could fit in them at one
time), where the copy center was, etc. I kept giving directions
to people left and right.
This attitude, talking to people and strangers on a whim, asking
for help, giving help, is one of those characters that is so different
in Iran than in the West. In taxi cabs people talk to each other
like they have known each other all their lives. I was in a cab
the other day:
Passenger: "Mostagheem." (straight ahead)
Driver: "Bia balla." (get in)
The passenger got in and immediately turned to the driver: "what
kind of a world do we live in? I'm taking my son-in-law to court" He
then talked a little about how his son-in-law has borrowed money
from him and he is not paying him back.
He asked me if I had kids.
"No", I replied.
"Why?", he asked.
"I am not married."
"I lived in America and 'ghesmat' had not been
with me." (It wasn’t my fate to be married).
"What do you do?", "How much do you make per month?".
I answered all his questions.
By this time the cab arrived at the man’s destination and
as he was getting out of the cab he advised me to get married soon
and to have kids.
"It is already too late", he said. "Fathers
and kids should not have a big age gap," he continued.
He then paid the cab driver, looked inside the cab as we were
moving away and yelled: "Don't get married if you don't
want to; sometime it's more trouble than its worth."
As we pulled away, the driver said: "what a talkative man,
he was so nosey. So what is that you did in America?" I
answered again. "Why didn't you get married to an American?
Why have you come back to this miserable Iran where everything
is so much
easier and more beautiful in America?"
He asked and asked
and asked, and I answered and answered and answered.
Sometimes when I get into taxi cabs I keep to myself. I know
if I start talking it might not end with a quick Q&A. The other
day I had a discussion about religion with a cab driver who was
a follower of a new Sufi-cult in Tehran. After we arrived at my
destination we casually sat in the car and talked for another ten
minutes to wrap up our discussion.
I was trying to explain to him
that our problem is not with this religion or with that religion.
The problem is religion itself and that we should keep our minds
aways from the shadow of any kind of brain washing if we are
to flourish and that's probably how God intended it to be for free
thinkers. Religions have a tendency to stifle the brain. Religions
doesn't mean God and God was a separate issue altogether. He
agreed and disagreed. Then I had to pay my fare and leave.
"How much for the fare?" I asked.
"2500 Toman." ($3)
"Chera 2500? 2000 nerkhesheh."
I paid 2500. "It was nice talking to you," I said.
"Same here," he said.
I have been sick for the past 3 days and have stayed home. However,
I finally got to watch a little Iranian TV so I'll do a TV report.,
I watched several well made Iranian mini series, soccer matches
from Italian and British clubs, and also from Iranian clubs.
Ali Daie now plays for Piroozi, I thought he played in Germany.
also has shows from Discovery channel, newer American western
TV shows, Woody Allen movies, Truman Show with Jim Carey is to
aired this Friday, etc.
It is interesting to see Kevin Costner,
Jody Foster and others speak Persian. There are seven channels
with relatively good programming. People with satellite televisions
are finding themselves watching more and more internal Iranian
channels. Shows from LA based stations simply seem silly here.
They are so off-base.
Besides sports, news, and mini series there are very interesting
roundtable discussions. Last night I watched a roundtable discussion,
two scholar Mullahs and two regular scholars. One of the Mullahs
was discussing Nitche's idea, "What if God was dead!" The
young Mullah was well versed in the literature of atheist world.
I enjoyed the discussion which was pretty open and philosophical,
even though it was coming from a Mullah.
There is a show that is produced in Tehran's metro. The tv crew
take up a wagon in Metro and interview experts who have suggestions
for improving Iran's education, economy, etc. They do this as
the train is moving from station to station. Very interesting.
There is a man called Elahi Ghomsheie. He lives in Europe but
comes to Iran often. This man's show is very popular. He basically
motivational speeches with a philosophical twist, and blends
it with poetry from Hafez and Saadi to Shakespeare, Balzak, and
He does this from memory. He knows lots of poems. He looks a
little like Yoda in Star Wars. He is bald, short, old, not very
but is extremely charming and popular with young girls. Power
There is a candid camera show. They have cameras in taxis and
they record taxi discussions. This show was a little biased,
People unanimously expressed views that could not be unanimous
Most of the other shows are clearly not biased. News is much
much better than what I remembered from the last time I was in
Once in a while it shifts to biased positions and comes back
to reality again. I'm told reformists have penetrated the programming
portions of the television stations and not all the programs
be monitored all the time. Whenever a good program goes off the
air people know they must have gone too far.
There is a show where the producers go to neighborhoods, film
the pot-holes in the streets, then talk to people about how their
have been damaged by the holes. Afterwards they track down the
government representatives for that district, for example someone
from shahrdari, and ask them why things haven't been fixed. If
they dodge the questions or if they blame it on another organization
they do a follow up and go to that organization until they get
a clear answer.
Election news: Much of the candidates for the next parliament
have been rejected as ineligible. Eighty of the current parliament
are not eligible to run for the election. Bahram was a candidate
and he was informed yesterday that he cannot run for the parliament.
This is not good news because people may listen to the L.A. based
media and not vote at all. This means conservatives will win
the parliament as they did in Tehran's election.
And finally, this from Confucious:
Lead them by means of government policies and regulate them through
punishments, and the people will be evasive and have no sense
A sage governs this way:
He empties people's minds and fills their bellies.
He weakens their wills and strengthens their bones.
Keep the people always without knowledge and without desires
For then the clever will not dare act.
Engage in no action and order will prevail.
Today I went to a soccer match in Ekbatan. Paas and RahAhan clubs
both have their sports facilities in Ekbatan. There are pools,
indoor and outdoor, tennis courts, soccer fields, etc. Basically
after the revolution Ekbatan lost those two spots to the government.
I don't know if they bought it from Ekbatan or just took it.
Those two pieces of property were located at the heart of Ekbatan
the builders had grand designs/plans for the Ekbatanis.
were to be used for our soccer and sport facilities. Now they
belong to others. Anyway, these two clubs have sport programs,
classes, pools that can be used with 20,000 Tomans
(about $25) of initiation fee and 1000 Tomans ($1.25) for each
use of the indoor swimming
pool. There are weight lifting facilities all over the place.
There were 4 soccer matches today in Tehran. Paas and Saipa played
in Paas's field in Ekbatan. it was a short 5 minute walk from
my apartment. Ticket cost was 300 toman (35 cents). It was a
day, the Sun was shining and people were in good mood. Khodad
Azzizi plays for Paas and most of the 1000 people who had come
stadium had come to see him. 1000 is a very low turnout for Iranian
matches where Azadi stadium, 8 miles to the north, has seats
for 100,000 sports fans and easily gets filled for good matches
for matches between Piroozi (Ali Daie's team) and Esteghlal (which
used to be Taj).
Paas stadium, in my estimation, has seats for about 4000 people.
The game ended with Paas winning 1-0. Saipa's coach is Italian.
The poor guy screamed all day long in Italian. Every now and
then he would grab the lazy Iranian translator who kept disappearing
on him and would take the translator to the sidelines and scream
in Italian and the Iranian translator would scream and translate.
I saw some hand gestures from the Italian coach that translated
well to the Iranian gestures. No need for translations there.
Foreign coaches are all over, from basketball to wrestling, to
ping pong. Actually professional wrestling in Iran is pretty
big and there are lots of foreign wrestlers wrestling for Iranian
There are several black basketball players, possibly Americans
(one of them is Williams so he may be American). They play for
Iranian basketball clubs. Basketball in Iran is still in poor
shape even though younger Iranians are much taller than my generation.
Almost all the players can easily slam dunk where in my days
a few could go where no short man has gone before.
Unlike the early days of the revolution music and music stores
are everywhere. Even the types of music that Iran's melancholy
radio plays are changing. Sometimes even soft rock music leaning
towards hard with electric guitar can be heard with no vocals,
at least not yet. Before I went to the soccer match I heard an
accordion player from outside the window. I went to the window
and noticed an accordion player across my window who was playing
and looking up to the building windows. Some of the neighbors
were dropping money on them. His assistant was busy collecting
that was being dropped on them.
My mom said that that's pretty
customary now. They play music like this and neighbors drop money
from their windows. Also in bazaars suddenly musicians appear
from nowhere and start playing for people. They range all the
solo violin players, to Tonbak players, to a full fledged 5 piece
band from Azerbaijan who sing and play Turkish songs. I also
saw an Afghani band the other day who were singing a song about "Vatan",
about their vatan. These musicians generally play as they walk
There is an old man, probably he is
in his late 80s who plays daryeh (drum) and sings melancholy songs
in Turkish. I have seen him
play at 10 a.m. and again at 9 p.m.. He must be continuously singing
and playing. But his energy level shows that he is old and that
he plays a lot. You can hardly understand what he sings. It's
like mumbling than singing. And his fingers which are indicative
that he used to be a peasant farmer somewhere, hardly hit the
drum. Yet people pay him for his music. He is probably playing
in his head and that's what counts >>> Part 6
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