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A Friday in Zahir-od-doleh
Just for a brief break from our daily reality shows!

Behzad Alvai
January 16, 2007

One of the attractions in Tehran is Bagh eh "Zahir-od-doleh". He was a Prince of Ghajars! -- who wasn't? -- Anyway, apparently this Prince was indeed married to a daughter of Nasser eddin Shah. Then he became a "Darvish", and followed a Morshed of his time (I forget the name). After his Morshed's passing away, I think the Prince became a Morshed to his fellowship. But all that aside, (again I think) his Morshed was burried in one of his properties, situated north of Tehran, just minutes from Darband, is the lot that is subject of our story.

It is called Bagh eh Zahir-od-doleh. To get there, you follow Darband Road from Maydoon eh Shemroon (Now called Ghodss, not Tajrish which is still called the same) towards Darband. About one (1) KM from Maydoon, there is a Zahir-od-doleh (Khiyaboon? Koocheh?), where you turn Right. The second lot to your left will be Bagh eh Zahir-od-doleh (with no more than about 50-60 trees). The corner lot (split and spun off from this bagh eons ago) is now a residential Condo Complex.

As you may know, I was in Tehran recently for a few weeks. I had heard about this "bagh" being open to the public on Fridays until 3 PM. Oh, one thing I forgot; this lot is a resting place for many of our contemporary Poets, Musicians, and Artists (honarmandan?). For instance, it is now home to Malek-osh-shoarA-yeh BahAr, Iraj Mirza, Foroogh Farrokhzad, Darvish Khan (Ostad eh tAr), Daryoosh Rafii (who can not remember his famous song -- Zoherh?), Mahjoobi, Violin Maestro & I think Ma'aroofi the composer of "Golden Dreams" ... amongst others. Oh yes, Rahi Moayyeri too. So, obviously if you have any affinity for one of these big names, you may have a natural inclination to stop by their place for inner reflection and rumination. So did I.

To make a long story short, one Friday after an early lunch with mom, I asked her if she cared to go there. This is how the rest of our conversation went (to be brief :)

- "No, and don't waste your time going, because it will be closed and no one may let you in"!

- "but ma, I asked around and everyone told me it will be open on Fridays til 3".

- "well, sonny, you may be old and think you're a bigshot. I have lived here a few lifetimes over you. You don't know this place. I am telling you it WILL BE CLOSED!"

- "But ma, even if it were to be closed -- obviously sure of myself that it will be open -- we would have gone to Tajrish, which may be a good break anyway!"

- " Good break anyway? Good grief, Lord! You are definitely naive to think that going to Tajrish in Winter may be considerd "a good break" for an aging mom ... "

- "Okay, mom. I understand Tajrish may not be "fun" for you today. What would you want to do?"

- " Take a good nap, if nothing else. Stay in a warm home with a holy siesta to refresh and perk you up. I think you need that. After all, you've been coughing nonstop. Resting may heal you better than anything. Just a good rest. You've been here six weeks and this is the first day your time is free to have lunch at home; not obligated by "did o baz deed". Then that cough of yours ... ; (and listen to me, I know my son) is not your reaction to Tehran Pollution as you suggest. I know you, I know my son and I know the sound of his cough ..."

You know, all that aside; we went there last summer, it was supoposed to be open and Tajrish can be fun any summerday anyway. It WAS closed. We rang the bell, and if it weren't for X (one of the established, big, old names), they wouldn't have even answered the door.

- " can I use his name?"

- " you may". But with your disposition, everyone knows you're bluffing. You sound different after living away for a while, you begin to stand out in any crowd around here like a sore thumb. They'll know you, and it won't help"

- but ma

- No ifs and buts. No "chak o chooneh". GO AHEAD and go. I can't stop you,

- Will it be okay? Are you sure?

- Of course. Now I am sure. Before I had my doubts. You act like a bonehead and won't listen to me. Go!  Go, for sure you must go! You need that experience to reaffirm your faith in me when I tell you something.


So, I took off towards "Enghelab PAYANEH" -- apparently a newfangled contraption in our daily lexicon for "TERMINAL"! There are a gzillion words entering our language everyday, then someone comes up with a "Persian Equivalent" which at best may not make any sense right away, if not totally confusing the heck out of you. (In the future I may tell you about 50 CM cocktail!!!!!!).

The advantage of going to a "PAYANEH" is that you have the best of all possibilities for a ride! You may catch a bus for 20 tomans (about 2 pennies) if and when it ever arrives and has room. Or a Service Bus for 150 - 200 tomans. Then of course "Cabs", "Service Cabs", Private Cabs and motorcycles in addition to other means of transportation are all available at a PAYANEH. Service Buses are a new service. Instead of raising the bus fare, someone figured to paint a few busses differently then offer them at a higher rate to the same riders (and you thought outsourcing was a novel idea). Anyway, these service busses are the same as the rest of "Sherkat eh Vahed" vehicles but take cash. Not a ticket. Their fare is ten times the value of a ticket. Wooooooopppppppie. Who could dare raise the bus fares by tenfolds and get away with it? Of course the trick is there are about five of these "Service Busses", for every old "Bus". So it really doesn't matter how much of a grudge you may hold. After the third one, you decide to ride the fourth and pay the higher fare, just to get there. Everyone cusses and calls it highway robbery and overt theft. But hey, get real! We are all coming up with such schemes to fool ourselves. Anyway, let's get back on track.

Rode the Service bus to Tajrish, walked around a little bit, trying to immerse myself in the surroundings, look at every nook and cranny for old time sake and absorb every bit of it. Of course practically 100% of it looked and felt differently. Then jumped in a private cab that called out "Darband" and bingo. Got off at the intersection of Zahir-od-doleh promptly around 1 pm.

The first thing I did was to turn around and take a good look at the neighborhood. The few stores, fruit stand, plumbing service, ... Of course the cold winter breeze blowing right into my face, with the pile of snow in another corner, and frozen sidewalks, all reminded me to button up and move on.

"Bagh" is a small lot of about 50-100 m by 150-200 meters. It's nothing like the "baghs" you may have in mind from childhood. It was a short walk from Darband street too. So I walked passed the first side without any gates to the other side with a few gates and doors that were all closed! (Listen to mom! -- forget about the adage that says "love your mom, but listen to dad"). Then proceeded to the northern wall that was in a small alley, all the way to the end which was blocked off with barbed wire. Unable to believe myself and make heads or tails of reality, I proceeded to repeat the path up and down a couple of times. Then just to be sure, asked a passerby for time. Sure enough! 1:30 PM was what he said. Then I went another round about the small lot with tall (about 10' tall) wall enclosure, then decided to ask the local shopkeeper about the story of that bagh.

He confirmed to me that "Bagh" will be open until 3:00 PM on Fridays. Then I said: "but all gates and doors are definitely closed". He said: "that's okay. Just knock and they'll open them".

This time, with added confidence, just aquired through aasurance given by the authority of a local shopkeeper, I went to a door and rang the bell. No answer, of course. But I was not going to give up. Went to another gate and rang the bell. This time a voice came over the speaker "baaaaaleh?". It had such an abrasive tone that would have immediately dampened any heated enthusiasm. But not me! Unwavered by his cold tone or the cold winter, I replied "Salam, will this bagh be open again for the rest of the day?" Then he said: "Only Fridays!!!". and I said: "Pardon me? It IS Friday"! Grudgingly he said: "Fridays until 3:00 PM"!

Then I asked: "What time is it now?"

Then he replied: "3:30 PM"

Impeccable! 3:30 PM! Who could argue with that?

(It was 1:45 pm -- gol-o-bolbol Time Zone -- on my watch :)

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