by:Â Showey Yazdanian
Every cabbie in town will tell you that he used to be a brain surgeon back in Tehran, and often enough heâ€™s telling the truth. Fifteen years in a taxi have probably erased every shred of surgery from his head, but the cabbie cannot bring himself to admit this, and at parties he will still introduce himself as Doktor to the cashiers and delivery boys who were once electrical engineers.
In their old lives, in Tehran, Doktor Morteza Farshi was a pharmacist. His wife Nahid worked as his assistant, and all day long they stood behind the counter at the Pasdaran Pharmacy on Vozara Street dispensing ulcer medicine and cholesterol pills and contraceptives. In the evenings, Nahid would exchange her sterile white headscarf for one in paisley, and together they would return home to a little flat in Ekbatan. After their daughter Farah was born, Nahid stayed with the baby and Morteza worked longer, sometimes well into the night.
Morteza and Nahid left Iran for the same reasons that everyone else did: because they were poor and without prospects, because the regime was suffocating them. They were tired of the basij, the petty Islamic officials who spied on everyone, ready to pounce on a hint of Westoxification: a man in a Red Hot Chilli Peppers T-shirt, a woman in an extraneous coat of lipstick. It was a basiji who had seized their illegal satellite dish, a young boy fresh from the army. Two months later Morteza dragged himself to the black market and recovered it: the very same dish, crack down the back, Korean markings and all.
They were tired as well of the constant guesswork about who was a harmless religious zealot and who was a dangerous religious zealot and who was not a zealot at all, but only pretending. Everyone made a great show of abstinence, but even the genuinely pious Morteza would occasionally have a swallow of alcohol at a party â€“ Absolut if his hosts could afford it, and saghi – medical alcohol mixed with juice â€“ if they could not. Nahid wore a long black manteau in public, and an even longer one after she got married, but she kept a dazzling red cocktail dress hidden away for the parties back home with her fashionable friends. Even the children were infected: little Farah’s cousins inscribed their homework with the compulsory phrase â€œIn the Name of Godâ€, but they all had satellite and worshipped the Power Rangers. Continue reading