Christmas, Khatami, Ahmad, And I

by Nazy Kaviani


Dec 25 2008

It feels like it was only yesterday when I wrote here about Christmases
past in Tehran. Today I remembered another memory of my days in Tehran.

I remember the first Christmas Mohammad Khatami had been elected
President. Iran was a rainbow of joy and hope, and Tehran was hosting
the Organization of Islamic Countries’ Summit in December 1997. I
left a meeting in downtown Tehran, hailed an orange taxi cab, and
asked the cab driver whether he could spend an hour or two, taking
me around Tehran to buy some things. He agreed. He was a middle-aged
man who was dressed in what we would consider "laat-e-kolah-makhmali"
attire. His coat was resting on his shoulders with his hands free
from the sleeves. The back of his shoes had been pushed inside,
and in his hands he sported a green rosary with which he was playing
as he drove his Paykan. True to form, he also had a black felt hat
on. He had kind eyes and a deep Tehrani accent, complete with lingo
that was reminiscent of old Iranian movie characters.

I told him I needed to pick up a Christmas tree first. He took me to
the Armenian neighborhood of Tehran just below Takht-e-Tavoos Avenue
and helped me carry the tree and secure it in the trunk. On our way to
my next destination, he and I started talking about politics. I told
him I had watched President Khatami receive his foreign counterparts
at the airport that morning. I told him how impressed I had been
with him. He looked at me in the mirror and asked me what about the
President had impressed me. I told him I didn’t really know. Maybe
it was that he seemed to be speaking to the arriving leaders easily,
in English? In German? In Arabic?, and that he was acting "stately,"
something I hadn’t seen before. I told him also that even in his
clergy outfit he seemed lithe and somehow contemporary, belonging to
today. Maybe it was because he wasn’t wearing sandals, I guess.

The cab driver kept moving his rosary in his hands and looking at me
in the rearview mirror. He asked me gently: "Really? You are obviously
a woman who has seen more than life in Tehran. Do you really think
that a president who can chit-chat in a language other than Farsi
is impressive? Or one who wears regular shoes? Does that make him a
good president?" He said: "I feel so sorry for my country. Who would
have thought there would come a day when knowing a second language at
conversational levels or wearing shoes would be considered impressive?"

I was so embarrassed. The "laat-e-kolah-makhmali" cab driver didn’t
look so laat anymore! I asked him his name and his background. He told
me his name was Ahmad and that he had a master’s degree in political
science from Tehran University. He had been a teacher before he had
been dismissed because of his political beliefs. We talked a lot more
about a lot of other things before I bid him goodbye, tree and turkey
and fruits in hand. I learned a few important lessons about myself,
about life, and about Iranian politics from him that day. Those
lessons have only become bolder and more important with time.

Merry Christmas!

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS