Monday, June 01, 2009

Tehran - another experience

4am - plane touched ATKH airport. I wonder why emirates do not announce it as Ayatollah Khomeini airport but just as a Tehran airport. Well before a visitor gets a glimpse of Iran, all passengers are made to walk through a long corridor whose width is barely enough for one's girth and hand luggage. Either side of the corridor has a wall that stretches up to the ceiling. Only couple of emergency glass doors on the left side alleviates the fear of any stampede if some untoward incident were to happen. On either side of the walls lie protruding camera lenses. Rhythmic stamping of 400 odd feet in combination of click-clack of luggage caster wheels made me wonder if I was a part of some rebel group who was being taken for an execution at wee hours.

In my previous visits to Iran, I did not encounter any problem with my visa but this time their computer did not have our names. That meant spending another hour at the window that would open and close by the whims of a visa issuer across the window. It was interesting to observe that a country that staunchly opposes US insist visa fee in US$(Euro too).

Before Islamic revolution, Iranian Toman/Rial was 70 to 1 US$, now it is past 8,000. It is similar to what happened to Indonesia and Iraq but Iran despite American trade boycott, 10 years of Iraq war and international banking embargo still holding its ground in terms of social security with domestic economy supported by crude oil deposits. Now there is growing concern that oil revenue is being eaten to support Iran economy.

Eating fresh cucumbers and fruits inside the office and kebab outside is the eating lifestyle of any visitor to Iran. Seeing the 'building wall' painted of 'Shahid' portraits on the road was a common sight that continued from previous visits but this time there was a string of movie posters wherever I went around amidst horrible road traffic, already made worst by rains. Iran movies I am told have no song and dance and often revolve around war scenario. Nevertheless, every home has a dish TV and most car play Iranian pop songs recorded outside and smuggled inside Iran. This time my stay was at Taj Mahal, a small apartment hotel that has an Indian restaurant at the basement. The same restaurant turns b'fast coffee shop for residents. With no international credit card facility, one either carries dollars or at the mercy of Iranian hosts. English newspaper (Perhaps the only one) publishes events that involve Iran and the Muslim world and keep US bashing. Public ministry buildings are just part of any other and do not have the extravaganza like in the Middle East. However, they sure carry host of Iran flags

I continued my pursuance of following Persian words that are now part of India boli . Here are some new words that I gathered : Gulab,Khira, Angur, Seb, Guldasta, Inquelab, Khushi, Tijori, Jarrorat, Tasveer, Behtarin, Safari.

This time too, my visit was hectic leaving no time to enter Grand Mosque - a mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini But grandeur of this structure is more elegant in dark hours. However with four visits to Tehran, I am, over and done with this packed city draped with snow-clad Alborz Mountains and streets lined up chinar trees. I would love to visit Shiraz, Isefahan, Yazd and Caspian Sea. However, no matter which part of Iran I go two things that will not be diminished. One- my probing mind on discovering Indian words from Persian language and two - carrying back Iranian sweets and dry fruits.

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5:38 PM  

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