Thursday, February 23, 2006

Something very exciting has happened in the Saramad household. After a long wait, a new book of my dad’s has finally been published.
It is astounding how much love, care, research, humour and pure intelligence has gone into creating this work of art; this amazing piece of history which without a doubt will become one of the great classics of our time. And that’s just the cover. Apparently the material inside the book is pretty good too ;-)

But on a more serious note I just wanted to say how proud of my dad I am for the amazing dedication that he has to his work which has inspired me all my life. Baba, of course you possess many truly fantastic qualities but there are a few in particular that I have always greatly admired; your wonderful writing skills, your ability to grow such a perfect moustache and the way you ensure my mum’s safety by keeping those alley cats away from the balcony (and let me just say this once more as I think you still suspect something, ‘No I did not plant catnip in the garden last spring.’)
I am extremely proud of my mum too for all the time and effort that she put into trying to publish this book and also for the courage she showed on the way at some of the more difficult times (such as the time she was attacked by a budgie in the Tehran underground; ghastly experience).
I am really excited about this book, a copy of which I will hopefully get my hands on in the next few days. If you are also interested in getting your hands on a copy of this great masterpiece but are misfortunate enough to live outside of Iran and therefore unable to pop into a bookstore and buy one for yourself, then there really is no need to cry; just whip out your credit card, click here and a brand-new copy of the first edition of Ilkhanan-eh Iran by Farokh Saramad will be sent to you.
Just be patient please though as it will probably take a couple of weeks since your package will be coming from Iran and you must take into account that on arrival to your country, it will probably be strip-searched, put in an orange jumpsuit, quarantined and listened to for any signs of ticking for some days before it is delivered to you.
On the plus side though, my mum is in charge of post and packing which means if you’re lucky, with your book you might also receive a nice bit of feta cheese or a couple of pomegranates.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I’ve lost a few people that I’ve loved in my life but my granddad, Babajoon is definitely the one that I think of the most. The interesting thing about it is that while thinking of people that have died should make us feel sad, thinking of Babajoon always makes me laugh.
Lately doing yoga with a DVD I’ve taken out of the library, I keep remembering one of Babajoon's famous stories and laughing to myself hysterically while trying to bend myself into various poses that the yoga instructor is trying to get me to do.
This story had many versions depending on what mood Babajoon was in and so keeping the tradition alive, I have now done my own version of it here which has a hint of yoga.

This is how it usually went:
He would say, ‘Did I ever tell you about that time when I was listening to the radio and two stations, one broadcasting an exercise programme and one a cooking programme had got mixed up?’ Then he would stand up and repeat what he claimed to have heard on the radio while miming what he actually had to do if he were to listen to the instructions he had been given.
‘Before we start our exercise you will need to get a few things from around the house: a hand towel, khhhh a sharp knife, a chopping board, two onions, some ground pepper and turmeric khhhhh Stand with your legs shoulder length apart and then bend down putting one hand khhhhh on the chopping board. Remove the skin and then cover with salt and leave on the side khhhhh now bring your forehead down khhhhh and place it in a large bowl khhhh spread out your legs khhhh chop up your onions into small pieces and then add them to the bowl khhhhh if this position is too hard on your legs, try bending your knees a little khhhhh and using your sharp knife, remove all the skin and bones and place the meat khhhhh on your head. We will stay in this position khhhhh until the meat is khhhhh ready for meditation khhhhh This might take a couple of hours which you can use to khhhhhh place your hands on your hips and ask someone to khhhhhh set the table khhhhh Don’t forget to breath. Inhale, reach high, exhale, khhhhh add two teaspoons of turmeric and one teaspoon of pepper to your bowl and mix well using your khhhh foot. Try lifting your leg higher khhhh and place it in a pan full of boiling water khhhh this position is wonderful for toning thigh muscles however if you suffer from high blood presser it might be better for you to khhhhhh turn down the heat and let it simmer gently for half an hour. Khhhh Stand firmly on the ground and make sure your thighs are khhhh tender by sticking a fork in them khhhh this exercise is also great for relieving any tension khhhhh at the dinner table. Khhhh Well that’s all for today. Khhhhh don’t worry if you can smell a little smoke; it’s just the fat burning off khhhhh Join us next week for another workout and meanwhile remember: your body is a temple khhhh decorate it with chopped parsley and serve on a bed of saffron rice with some pickled aubergine.’

Friday, February 10, 2006

When I was at school, the ten day celebration of the revolution was always very exciting. The best thing about it was that this was one of the very few occasions when people could be happy openly and not feel like they were acting un-Islamic (on account of Islam being a religion all about seriousness as we were told).
On these ten days a lot of great and fun things happened and you could get into different groups that did plays or sang revolutionary songs in front of the whole school or made wall mounted newspapers that would be used to decorate the school corridors. But my favourite thing to do was making maquettes. You would choose a scene from the revolution and you would make it into a three-dimensional model. It was great fun and every year I would get together with a few friends and we would make one of these.

The customary thing to do at our school was to draw the people on paper and then cut them out and stand them up on the base. But that year my mum had a great idea ‘Why not use chick peas for women’s heads?’ she said and took a chick pea and put two tiny dots on either sides of the beaklike part. Then we made a piece of wrapping paper into a cone shape and mounted the little chickpea head on the top and it looked like a chadored woman. It was a great idea but I was a bit worried about using them at first because I thought our religious studies teacher (that was also in charge of revolutionary activities) would get all funny about the fact that instead of wearing black chadors, the women in our demonstration were accessorizing with all sorts of different colour wrapping papers. At the end I gave in though because they just looked too good.
My friends and I spent a few days working very hard on our maquette and it was starting to look really great. When they left for their homes on the last day before it needed to be handed in, there was still a lot of work to be done and I stayed up half the night working on it.
On the morning we brought it in to school, all the kids gathered around us and we were told over and over again that our maquette was without a doubt the best one in school.
The best thing was that our religious studies teacher was absolutely delighted by the chickpea women. In fact she loved our maquette so much that she hugged us all and told us how proud of us she was.

In one of the breaks on that same day, our teacher came running up to us with a massive grin on her face. She said there was a national school art on revolution (or something like that) competition and she was going to enter our maquette in it. She said she had not said anything about it before because she had not thought that we being so young could come up with anything that could be entered in that competition but after she had seen our work, she had loved it so much that had called the organisers and had arranged to go there that day with our maquette.
I’m sure you can imagine how excited we got about this. And the best thing was that she said in a few days she would go to that place again and would take us with her so we could see our work exhibited in the gallery along with the other entries.
A few days past and we kept pestering our teacher about when she was going to take us to the exhibition place. But for some reason she was having problems organising the trip. At the end on the last day (on this day actually 21 Bahman 10th February), the day before the national holiday for the victory of revolution, our teacher finally managed to get the permission from school and hire a minibus to take us to the exhibition.
We knew we hadn’t won anything (because right from the start our teacher had made it clear that we had no chance since the older girls and boys from art schools, had made some really great things) but I still couldn’t help imagining that when we got there, there would be people nudging each other and saying, ‘Look it’s those girls that made that amazing maquette.’
‘Which one?’
‘You know, the chickpeas.’
‘Really? That’s fantastic! Why they are so young as well. I can’t believe it.’
‘Yes they are very talented.’

The exhibition place was nothing like I had imagined. It was a huge old house in the middle of a big garden and it was very spooky because apart from us four and our teacher there was no one else around.
Inside the house, there was artwork everywhere. There were paintings, sculptures and maquettes all over the place. Some of the maquettes were placed on tables and platforms but there were so many of them that some had just been left on the floor.
You could tell we were all very disappointed and quite shocked by the state we had found this place in but we all made out as if nothing was wrong and set out on the task of finding our beloved maquette that we had so lovingly made.
At first we went around together but the place was so big that we thought we would cover more ground if we were to split up so we each went our separate way. I was quite wary of doing that because a lot of the artwork there depicted scenes with people dying and a lot of blood and that sort of thing made me very uncomfortable.
In the second room I went to, behind all the maquettes I saw a bed like thing with a pair of boots sticking out of the end. I thought great, this is probably the person that is supposed to be manning the exhibition and he’s fallen asleep. So I went closer to see what the story was and if maybe there was a sort of order to this place that he knew about. I could not see the man because his whole body had been covered with a white sheet that had been drenched in something red where it was touching his face. It was either that this was a life size model of a dead body with its face blown off or this creepy house actually belonged to an Iranian version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family, what’s for sure is that this was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen in my life. Inside I was screaming but no sound was coming out. Finally when I pulled myself together I ran out of the room as fast as I could and then glued myself to the first girl I could find.
We looked and looked but we couldn’t find our maquette. At the end our teacher said we had to leave it and go back because it was getting late.
On our way out as we were going down the last flight of stairs, suddenly one of the girls said, ‘Oh my god, look.’ So we all looked down and there it was. Our beloved maquette had been tossed on the floor by the side of the stairs.

I had to try very hard to keep back my tears. It had been completely destroyed as if people had been walking on it and dogs had been using it as a chew toy. The boy that carried a picture of Khomeini had fallen on top of the woman in the white chador with red flowers (giving our revolutionary sisters brightly coloured chadors instead of black ones had indeed turned them into right tarts) who was now just a cone as her head was nowhere to be seen. The crow had fallen out of its nest and was now having some sort of struggle with the man in green shirt. The wall on the side had broken off and most of the chickpeas had left their posts as heads and where now rolling freely around the street. Altogether our peaceful demonstration had turned into carnage.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Cautionary tale
Life Insurance........Life Insurance
Once I’d gone to pick up a friend at Heathrow airport and while I waited I went to buy a coffee from this guy. I thought he looked Iranian and then he asked the man in front of me ‘Vot vood you like?’ and I knew he was. So I said salam and chatted to him a bit while he made me a coffee. I went away from his stand thinking he was sweet (because he had not charged me for the coffee) but maybe a bit on the simple side (because he had not said much and had spent the whole time staring at me with a wide open mouth). Life Insurance
It was some time later when I paid a visit to the ladies’ that I realised it’s all very well to in your haste to get to the airport in time, grab and put on the first items of clothing you lay your hands on, but unfortunately the top you grab may turn out to be completely see-through. Life Insurance.....Life Insurance......Life Insurance ...... Life Insurance

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I think we have already established that I have a bit of a sick sense of humour so it should come as no surprise how I was tickled by this news on channel 4, the night before last, about Bush and Blair’s meeting about Iraq in January 2003. Basically by then they had decided to go to war anyway regardless of what the United Nations decided and in that meeting they were trying to come up with ways to do this.
What seriously annoys me is that, even though both Bush and Blair are such great liabilities, I still can’t bring myself to dislike them. I want to dislike them as well and so as soon as say, George does something really silly, I think ok that’s it now; I don’t like him anymore. But it never lasts very long because straight away he goes and says another great thing like: ‘The Indians and the Paki's should learn to live in peace.’ Or ‘I’m honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein.’ (Umm, I dread to think what he was actually doing when he said that.) or ‘For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we’re going to do something about it.’ or ‘I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.’
I think you will agree that it’s impossible to dislike a man that brings us so much laughter.
It’s different with Tony. He’s not funny. And unlike George Bush he doesn’t give you that sense of the-lights-are-on-but-nobody’s-home so you can’t even feel sorry for him because you think he is a bit dim.
However the thing with Tony is that in his speeches he gives me this feeling that he really believes in what he is saying. Even with the Iraq war I think he actually believed that it was the right thing to do. Now it was either a case of him really wanting to do this and then lying to himself over and over again until he finally fully convinced himself that Saddam had weapons, or he had simply listened George Bush when he had said, ‘The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself.’ and had decided that it all made sense. Whatever it was (maybe I’m being a bit na├»ve here but to me) in his speeches about the war, he came across quite sincere. To the point that even I, the Iranian, that make it my business to always be cynical about politicians, started to think that maybe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and could actually destroy the whole of Britain in forty five minutes notice. I know lying isn’t good and all that but let’s give the man credit when credit is due because he really did a good job in his speeches.
But I think the main reason I can’t dislike Tony Blair is that out of all the people that want to become the prime minister of Britain, he is the least weird! Yes it’s more a case of, in the kingdom of blind, the one eyed man is king or in this case, in the kingdom of crazy, the less crazy is the prime minister. I’m not saying that people of Britain are crazy or anything like that, oh no, far from it, it’s just that unfortunately nobody in their right mind ever wants to go into politics. So Tony Blair may be annoying and a liar and the possessor of the strangest superpower of all; the ability to instantly turn anything he shows interest in from cool to seriously uncool (this is true; he very nearly put Calvin Klein out of business and at one point even the music industry was threatened) but at least he is the annoying liar superhero that we know. Also he is actually quite intelligent and says things like, ‘Ask me my three priorities for Government, and I tell you: education, education and education.’ As appose to his American counterpart, ‘Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?’
In short, these two are like Pinky and the Brain; they might be trying to take over the world, but it’s still impossible to dislike them.

‘I hope you leave here and walk out and say, ‘What did he say?’’ (George W. Bush, Beaverton, Oregon, August 13, 2004)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

There is a possibility that at some point in our lives, any one of us could be labelled a ‘Sad fat git’ or a ‘Mad old hag’. There is however a way to shun this unfortunate labelling. For the first one you must avoid a flight that starts in Safford airport in the US, stops in Fresno Terminal and ends in Geita airport in Tanzania and for the second one you must avoid a flight from Madrid Barajas airport in Spain to The Hague in Netherlands via Old Town United States.
However not all unfortunate labellings are so easy to shake off. Just imagine this for a moment. After passing a ‘spot the difference’ test that separates the seriously stupid from the rest, after somehow managing to get through an interview with a woman with funny eyes that you were unlucky enough to piss off before the interview even started (by completely ignoring her when she was talking to you because you were certain that her eyes were looking at the person sitting behind you) and who asked you questions like, are you into bondage? (to which you replied ‘No’ and she said, ‘I am…well sort of… just for a laugh.’) and ‘Are you punctual?’ to which you replied, ‘What is that?’ (because even though you knew what it meant, for a second you panicked thinking ‘What if it’s not what I think at all and it actually has something to do with bondage?’) after hearing endless stories about the old Rover days of the factory (people forgetting half eaten pork pies in the bodyworks of cars that were sold off to little old ladies who kept complaining about their car smelling like a dead animal) and after doing the same job on the line for months on end, not knowing if you are ever going to get that contract or not, finally one day it happens; you are given three sets of slick new black uniforms and you are told by your manager, ‘Congratulations, you are now an employee of BMW New Mini Plant Oxford.’ In other words, you are now officially a ‘Cow ass.’ Quite horrified, you examine your new uniforms, it’s true; they are all labelled: Cow Ass (some number) and then your name!
‘But why?’ you whine. Shrugging his shoulders and readjusting his cap, Cow Ass A110 replies, ‘It’s Cowley Assembly, init?’