Note ( This was written for an Iranian audience and published back in Feb 2 2002)
Just think about it! That’s all I’m asking. Don’t do something that will make you regret it for the rest of your life. No sudden, jerky moves. Remember, you are in control of yourself. You are the master. What are you? You are the master.
Just hear me out. If it still doesn’t make sense to you then go ahead, then shout if you like, I won’t care, do then what you like. Just hear me out for the last time, calm down. Look, its simple. It’s you who’s making this whole thing such a big deal. Just think… What on earth are you doing? Just what on earth… ?
OK.OK. Stop talking to yourself. Look at you standing here, talking to the mirror. I’m going to pull it off. I’m going to do it and that’s that. I’m not going to have some last minute butterflies in my belly ruin everything. Just take a deep breath. Wash the sweat off your face with some cool water and you’ll be fine.
Don’t go sick on me now; you’ve pulled through worst\ situations than this. If you are going to be sick do it now and then move on. You can’t spend the rest of the day in this airport toilet. This is just a silly panic attack.
I’ve got people waiting for me on the other side. Just pull yourself together. Don’t lose it now. You’ve worked so hard to get this far, its too late now, there is no going back anyway. Everything is ready; the passport, and the unshaven look.
They check thousands of passports, mine is going to be just another. It’s safe now, everyone says so, don’t they? The suite is all creased up, the shirt with no tie and the top button is done. I just wished I didn’t wear this one. It looks good even with the creases. I meant to look shabby to look the part, and not to have the Armani look.
Here we go. Here … we go. I haven’t done anything to be scared off anyway. I don’t think taking part in a few demonstrations twenty odd years ago puts you in the wanted list?
Here …. we go. I’m in the queue. Look respectable. Just show your passport. Don’t smile too much, but don’t look too miserable. Don’t do anything, which draws attention; just act normal without looking like you are trying to act normal. These guys are trained to look for lost nerves.
Remember what the relaxation video said.If something scares you use your imagination and then try to put the whole thing in a funny mode. Just pretend you are visiting Tunisia. Better still, Ibiza. So, think funny. Funny. I can’t think funny. What’s so funny about a miserable looking passport control officer?
OK, if funny doesn’t work try to think of him as a very compassionate person. He’s got two kids and has to take a lot of mouth from his angry boss, Mr Born-with-a-complex. OK, I’ve got it. He looks like Bin Laden with no beard. Bin Laden, so that’s where he’s been hiding. That’s it; take your mind off it.
I could get a reward for this guy. Just find the nearest American Embassy. You see, you’ve done. Find an American Embassy in Tehran to get a reward fo Bin Laden or his long lost brother. I swear, he looks like a spitting image of old Bin. I wished I had my digital camera. Yes sure, like you have the nerves to take a photo now. So, is that funny? Well tried, it’s working… Not! I have calmed down… Not!
Remember, if he asks, you are simply here to sort out your father’s last will and visit a few friends who are waiting for you to come and visit. Father’s will? No forget it. He’ll think I’m loaded and his hatred might kick into action. I am here to visit a person, that’s all.
I wonder if I’ve changed much over these years. I doubt if they even recognise me. I was a spotty teenager last time they saw me. Better still without the ponytail; mind you it took me so long to grow that.
Don’t forget, when talking Farsi to this guy lose the American accent. That’s a dead give away that I’ve been away for so long, and he’ll probably start picking on me. Remember it’s the R’s that wind and roar with the American accent. So remember use stronger R’s. Stop these last minute pronunciation classes!
That’s it. One more step, and I should have people waiting for me on the other side.
“Passport please… Mr. Pahlavi, welcome to Tehran. What is the nature of your visit, and how long are you planning to stay?”
“Mr. Mehrdad Pahlavi. Tell me, are you related?” The Passport officer asked.
By this time he had a grin across the entire hemisphere of his thin face. It seemed he was beginning to have a ball with my name. I could see from his teeth that the officers of the new regime had not benefited from good dental care! Was that grin in good humour or was this serious trouble?
“No sir, I’m not related and I’m planning to stay here for two month. I am visiting some family members and perhaps a few old friends. My name is not Pahlavi. It is Pahlooi, Pah-looooo-eeeee…”
With a single sentence, I had denounced the family tradition of Royal worship! I felt like St. Peter when he denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed!
“My family for generations had tried to use a clerical error by a confused Birth Certificate Registrar to their advantage,” I explained. “They had lied so much about this Pahlavi / Pahlooi affair that they had started believing we were related.
“It had all started when grandfather went off to get his birth certificate and was asked where he lived. In those days they named you after the place of your birth or whatever came to the clerk’s head. Grandfather had remarked ‘next to the city of Ferdows’ or as he would have put it in Farsi ‘Ferdows, pahlooi Ferdows’. But the registrar could not understand him well and he gave him the name ‘Mr Ferdows Pahlooi’ but ‘Pahlooi’ was written exactly as ‘Pahlavi’.
“To be called ‘Pahlooi’,” I added, “was ridiculous. But after the revolution those family members in Iran had dropped the Pahlavi name association like a ton of bricks. This time it was my turn. Funny how we idolised men of power and then dropped them like yesterday’s newspapers.
“Some relatives whose wives and daughters would not be seen dead without the latest design of cocktail dresses, had turned Hezbolite to the bone like they had been Ayatollahs for five generations. Uncle was saying this lot were behaving like they were receiving holly messages from the All Mighty directly through their telephone. They might have been talking to God! But the rest of the family excommunicated them, unless in times of need for good contacts (party- baazi).”
“Pahlooi, as in next to what?” asked the officer. “Next to your mother’s grave (gabreh nanat) perhaps? You think I’m stupid, don’t you. Do you honestly think that a foreign sissy boy (bacheh soosooleh farangi) such as yourself is going to have me fooled?”‘ he asked.
“Sir, I’m not trying to fool you, my name is Pahlooi.”
“So, how come the English text on your passport says Pahlavi? Well come on then show me Pahlooi! Seyed. Seyed. Come on here. Yes, here,” He shouted.
You are not going to believe this. By now that wide grin was frozen solid on his face but the eyes had turned psychotic. A short man with a sun burnt face approached the officer.
“What’s the matter? Why are you smiling like your mother-in-law has died?”
The Passport officer said “Check this guy’s name out. Now we are receiving their unclean seedlings (tokhmeh harum). What a cheek? (Ajab rooie?)” He then turned to Seyed and said: “Get the Red Carpet. His Royal Highness has come to visit the land of his fathers.”
“Look, I am not related. I am telling you. It’s Pahlooi, not Pahlavi.”
The short man appeared to be somewhat not surprised by the frantic behaviour of the officer. “Nevertheless, if you don’t mind coming with me, this way,” he said to me.
By now the crowd behind me was beginning to show interest in the whole affair. I started to follow the short man. It was like trying to keep up with a hare.
“Look sir, I have people waiting for me,” I said.
“You better hurry up then. Come on let’s get your luggage. The faster you move the sooner we will get this mess sorted.”
The luggage collection hall was more like a scene from old Baghdad in an old Hollywood movie rather than the Tehran Mehrabad Airport that I remembered as a kid. The smell of sweat filled the air. The air conditioning was not working and it was as if the air had stood solid in that hall. It was humid but hot.
The frantic movement of the crowd who were jumping over each other’s legs and arms to get their luggage off the carousel was pushing me back and forth. The officer brushed a side the people who had not noticed him and were getting in his way. I guess being a small man, people did not notice his uniform at first sight, but that wasn’t his problem; it was theirs. If they didn’t move they were pushed.
He lifted my heavy suitcases like he was picking up pancakes off his plate and we approached a security office.
In the security office they had surveillance cameras for every corner of the airport. There were more security measures than a Vegas Casino.
We entered an interrogation room and the short man pointed to another officer, and he took over, he looked as hard as nails this fellow, and did not look like the type to take too much bull. He asked who I was and a few other routine questions. Then he asked what I did.
“I’m a teacher. I teach history, chemistry and sports to kids,” was my reply. He opened up the cases, and picked up my snap shots and flicked through the photos. Then picked a revealing picture of Sarah on a sandy beach. There she was in her full glory, proud of her womanhood and
showing off her bosoms in that bikini like she was the goddess of fertility.
“Tell me are you a Muslim?” he asked.
“Sir, I have people waiting for me. If you could be kind enough to call my uncle over, he would sort out this misunderstanding.”
“I have no misunderstanding. Is your father a Muslim?”
“He has passed away.”
“Just answer the questions. Are you a Muslim?” he asked with a strong tone.
“Yes sir, I am.”
“Then how comes you carry filth like this photo around?”
“Sir, that is not filth, that is my wife.”
“If you valued her chastity, you wouldn’t have your woman running around naked would you? So it is filth (Agar naamoos daashti, zanet lokhto pati vel nemigasht. Mighasht? Pas faaheshast).”
Then I had another thought. Oh Dear God, not the videotape. Anything but the videotape! Don’t let me get into trouble for a bloody videotape. I will give up sex for two months, OK let’s be realistic, for one month if this guy doesn’t give me hell for the tape, I pledged with the almighty.
The officer picked up the videotape. I guess a month was not enough in God’s opinion. It was the Khordadian dance video, The Very Best of Iranian Gher-too-Kamar Dancing. He then turned to me and said,
“So you are also a dancer, Ye? (Raghaass ham ke hasti. Aareh?). Wait here a while,” he whispered, and then left the room and locked the door from outside.
What a jerk I thought. I looked on the desk and there was a newspaper to keep me occupied. Well, let see now. We have the balony section, and then there is Khatami going off to yet another foreign visit to pay bribes to keep Mullahs in power. This time it is the United Arab Emirates. I guess he wants to give those islands away. Then we have the World Cup results … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …’
The Football Game
Good afternoon ladies and Gentlemen today we have a deciding match between Iran and the International side.Gary: He’s a useless lad. This Qajar. Did you here about the bribery allegations, Trevor?Gary: But I thought he was a coach, not a player, Trevor.
The weather is excellent, and our venue is Wembeley. In the commentary box you have me Trevor Brooking and Gary Liniker. I think we are looking forward to an excellent match between these two teams.
Trevor: So, what do you think of the outcome Gary.
Gary: I think the odds are even Trevor. We’ve seen the Iranian side play some great football in the past but I don’t know how they weigh against this new International side.
Trevor: And they are off. Cyrus the Great the Iranian Captain has the ball, and oh my goodness! He’s passed the Greek defender and what a shot straight into the goal.
Gary: What a start within the first five minutes of the game. He’s a good lad Cyrus. I saw him telling off the Babylonian player when the Babylonian did a professional foul on the Jewish player in the other match.
Trevor: He’s passing the ball to Darius the Great. He’s bringing it back and shoots it off the post. Yes. I can’t believe this. They’ve scored a second goal, and so soon in the game.
Gary: At this rate I think we’ll see the Iranians play against the Brazilians.
Trevor: Darius passes the ball to his sons. Ohhhh. What a tackle. The Greek striker has possession. Look he’s passed the ball through a tight corridor of defense and managed to get to the nine yards. Oh my goodness! What a goal!
Gary: I saw this kid Alexander the Great play the other day. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He moved so fast towards the defense, they didn’t stand a chance. I think he’s going to be sold to Inter Milan for a rather handsome figure. He is only nineteen years old. What a talent.
Trevor: OK. We see Ashk the 1st pushing the ball from the defense. He is being pushed back to his own field, and off he goes. Look at him run. That is what I call counter defense.
Gary: Ever since the Iranian side got their new coach, they have adopted new defensive tactics it is called attack and run.
Trevor: Now he is passing the ball to his side. Look at them go. Ashk the 2nd, the 3rd and 4th Finally. It is Sasanian who has the ball. Gary, what do you think of this player then?
Gary: He started well, but I’ve heard that he is not fit anymore — thanks to booze, women and drugs.
Trevor: Who do we have here then? It’s Muslim.
Gary: I don’t know him Trevor, but I think he saw an opportunity there and managed to outwit Sasanian. I guess Sasanian has not recovered from his injuries, despite what his manager thought. It is hard to believe that the Iranian defense just let Muslim roll the ball past them.
Trevor: Now we have the other International players making the most of the opportunity. Is that Chinese on the substitution bench warming up, Gary?
Gary: No. That is not Chinese. That’s Jingis. Jingis Khan. He is an outsider but when he plays, heads roll!
Trevor: Looks like the Iranian side is also bringing in some substitutions.
Gary: We’ve seen some great defense work from the Iranian side against the Arab strikers. I liked the combination of Abu Muslim Khorasany, and Babak Khoramdeen. What a player. And Jacob the Lace. I think if I had to choose between Babak and Maldini for my club, I would choose Babak.
Trevor: And there goes the half time whistle. What do you think of the match so far?
Gary: A really enjoyable game, so far. We’ve seen some excellent tackles, good defense work, but I think thisInternational team is a tough nut to crack.
Trevor: We take a break, and we’ll go through the highlights so far after the break.
Commercial Break: If your car has run out of petrol, which oil station do you trust? We have merged the Seven Sisters into four to give you a cheaper and more reliable product. So next time you fill up the tank, think right. Think four sisters, because we go as far as places like Afghanistan and Azerbaijan to fill up your tank.
Trevor: And we are back for the second half. Well, I can tell you. We’ve had a very exciting first half. And the ball is kicked off by the Arab front. It Looks like Safavid is fighting for possession.
Gary: I never liked Safavid, Trevor. I think he is more concerned about putting up a good facade than play good football. He is a bit like Beckam but without the talent.
Trevor: I don’t like his sponsor — this Mullah’s Inc. You would think that if you were producing biohazard waste you would keep it quiet and not advertise it on TV.
Gary: I think we are beginning to see the Iranian side struggling a bit in this second half.
Trevor: We see some passing back and fourth but no real play, but wait a minute… I think the Iranian striker Nadir Shah is charging with the ball. Look at him go. He’s passing the Indian goalkeeper and yes! It’s a goal! Goal, Goal Goal!
Gary: I thought the Iranians almost lost it. He really ran away with the Indian player’s family jewels, Trevor.
Trevor: Ball in play again. This time it’s in the hand of less experienced defenders. Zandian. Zandian makes a pass to Qajar.
Trevor: Yes, I can’t remember if it was an English or a Russian club which payed him to lose ground on the penalty area. If it weren’t for the charity work of their club manager, Amir Kabir, he would have kissed the game goodbye. Looks like his teammate Reza Khan is taking over the ball and telling him off. Reza Khan Pahlavi is pushing the ball forward like he is riding a train convoy, Gary. Ohhhh and the English referee didn’t like that. No! He didn’t like that. Reza got too close to the German player, Adolph Hitler.
Gary: Can’t say I saw that Trevor, but I’ve seen this ref pass some funny judgements on some players.
Trevor: The English referee is discussing what happened with the Russian and the American lines-men.
Gary: He looks a bit plump to me for a Ref, and look at him smoke that Churchill Cigar.
Trevor: Don’t judge a book by its cover Gary. Looks like the Iranian side is making another substitution. Looks like Dr. Mossadegh has the ball. He passes it to the new substitute Mohamed Reza Shah Pahlavi. Mossadegh is pushing the ball, makes a pass over the English defense. The English player didn’t see that coming. Is it a goal? Oh No… Shah is off side! Shah is off side!
Gary: I don’t know why Shah is upset with Mossadegh, Trevor. I thought that was a perfectly good pass from him.
Trevor: Shah is getting ready near the penalty area. I can’t believe it! He has gone offside again, for the second time, Gary.
Gary: Yes, he is an eager lad, but not a team player. It looks like he keeps leaving his own team behind, and the International side saw the weakness.
Trevor: I think he is having a clash with the American lines-man over the offside. Oh, no! The English Ref is not having such behavior on his pitch. Looks like Red card for Shah. He is being sent off! I can’t figure out if the Iranian crowd is angry with Shah or the American lines-men or the English Ref.
Gary: Who is this guy, Trevor?
Trevor: I think he is Mullah Gary. I saw him play for an English club. He plays well for the English clubs but never seen him play well for his National side.
Trevor: He said he would leave the pitch and come back as a coach, but he never did Gary. I guess with the Iranian side being down in numbers, anyone will do. Ohh! That looked nasty. The Iraqi player has just tackled him. That must be a foul surely?
Gary: I think Mullah is faking injury; he wants to get a free kick, Trevor. It was a real tackle, but he doesn’t look too hurt.
Trevor: What err… Mullah has just scored an own goal!
Gary: I’ve got to say this. I haven’t seen a bad player like this Mullah, since Taliban, Pol Pot, and the game in Rwanda.
Trevor: I think I see an Iranian player protesting. Yes. That is Namaky. He is a junior player. I think the female assistant coach is telling him off. Something to do with Namaky leaving the seven sides of defense wide open for Mullah to come in.
Gary: I think Namaky is protesting that the coach let Mullah in, or is it the other way round.
Trevor: I can’t believe it Gary. Mullah is getting into a fight with Namaky now. Mullah is a big fellow; he is beating up the poor kid senseless. I think he is pouring Hydro Chloric Acid down Namaky’s throat to make him disappear. Look at the English ref and the German player just standing there laughing, it’s bloody disgraceful. Mullah is behaving like he is playing on the International side.
Gary: Looks like the Iranian crowd is seriously cheesed off with this Mullah fellow. I think they are saying, “Leave the boy alone in Farsi. What do you want from this kid? (Pesare beechareh ro velesh kon. Az jooneh bacheye mardom chee meekhaai?)”.
Trevor: Looks like the Iranian crowd is going to walk on the pitch. They’ve had enough of this bad behavior, Gary. Look at them holding bloody T-shirts of their home team, and I don’t think the Hezbolite and the extra Arab security is going to stop them. Look at that fellow dancing in the crowd, Gary. Shakila, eat your heart out! I think it’s that dancer, Khordadian. He looks so happy and gay dancing on the terraces.
Gary: I think he is… happy, Trevor. He’s got the support of the crowd. Who is that fellow leading them to the pitch? Is that Prince Pahlavi?
Trevor: No Gary, I think this guy is Pahlooi. He is a commoner. This Iranian crowd can stand up on their feet, Gary. They don’t need any princes to do that, but I am sure the prince is in the crowd waiting to see what is happening along side other spectators. Look, Namaky has stood up; he looks a bit more sobered up now. He is grabbing hold of Mullah and hanging him by the goal post. You wouldn’t believe the kid had it in him. Would you?
Gary: Listen to the crowd shouting this fellow, Pahlooi’s name.
The crowd: Pahlooi! Pahlooi! Wake up for your people, Pahlooi. Wake up for Namaky’s sake, Pahlooi. Wake up for God’s sake, Pahlooi…
“Mr. Pahlooi. Mr. Pahlooi. Wake up Mr. Pahlooi your uncle is here to take you away,” whispered the short sun burnt officer.
“Uncle! I am so pleased to see you. You are not going to believe how pleased I am to see you.”
“Were you having a nightmare?” He asked.
“Well, It was a nightmare, but it ended up being a beautiful dream.”
I guess sitting in that car and leaving Mehrabad Airport, I had one final thought. I had arrived as a Western tourist but was leaving as an Iranian champion, but then again only in my dreams! Only in my dreams!