It’s early in the morning; the city is awake. I meet friends to go hiking in “Daar Abaad” and enjoy the glorious mountains and waterfalls of north Tehran. We walk through the cold rivers and let the waterfalls run from our heads to the toes. How incredibly cold the water is and how good it feels! My clothes are all wet and how I enjoy the feeling. Alborz is sacred. People smile and say “khasteh nabaasheed” to us as they pass by. This is an unlikely scene in the chaos of the city. The best part is delicious Omelets in a traditional tea house after a few hours of hiking. Fresh bread with plain omelet made of eggs and tomatoes; and yes, there is always hot tea available. It’s almost noon when we return.
Walking slowly through the few remaining “koocheh baagh’s” of Tehran in Maghsood Beig in the afternoon, I inhale the air with greed and pleasure. Gardens are so rapidly disappearing here and are being replaced by tall buildings that seem to have nothing to do with one another or their surrounding nature. Many days of raining has clearly made an impact on the air and the mood of fellow Tehranies. I pass through Doctor Hessabi’s house and see a beautiful garden with a gorgeous old building in the middle, which is now a famous café with art galleries (café baagh e mouzeh). There is a long waiting list for out-door seating. I wait and walk through the garden as I admire the incredible architecture and harmony. I order a “café gelase”. I notice that women are extremely fashionable and in shape. I am not too sure about the men, however. They seem to be lost somehow. I meet old friends. We have all changed, but what is striking is how stressed they have become since we last met. On my way out, I see a girl and boy exchanging a meaningful smile. I smile. It’s a hot summer day in Tehran. How I crave a cold water melon juice! I walk out of the magical garden toward a relative’s house.
On my way, I stop by a famous juice stand on Shariati Avenue (Tochal) and get myself an “aab-talebi” instead. It is heaven. I turn around with my full glass, thrilled for the first sip of the drink. But I face a few young boys who are frustrated to wait. Stress and lack of patience is normal in a large and crowded city like Tehran or New York City. But, there is something different here that is hard to define. Tehran this year seems to me like a mother giving birth. Tehranies seem angry and in pain. Tehranies have lost hope as they experience pain (due to many reasons needless to count). But a tiny light endures. Tehranies are at the edge, waiting to fall or to explode. Something will be different soon, something has got to change; but what and when? Does anybody know?
I stop by a flower shop and start a conversation with the young boy who works there, while waiting. He asks if I live in Tehran as he recognizes a lack of full familiarity. I am surprised. I say that I don’t live here. He wants to find out where I live. I confess that I am visiting from the US. His face changes and a deep grief replaces a playful smile. He tells me with sadness: khosh be haletoon, good for you; I don’t think that I will ever be able to visit the United States. How lucky you are. Is life different there? Are people free? Are they well off? Are they happy? Do they have flower shops like this one? How much is this flower in the US?
My heart breaks to see him so fragile and hopeless. Is life really that different in Iran and in the US? I would say “hope” still exists in America.
Finally at my relative’s place, I find myself surrounded by a “not-so-secret” society of young men and women who are singing old songs as loud as they can. They are celebrating life by singing together all night. A few people read poetry and a few talk about philosophy, love, history, and most importantly literature. I find myself deeply grounded. Is it real? What happened to the hopelessness and stress that I saw in the outside world? Which is real? I stay here until mid-night and think to myself: what a magical place, what a magical day.