April 22, 2007

Small step for man, a giant leap for a soul

Ian and two other German students I met on my last stay in Tehran, made it by train, crossing Turkey, starting their tour in northwesternly Tabriz; a couple from Oman, spending their honeymoon in the Shirazi oasis, had come through the Persian Gulf; and a guy from Karachi who loved Isfahan (who can blame him!), took a bus running along the Eastern highway crossing at Zanjan from Pakestan, to meet with the piece of land he liked so much.

As long as you don't belong to a group of marines covering spionage missions inside Iranian borders (in which case I wouldn't suggest you to expect a stay in a five star hotel, a free guided tour around the cities, and a V.I.P. treat out of nothing, mainly because, let me think for a moment, oh yes: you committed a punishable crime), stepping into the Persian lands for the first time is all that it takes for you to start opening some senses that you thought you had made up in dreams.

I had naively thought I could prepare myself for any of what was waiting, so I gathered images, stories, guides, and whatever at reach I thought was able to tell me something medular about the things I was soon to start discovering on my own. But none of them ever told me enough about the spirit of what I came to experience, not even of that as early as my first minutes in Tehran.

It was simply the most wonderful chapter to give a start to the book whose pages I will never figure out how to get my eyes off of:

Small step for man

I close my eyes right before Persia shakens the plane from its wheels. We reached MehrAbad some hours before the Sun did, after what had been a long trip for many who had spent their winter holidays keeping in touch with their relatives in Europe: one of them, an iranian old man I met right after taking off from Heathrow on delay, with whom we later on rushed together all along Schipol airport, so that we wouldn't miss our flight, while he would entertain me with twenty years ago none of this would have happened kind of stories. All his sons and daughters were studying in different european countries, but when asked about himself, he would answer me, it's the modern times for them... but I can't leave Iran: to me, it's... everything. That was my first on-trip confirmation of me having caught the flight in the right direction.

Many people dream of a world without borders, without countries and whatsoever. Me, I can't help but to be grateful that they are still dreaming: I will never manage to homogenize things that were never meant to be the same. To me, there is something beyond the mere names and geographical coordinates that pushes my heart to beat differently when crossing from the West to the East of this planet and viceversa. Antiglobalizing nostalgia? No. Better try these ones: sincere observation, awareness, and uninterested sensibility.

The ones who search for the splendour of Babel might preach about tolerance from mouth, eyes, and pores, but what do they really know about tolerance, when what they actually see in difference is an obstacle to be overcome via cultural standardisation, rather than a new symphony to be apprehended? They preach about freedom, but the first thing they do, is to define, as images of it, those which please their narrow minds and their childish inability to take an intime stand on anything existence has to offer them.

So we can set up liberal markets, cute graphic systems, international monetary funds, 'united nations', and other
fancibly named absurdities like such -so that only few suspect the actual sham covering their whims and power interests-, we go out to name the nameless and to count that which is not a quantity. Numbers of unemployment, inflation, GDP, external debt, and then more sophisticated reports which are just more of the same but typed in golden characters, are supposed to characterise the way in which a nation vibrates and pulses.

Bad news for them though: I have just visited a country whose collapse their sacred numbers prophetized to have taken place 20 years ago, and which is, however, not only surviving, but feared, in that it represents an alternative way of building things around, and that it is not only stable, but in which Western democracies invest money, blood, and efforts to try to, at least, make it look as unstable as their own nature is deep down inside, where its contradictions arise oftenly in the form of social schizofrenia.


If not numbers... then what?

I don't get tired when I travel and, to be fair, the trip hadn't even been comparatively as long as the one it takes to cross the Atlantic Ocean in almost vertical fashion. But maybe because of the time being so early -or why not, the West-East crossing effect-, everyone else seemed exhausted. I had all the time in the world so early in the dawn, so I went for patience, and waited for all the passengers to have gone through the immigration issues before going through them myself. The picture traced in that waiting state started to unveil Iran to my eyes. Even in the impossibly more standard territories of an international airport, almost the entire country was sketched to me before leaving the facility behind my first footsteps in the East.

A ridiculously simple picture of Imam Khomeini dominating the scene from the far back wall, absolutely every woman wearing a hejab, and frightening police officers inquiring through the rows of people something in Farsi about Afghanestan -a place that doesn't really exists where I am from, and which seems more like a gone-wrong fairy tale- indicate that something different awaits behind the exit gates of the building. But just like in an unreleased movie -our modernized version of schools- on Iran seen from the outside, in which the starting propaganda gradually fades away, the scenes start giving everything the explanations that no one finds profitable and/or convenient to display in any way. Maybe because the time to understand doesn't happen to fit properly in our everything right now timescale, maybe because most people of any age are already too old to change their own views, or maybe because the globalized world envisioned -with the according shares destined to each one of its prophets- is designed to fail when real and valid Difference raise and become fairly expressed.

With a sincere 'Please', the last conversation the last immigration officer was to hold during his shift ending that Bahman dawn
starts. After the silence he takes to give another look at the condor and huemul on my probably not very usual passport, I am aware that the seemingly unbreakable hardness on the iranian officers' posture comes just as part of the job, and genuinely shattering: 'Please, wont you extend your visa' he continued, and referring to the month I got from the Iranian embassy in London, 'You are staying for so little mister. You could stay for three months. It would honour us so much you staying longer'. And, as soon as that, I was starting to regret not having arrived to Persia earlier -that month or in life-, to have been able to spend there even one extra day.

U N D E R · C O N S T R U C T I O N


Zahra said...

nice photo!

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