Iran News ...


Positively cynical and not that serious either

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

As I grow older I realize how simply silly everything is. Last couple of months, several events happened that made me to move further toward being positively cynical. Often we think that we have seen it all and there are very few things that can really surprise us. Soon after that, something happens and wow you have been shocked, surprised, terrified or thrilled by something or another again! Here are a few examples.

It is a bizarre world we live in; and there are many bizarre events that come our way. A while ago, I was waiting at the beginning or Modares expressway waiting for a public or private car [1] to get home. After a long wait a black Kia Pride with two guys stopped. They looked very much like my own boys, young, middle class, energetic, purposely scruffy. But I wanted to get home; so I and two other passengers who wanted to go to the end of Modares [2] got in. There was a guy sitting in front next to the driver. The other two passengers got off half way; there was medium traffic. We could hear an interesting people type of music with very interesting Persian lyrics, which made we think that it could not be the work of Los Angeles. Then I noticed that the young man in front looked very artistic with long fingernails; surely he must play the guitar? The driver was very cool, in the way he spoke to the passengers and his attitude towards receiving the fares. But there was something about the music that was being played in the car. Just before I got out I forced myself to ask, and to my pleasant surprise my guess was confirmed that yes the music was theirs! Wow a taxi driver who is really a musician - wow! They made this music with aid of a computer. Traffic was getting heavy and there was a policeman nearby so I gave him my business card and asked him to call me so that maybe I could do an interview with them. He did call later and told me that one of his friends is in jail for working without a license. So he was not going to risk it and that he is supplementing his living by working as a taxi driver until he gets his license so that he can work as a full time musician. I had to understand and admire him at the same time. Iranian youth are trying so hard and there is such a well of talent in anything around that it is overwhelming. I can only hope that M gets his license soon so that he calls me back and maybe we can have that interview. Good luck to him and his friends!


Last month on an early part of the week, my friend, a European freelance reporter who speaks good Persian, and I drove to Karaj which is on west side of and not far from Tehran. We were going there to interview these women fire fighters. My friend called one of these ladies from my home the night before to confirm that all was ok, and she said that although it was her day off but she should be present at the station. We set off about 8 am at height of Tehran morning traffic jungle. But after some strange manoeuvring through many side streets we managed to get ourselves to the expressway and drove off. We took the first exit for Karaj and then stopped to ask directions. My friend called the fire fighter she knew who now tells her that she can not meet us there but that she has arranged everything with the PR office, and gives the driver- that is me- a few hints how to get there. We were to go direct onward, get to a square and turn right and then we should be there; everybody knows this boulevard. Out of 10 people or so that we stopped to ask for direction, 8 of them, and I am not exaggerating, as they showed us to turn right they said left, or if they said turn left they showed with their hand the right side! It was amazingly confusing when you don't know the town with rather heavy morning traffic. If I was alone, I would have thought there was something wrong with me! One guy even drew us a map which did not get us there; but at long last we stopped and asked a taxi driver who was the only one who showed us right and said turn right! And wow we were there. Afterwards we learned that the confusion came from the fact that there were two fire-stations in Karaj and we wanted the HQ.

We got there about ten eventually and were guided to the main building of the Karaj Fire Fighting Department. We met very nice young men who so very politely told us that we needed to have permission to see the Ladies fire Station or interview them or their male colleagues. We had to send a request by fax which would be processed through, and their office as well as Karaj municipality among others must give their consent before they call us and tell us when to come over so that they can have everything ready and show us their hospitality.

I would have thought that The Only Genuine Female Fire Fighting Team in the Middle East is such a great thing that they would want the whole world to know about it. The fact is that this shows women can do almost anything that the men can do. Well, I could not get any such permission anyway so here are the few facts and figures that I have, which I still think is most wonderful and quite interesting. There are 12 female fire fighters in Karaj, out of a total of over 300 fire fighters. The ladies work in three groups of four and in shifts. Their shifts, like the men, are based on a system of 24 hours on/48 hours off basis. Many of the women fire fighters are studying at university and most of them are members of Iran National Sport Teams. They are unmarried and their ages are between 18 and 25 and are all are Karaj residents. This group was formed in 2002; there were more than 200 qualified volunteers, who had to sit for a written and physical exam first, and then undergo a very strict training program. Some other cities like Mashhad are following suit, and Tehran firefighting department has already started something similar. We were very disappointed but then one can not always be lucky. This is their website:


The last but not least, Iran has been in the spotlight of major news networks for past few years almost non stop, for one reason or another. So when in the last week of February I got home and the phone rang and my friend asked if I knew anything about a missile attack, I was dumbfounded and hardly could say anything, since suddenly all the questions about all aspects of possibilities of such an event poured into my head: "What, when, where, who, what time..." It turned out that there hadn't been a missile attack at all, but rumours were flying around after an explosion in the South of the country. How this all happened and those poor things who bought futures in oil in that couple of hours before everything became clear lost a few million or two; but who cares if you have so much money anyway? Then you wonder it was it a genuine mistake or my cynicism is having a field day again. Damn all that money.

1. Many people in Tehran supplement their livelihood by working as taxi drivers; they choose a route or two and get on with it.

2. Many taxis, private or otherwise, work a certain route, called mostaghim which literally means straight-down the road, which often is along an avenue, street or in this case one of Tehran's expressways

... Payvand News - 4/18/05 ... --

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