By Syma Sayyah, Tehran
As each year comes to an end it is natural to look back and have a review.
The year that is just coming to its close was a year when for the first time in my life people talked about the weather in Iran as much as they did in England. All this talk was because we had one of the worst winters ever. Cold and snow seemed not to want to leave, and in late February when we started to get the touch of the north wind and the sun was a little nicer and warmer again I thought that the weather was going to play another trick and was going to turn awful again, but spring seems to be coming slowly but surely. Yet still a lot is missing. When I look back, in past years the weeks prior to Norouz - the celebration to welcome the spring - even during the 8 years war with Iraq, felt more exciting and full of buzz and positive tension. People greeted each other with well wishes for the new year - Iran is the only country that uses a sun calendar which changes in or around 21st March- this year there seems none of that here. Even the election only 6 days before was a very low key event. There are a few signs of home sabsi (greens) and goldfish in big tanks in the shops, ready for the haft sin (seven things that start with S in Persian)*.
People seem to be suffering from a great degree of apathy and sadness. Apathy because they think nothing makes any difference and many I have asked, even those who have voted throughout the past 27 years, said they would not vote, and I do not know what the right thing to do is. Is there any other solution other than this imitation of a free election in the long road of the learning curve of truly democratic process? People are sad because the majority feel that none of their dreams can ever materialize, there is such deep sadness which may explain why there is such high degree of excess in other fields. Many find life tough because they hope and dream for material goals, but most things seem unachievable unless you lie, cheat and one way or another becomes corrupt and thus the terrible circle continues. Many ask why a country as oil-rich as Iran has so many who are unemployed, why the government does not do anything about the inflation, pollution, traffic, why they do not ask the experts or pay any attention to them even when they do ask. Everything is blamed on the visible or invisible enemy when their half hearted efforts on policies fail and sometimes makes things even worse than they were. The degree of short-termism in Iran is so high it is like a fantasy world.
This year we had petrol rationing which only affected the volume of traffic for a very short time and soon everybody was talking about where to get extra petrol and at what price. It was unbelievable how ineffective the petrol rationing was, and everybody seems to believe is that it is just the first step to raising the petrol prices, thus adding to the inflation. The oil money reaches a select group that set the prices for all. Nowadays nobody even with a double salary can afford to buy a small apartment let alone a house, even though there are many left in Tehran. The city can not breathe and yet they still grant permission for more buildings. Even the air has been cloudy and sad. Everybody is struggling to make ends meet. In a couple of companies I know, because of the bad economic situation the staff not only have not received their annual gift - the equivalent of just over a months salary - but they have not even got the last month's pay and it is only a few days before the whole country comes to a standstill for the New year holidays which officially start on 19th March and end on the 26th but in reality the country will be shut down until the beginning of April. Our company is on holiday until the 5th April which has enabled me to take a long holiday after 15 months working without a break.
One can only hope and pray that things improve in all aspects and that I shall be able to report about many more good events, what I call the fuller half of glass of life, from here for another year. I take this opportunity to thank all the Payvand readers, especially those who kindly wrote to me and shared their ideas, opinions and concerns and above all my editor whom I met for the first time this summer.
I would like to take this opportunity and wish you all a very happy Norouz and may 1387 bring peace and harmony along with joy and good health for you and your family.
Aydie Shoma Mobarak
*The Sofreh-e Haft-Sin celebrates the coming of the Norouz or New Year. It is one of oldest Iranian traditions left to us from Zoroastrian times. This sofreh is displayed from about a week before the new year until 13 days afterwards and has seven items which start with letter S in Persian (such as apple-sib, vinegar-serkeh, garlic-sirr, coin-sekeh etc.) plus the book of prayer, a mirror, some sabzeh-grass which families grow specially for the Norouz and a few goldfish swimming in a small bowl among many other things.
... Payvand News - 03/21/08 ... --