Monday, 15 June 2009
It seems a long ago. A very long time ago.
We were driving through Iran. In the back of an old OM lorry. We had left India and were Vienna-bound. Afghanistan was over. Then the long dry drive through Iran.
Tehran was big. Modern. The Shah's photo in every tea shop. Sprite available in homes.
After the clack-clack-clack of driving over cement high ways - the smoothness of Tehran and its luxurious bigness impressed even a 7 year old like me.
It was after all 1977.
Since then so much has happened. The return of Khomeini from Paris 1979. The regime change. Unthinkable that the Shah would be overthrown in those petrodollar days. But it happened. While the next year saw the Afghanistan that I knew of as a spring arbor of nuts and raisins, apparently crumble as the Russians moved in to support the people's revolution.
As savage as the Iranian revolution was - it was just that. A revolution, not some propped up party from abroad taking centre stage like in Afghan-land.
And now, a generation and a half later, we seem to be seeing the first genuine out-pourings of a new Iran. With the news of last week's Iranian presidential election still being nibbled away we are already seeing what was unthinkable a few weeks ago - large scale protests about what seems farcical results.
Where will these protests lead? The incumbent president is certainly not short of support as well. But then almost 80% of the electorate had voted - and the figures published as authoritative just don't make sense.
What a difference to the election we just held in our country. There was colour and pagentry. There was skull-duggery. There was even apathy - the sad hand-maid of freedom it seems too often - but at the end of the day - when the votes were counted it was clear that the winner was chosen largely fairly. And that the losers would have to seek the mandate of the people in the next time the electorate gets to cast their votes.
Our prayers go out to the people of Iran in these turbulent days. May we see more of the wonderfully witty and life-loving Iranians. May truth and justice reign - with conviviality! It is beyond me to know what Mr. Mousavi can do for his country - but we do know that each place can be tremendously blessed by people who live out lives of compassion and good stewardship.
And so back to the streets of Tehran. My life till then had mainly seen the crowded streets of Mumbai. Tehran seemed eerily empty. The shots that are coming over the BBC website show a different Tehran today...