Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nowrooz without Aziz

As the Iranian New Year, Nowrooz, is approaching, I can't help reminding myself this will be the first Nowrooz without Aziz. Visiting the house at 32 Templewood, in Ealing was a mandatory part of the Nowrooz celebrations. Like I have said before, Nowrooz in England just does not have the same feel of Nowrooz in Iran. In Iran I felt the spring on the 20th March all the way through. The weather was the most pleasant, the trees were green again and had blossomed, everyone was wearing their new clothes, the streets and houses had all been spring cleaned, the freshness, the cleanliness, the novelty around you, made it exactly what we were celeberating, Nowrooz, a New Day.

Yet the house in 32 Templewood, was the nearest you would get to reincarnating that same ambiance in England. Aziz's house was like a little Iran island in middle of a cold and windy environment indifferent to Nowrooz. There was no need to make an appointment or anything, anyone could just turn up. How Aziz fed so many people I will never know.

It was also an occasion to meet other Iranians, some I liked, some I didn't, but it didn't matter, on Nowrooz, in Aziz's house, we were all Iranians.
After exchanging greetings with Aziz and others, I would check the Haft-Sin table decorations. Aziz would read my mind and say, "don't worry I haven't put that book you don't like, its a Shahnameh".

Now that Iran island will just be memories. Of course I will have many memories of Aziz, but one that led to creating the first NMIR website is probably the most relevant one to share here.

After the assassinations of Dr. Boroumand and Dr. Bakhtiar, National Movement of Iranian Resistance was nothing but a name on paper. Rafsanjani's assassins had decapitated the organisation and the body was just not functioning. Even printing the monthly publication was a struggle. The Internet was becoming more accessible however, and I could see this as a tool we should and could use for our political purposes. I discussed it with Aziz, he was keen on it almost straight away, he said I should go to a conference which was being held in Stuttgart, where many of the Iranian opposition groups were due to attend, and discuss it with people there. It was during that conference that I realised what was going on in the Iranian opposition, they had no imagination, dinosaurs straight out of Jurassic Park. I had sat there wasting my valuable weekend time listening to speeches which were neither relevant nor important.

After the long boring unnecessary speeches were over, I went up to Daryoush Majlesi, NMIR representative in Holland. I had prepared several pages explaining about the Internet, what it would cost, how we can use it, how we can communicate with it etc. As I was explaining it all going through the pages I had prepared for him, I noticed he was not listening to me but looking around. I gave him the little folder I had prepared and said, "would you like to read these in your own time and then get back to me when you can?"
"Yeah, yeah, leave them with me, I read it all later" He said showing little enthusiasm.

I spoke to other NMIR officials there as well. Many of them displaying their titles of Dr. and Engineers and making a point that we should know about their educational credentials, yet it was the same with all of them. They were not taking any interest in what I was saying, they were thinking about the speeches they were going to make or already had made.

Two weeks after the pathetic conference, I still had not heard from Daryoush Majlesi, so I decided to ring him.
"Mr. Majlesi, its me, Potkin Azarmehr"
"You know from NMIR in UK, I spoke to you about the internet"
"The Internet! I left you a folder explaining to you what the Internet was"
"Oh I lost that"
That was it! had he been next to me I would have wrapped the telephone cord round his tiny pencil neck.
"You lost it? so why didn't you ring me and tell me you lost it, you little prick?!"
Of course, he was too high and mighty to let someone like me talk to him like that and put the phone down on me.

I saw Aziz again and told him I am not getting anywhere with these Doctors and Engineers, as far as I am concerned they may as well flush their titles down the toilet for they are a bunch of idiots. Aziz listened to me and said to me unequivocally, "Go ahead, set up the website. If anyone objects as to why you did this on your own, refer them to me"

From then on, it was just Aziz and me working on the website. He would notify me if there was some worthwhile news and I would publish it on the site. NMIR first refused to publish the url in the monthly publication. When they finally did, they mistyped it twice and then gave up again! but who cared, no one apart from a few dinosaurs they had on their mailing list, was reading the publication, the website was having more browsers in one day than their entire recipients of the monthly publication in a year and I was collecting email addresses from all around the world.

Here we were, a tea house boy, as Aziz always described himself, having more common sense than those doctors and engineers in the Iranian opposition. I am surprised the site is still up, 12 years later, it looks all rudimentary and basic compared to the websites today, but that was one of the first few Iranian websites used for political purposes, and there was two people who can be credited for it, Aziz and myself.

Another more humourous memory of Aziz and his house in 32 Templewood, was when I turned up once unanounced to give back a book I had borrowed from him. He opened the door, and I could hear people upstairs where he entertained his guests in his living room, reciting poetry and applauding themselves.

"Who is here?" I asked with usual curiosity.
"No one that you would particularly like" Aziz replied.
"What do you mean, no one I like?"
"We are having a poetry night. I know you don't like poets and poetry" Aziz said.

I had debated with him on several occasions my views on how harmful poetry in the Iranian culture is for us, with statements like "No other nation has as many poets as we have and we all think we are poets and all we ever do is make up poetry verses. Every time something is wrong, we write a poem about it instead of doing something about it. Yet we have so few inventors, thinkers, discoverers, we don't need any more poets we need doers who will get off their arse and stop reciting poetry and do things and build things. Poetry is the easiest and laziest type of art there is and its the one we seem to be infatuated with most."

Yet despite having debated these points with him on a few occasions, I couldn't see why he was not letting me say hello to these poets and their admirers.

"So what? I am not going to debate with them my views on peotry, just want to say hello and leave"

"As I said they are poets, they have very tender sensitivities, even your hello with your eyebrows crossed like they are now, will grate their tender emotions, go and get on with your business, I speak to you later"

I left but I just kept laughing as I drove away every time I remembered his words, to this day, I am not sure if he was serious or just having a banter with me.

I will miss him greatly this Nowrooz.


Sohrab said...


My sincere condolences for the loss of your friend.


P.S. How would I go about obtaining your email address?

Azarmehr said...

Thank you Sohrab jAn. Simply leave a comment and write do not publish on it as well as your email and I will email you and reject your comment.

Bahramerad said...

Please read this Interview by Bakhtiar's Killer - Naghash e JenayetKar: