Ishq-e-Iran

Men with long nose, women blessed with beauty, full of heart is the land of Tehran, Iran. “Athithi Devo Bhava” translates to “Guest is God“, though stated and practiced in India, it is felt in the eyes of everyone in Iran. Farsi or the Persians have a deep history marked in red and black and white, yet the glory over the centuries remains in the “Respect and Love” for thy neighbor.

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People! It’s “People”, all that I talk of Iran though it has amazing weather, history, monuments and lifestyle. This blog is more on the wonderful-ness of the people, richness of food, nature blessed beauty, fun at work, along with other cherish-able experiences one must be lucky for.

The chill winds freezing my toes urge the wanderer to walk fast on the unending lanes leading from one to another and another. It’s beautiful. Temperature is 1°C at 12 noon but the warm smiles from the unknowns make one at ease. A stroll across the streets of my hotel is my introduction to this beautiful city.

Goodbye my friend, we shall meet if you come back” chuckled my Indian friends because of the inhuman political powers creating terrorism around Iran. When I met my chauffeur at the airport to drive me to hotel, I was relaxed. Excitement grew when Mr. Jabbari personally visited me to ensure I am at ease, on a Friday, while he was supposed to be enjoying his weekend with his family.

Vegetarian?” Mr. Yaghmai confirms as he is in a shock since I ruined his joy when he exclaimed “we have a variety of Kababs for you for lunch Mr. Hinduja“. I had no idea that this marks the beginning of mission “Vegetarian Hunt” for Mr. Jabbari and team. They would have long discussions almost everyday on planning to introduce me to the best vegetarian they can offer. For dinner, after several failed attempts at many restaurants asking for vegetarian or eggs, one boy understood the sign language to get me egg and rice, thus a successful round of dumb charades in the land of unknowns, I made friends with the owner of the restaurant, “Kasra“. Happy faces and Happy stomach is a happy day.

Perceptions were that work might be tough due to the language barrier as very few people knew English but the barrier turned out to be a blessing in disguise, work is now fun because people here are fun.” MAS-TER“, Mr. Ali would look up to me with the hope that I answer all his questions, with the respect to the relationship between a teacher and a student. In Farsi,

the  elementary school teacher is called as Moallem

the High School teacher – Dabir

the University professor – Ostad translating Ostad in English got me a new name “Mas-ter“.

The warmth of people here makes me feel at home. I fear not of anything that does not happen anywhere else in the world. I have people to help, guide and accompany. Of 16 colleagues, I have 16 friends now. Iran is a globe in itself, having deserts, lakes, mountains of snow and boulders, forests, rivers, the Caspian Sea, and many monuments. I am excited that I shall go to one or some of these places of wonder on the only Friday that we have. But right now the discussions are on the food I must eat, here’s the Irani cuisine spread out to me –

Light green from the Peacock feather with a dash of white at the center, extremely dark green aromatic corner marked opposite to the woody tinge is my bowl of Kashk-e-bademjan, the rich, tasty, nutritious Farsi delicacy garnished with love, made of eggplant, egg and more, straight from the north Iran specially brought to me to relish the King of all no-meat Farsi food. 34 eyes waiting to capture my expression when my tongue feels Kashk-e-bademjan the first, like a Mother feeling joy in her child liking Her hand-cooked food, they are rejoicing my liking for Kashk-e-bademjan. Ms. Sara very responsibly explains the recipe and richness of Kashk-e-bademjan.

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Each day, each colleague suggests the best for me – from food to places and after a lot of discussions Mr. Jabbari’s team would introduce me to the best of what they can offer. India is known for spices around the world but Iran, nonetheless has rich spices that fill the soul with aroma and taste – Saffron being the King of all. “Tachin” the Saffron rice cake is my favorite of all, yellowness of the Saffron held together by the smoothness of eggs with yougurt, steamed on all sides and roasted in Golden-Brown on one side, is definitely heaven for a foodie.

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Nothing defines the blend of eating Khorma – Dates rice – “Adas Polo“, so rich in itself, with Zeytoon Parvardeh.

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Zeytoon Parvardeh has a unique blend of Olives, Walnuts and Pomegranate, an unimaginable ‘hhhhhhmmmm..’combination that tastes so good that I eat one pack everyday yet the tempt for more does not fulfill. The freshly baked designer breads are more of appetizers as they have so many designs and variety in taste that eating one type of a bread a day can take up to a month to taste them all. Mr. Kazimi makes my plate everyday with lot of love for the food his country has and the respect he has for his Mihman – guest.

First Friday! First Feat! Newness is exciting, my First Friday is very new and uber exciting. Mr. Naser with his wife, Mrs. Elnaaz is driving us early in the morning to “Tochal”, the house of snow. We’re all set with our gadgets – jackets, glasses, gloves, scarf, muffler and food. Ms. Elnaaz and I converse in small English sentences and wide smiles while Mr. Naser brings us the tickets to “Telecobin”, the cable car. No language is required when you speak the language of kindness, love and respect and that is the medium of our conversation. Up we go in the Telecobin over the loose mud and rocky path and bang – it’s all WHITE, PRISTINE WHITE.

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I just want to open the door of Telecobin and set my Foot on the snow. Woah! Woah! Woah! The 3 ladies slipping and falling and rolling on the ice is so funny and nice! I am too afraid to fall but the First Walk on the Snow is Magical! I am very happy and excited and Wow! It is just Wow! You must be here to experience it. I am so thankful to Mr. Naser and my friend Ms. Elnaaz that I am in loss of words, I am just enjoying the moment with them, they have made my dream come true of walking on the snow, knee-deep snow! Woooooaaahhh….my knee is struck down and with great effort I am trying to move out, Ms. Elnaaz smiles at me and is running to get me out. I wonder how is she running when I can merely walk! Mr. Naser is all smiles, clicking our pictures. Zooooom, Zoooop, Zoooo…fun-makers are sliding down on the plastic-sack, I would never try that though! It’s awesome to see but needs guts to go on an uncontrolled mission to nowhere. Santa would be fascinated, if he were here!

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Ash Rishdey, at this height, nobody would imagine of one among the best soups in the world! Sour-cream, spinach and noodles with lot more taste makers, wow! It’s my favorite soup now, I can have any number of bowls of it.

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Ms. Elnaaz happily peeling the boiled eggs in the freezing temperature of -40°C. Hot food in the cold snowfall is an experience out of the world. We’re lucky! Snow-fall it is! Unexpected, unimagined surprise by nature! Many people trek up to the 7th station but since we are on picnic mode, we are traveling up in Telecobin upto 5th station but who would miss trekking on snow, so we hike up! Just when the snow stopped, my buddy, Sun came up out of nowhere. The mountains and peaks shine bright, everything has come to life suddenly, smiling in their own way. The whiteness of snow on high mountains are greeted by the black rocks dotted around. It’s too risky to be walking on the edge but we do, the adrenaline junkie as Mr. Naser calls himself, we are blessed to be here. Slipping and sliding I walk while Ms. Elnaaz and Mr. Naser laugh and hold me up, it’s a day to remember and live again.

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A day of fun, happiness, adventure, memories, from morning to evening, gifted by Mr. Naser and Ms. Elnaaz, who happily planned and spent their weekend with me. I am joyous and thanking my friend in India who told me a day before I start, about the snow in Iran, which I never thought of, thinking it would be hot as Iran is somewhere in the middle east, and to the whole group of my friends in Iran who discussed almost every day about the best place I must visit on the only weekend I have here, to make it memorable. I have to inform Mr. Jabbari, I am super fine and having lots of fun and he need not worry too much of my health. Of all the monuments and other options, I chose “snow” because I had never walked on snow and here I am, an Eskimo!

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Iran is a beautiful country with warm people. World famous “Tehran Bazaar” is on any traveler’s list. I might not have gone unless Mr. Jabbari offered to be my friend and guide on a Bazaar tour for about 3 hours. 3 hours because I did not buy anything as the gifts given by my friends already crossed the weight on baggage allowance and I could dare to buy no-more but next time I go to Iran, I will definitely spend 8 hours buying a suitcase full of things for friends and family. Mr. Naser takes pride in representing his motherland, thus we go to “Tajrish Bazaar” where the vibrant colors of dry fruits, nuts, spices, sweets, pickles, marmalade

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and colorful plates – “Lapis Lazuli / Mina Kaari / Sofale Hamedan“, handmade boxes  – “Khatam” with historic importance

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and Nazar Ghorboni

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are very attractive and artistic. The variety and richness in the bazaar is captivating, coming out of it empty handed is impossible. Ms. Azarnian is very happy that I am going to places she suggests and I am liking them. The lady at hotel feels pride in serving me the best breakfast and planning my outings.

Each human is different and so are my 16 friends but somehow we are all connected.

Mr. Naser – an adventure lover, Mr. Rabbani – my Farsi teacher, Mr. Ali – merry-maker – the “MAS-TER”, Mr. Behnam – intellectual, Mr. Tavalaie – a leader, Mr. Saeed – technically sound, Mr. Buddy – passionate artist and learner, Mr. Hassan – explorer, Ms. Farideh – quick learner, Ms. Mehrnaz – true Yogi (yoga practitioner who traveled to India to learn Yoga) and foodie (always eats in the class ), Ms. Minoo – very soft spoken and understanding, Mr. Bakht – leader, teacher and my translator, Mr. Nahal – logical, Ms. Sara – experimental, responsible, guiding, Mr. Farbod – technology savvy, experimental, Mr. Jabbari – responsible and caring.

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One word is not enough to describe each person, though different yet they have these in common – respect, love, humbleness, caring for and honoring the guest – that’s Iran. I am lucky to live amongst the most adorable people. The concept of “honoring the guest” is so much in their blood that “a guest is a part of the family“, thus Mr. Jabbari though me being a corporate guest for him, honored me to dine with his family – his wife – Mam – the most beautiful lady with grace and elegance, their daughter – Camilie – sweet, friendly child.

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Each one is so sweet that I had to fight with them to stop gifting me so many things as their warmth is the best gift they have given,yet they would not stop gifting – Gaz, Zeytoon Parvardeh, Dates Syrup, Khatam, Pistachios, Saffron and most delicious, melting in the mouth – “Sohan

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…my mouth waters when I write about it, so delicious that it is specially ordered and made for a special guest / occasion. My ears sooth to listen to the music of Kamancheh, Persian classical instrument,

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and the most beautiful surprise I ever got on my life – close to my heart is –

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If you want to experience true humanity, go to Iran. India and Iran have a lot of history and lots in common like the words – “bazaar, nazar, mushkil, noor, ishq, roz, mehman, ..” and most of all “Athithi Devo Bhava”, we both practice. I keep saying to my Iranian friends and everyone “however far we are, we share the same roots, somewhere deep down we are connected”

Wishing all my friends –

Norozetan Piroz,

Har rozetan Norooz!!

I will come back to Iran again…

 

 

Unexpected Joy – Traveller

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Walking on the edge of mountain, having slipped and saved, one thought running on my mind, ‘Had it not been them, I would have never experienced this’. One day before the Great Himalayan Trek to the Valley of Flowers, I was convinced that my sports shoes were not enough to climb the mighty mountain, hence, I had to buy the Trekking Shoe, which now, after a year, I am wearing to Matheran. Though it had helped then, now in the rains of Maharashtra, on the lush green algae alive on every random stone, I am struggling to balance my body. My very own body which I have been carrying since time immemorial.

Funny it is! I was in a hurry to reach the base camp with the group, leaving behind ‘the guys who missed their train’ but destiny has it’s own way, she made me wait for the group of 9 boys and travel with them to the base camp. Many a times, we live in notions believing them to be the Supreme reality and such was my expectation after discussing with the organizer, shattered that there’s no trek in the 2 day trekking meet. Little did I know then, that I am here not just to accompany my friend Sowmya, but to meet and build.

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They were 10 together, we two and the 16 others apart from the trek lead were in their own company. This whole event being in India and participants being enthusiasts from the neighboring state, I was assured of my belief that I will have to be talking to myself all the time and react to bits of Telugu I understand. It’s a very common and normal human tendency to make Groups and be happy within the comfort zone but these 10 people, despite being happy in their funny ways, equally accommodated the two of us like we were chuudy-buddiesthat’s when it proved that

adding people in your life does not reduce the love for existing ones but grows in all directions

It wouldn’t matter to anyone if I cannot climb up and down the tricky path, except for me. In fact, I would complete the trek only to go home and not for any sportsmanship left in me, but the whole mind is now washed by the care and affection these “Bros” are sowing in me. “Beautiful” is the most underrated word while the apt word to describe mist covered mountains, clouds walking with us, the darkness seeping into our path, rain pouring on us like never before and all this beauty would have been just stories if these Bros had not been holding my hand, risking themselves. In our everyday life, we think only about ourselves but the kindest deed of these Bros motivated me to live every moment gracefully. Whenever I was slow, all 12 of us were slow, whenever I fear of the path, all 12 of us pause only for the remaining 11 to bring confidence in me to move ahead.

That’s the reality we deny –

live in the moment with the people around you, for they are the ones with whom you cherish

Ultimately, they got 2 friends and we got 10 brothers for life with whom we laugh together, eat together, sleep together, travel together because sharing is caring and when the youngest of all is high, he says ‘I’m speaking the truth’

Sowmya, Viji Bro, Bhanu Bro, Manoj Bro, Dinakar Bro, Ramchandran Bro, Harsha Bro, Santosh Bro, Chinnu Bro, Lee Bro, Kittu Bro 🙂

The joy of giving selflessly is the greatest joy of all joys, and this trek will be one of the most memorable treks for the unexpected joy!

God! No more twists please!! (A Travelogue from Mumbai to Coimbatore) – Part I

Should I laugh or should I cry?

Twists

Twists

Ever heard of “expect the unexpected?” and said to self “ha ha it would be fun!!”
Well I have!

Excited to start my first official journey while keeping pace with the personal agenda, I wake up at 03:00 hours in the morning. A quick shower, second-check at my baggage and I am all set to board the cab at 04:30 a.m., that would ferry me to Chatrapati Shivaji Airport in Mumbai. I am supposed to board the flight to Bangalore scheduled at 6:30 a.m. I reach the airport at 05:15 a.m. and stroll to the boarding pass vending counter.

The First Patience-Test Moment
A lady of 5’3″ approximately, standing behind the counter greets me with a smile. I tuck my phone to her with the governmental identity proof.

She: “I am sorry Sir, all the passengers have reported, hence, the counter is closed to issue you a seat, I shall give you the boarding pass without the seat number. You must come back at 05:50 to get your seat number.”

Me: (Perplexed and trying to understand) “What does it mean? I had booked my ticket yesterday morning and I am 1 hour 15 minutes before the scheduled departure.”

She raises her brow, sighs, “you shall receive your seat number at 05:50 Sir, you have to wait till then”

At 05:50 a.m.
Me: Check the status now.
She: Amm.. Sir.. I am.. Mam can you please call… the baggage wait is 79kg excess.. Mam but..
Me: Can you please check for my seat first? I need to leave.
(standing next to me lady1, lady2 talk, shout, create chaos)
He: (at 06:00 a.m.) Sir, we are sorry but the flight is full. We will have to shift you to the next flight.
Me: What??? But why? I had booked in advance. I was here well before time. You can’t do this. Check. Check.
He: (pretends) Sir, we are over-booked and all the passengers have reported.
She: (stares like a cat)
Me: So have I. Why am I not allotted a seat?
He: Sir, the other passengers have checked-in online.
Me:

Look I can’t miss my flight. I have my day scheduled. I am not missing this flight. I need to go. It is her fault, it is your fault. You can’t overbook. So the preference is for online boarding and the people coming to the counter are mad then? Remove an air-hostess or a steward, give me their seat, I need to go.

He: Sir, we are sorry. We allot you a seat in the next flight scheduled for departure at 08:55 a.m.

I call up the K.P.N. travels in Bangalore and re-schedule the bus for Salem from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The lady on call confirms the loss of money due to re-scheduling. I spend another 2:30 hours strolling, reading news, people watching and sipping a cup of extremely sweet hot-chocolate.

Heroic Entry
At 08:45 a.m. I sense that the queue I have been looking at for boarding is still longer than before. An air-hostess rushes in the crowd shouting “Any passengers for the Bengaluru flight?” . I look at her and realize the queue I had been looking at was actually of Ahemadabad flight. I rush to the counter. He stamps my boarding pass.
I ask: “how am I supposed to go? Is this the bus? (pointing at the bus)”
He nods.
I ask again: “How do I reach the flight for Bengaluru, I am the only passenger left. Is this the bus?”
He nods again.

I rush and board the bus. I look around, in another 2 minutes more people board. My intuition shouts, “this is not the bus. Why are so many people boarding at the last minute?”
We reach the aircraft, I am the last one in the queue at the rear boarding.
He tears the boarding pass as taught, blinks and shouts,

Sir ye galat flight hai (this is the wrong flight)

He calls his colleague, they talk, no hope on their face. I request. They panic.
From nowhere, a goods-carrier auto-rickshaw appears. He talks to them, they disagree. We request.
Time is 08:50 a.m.
Three of us, the driver, the assistant and me, take a U-turn and at the maximum speed drive to the aircraft. While we are in its visibility, we see a couple of ground-staff, air-hostess and stewards look in all directions for the only passenger who almost boarded the wrong flight.
We shout waving our hands – Roko, roko, roko (Stop, stop,stop)

At 11:00 a.m. the cab chauffeur tells me “Yes Sir, we will reach the bus pick-up point before 12:30 p.m”. It’s a race. My brother guiding the chauffeur on call to take the roads that are not clogged with traffic. At 11:45 hope dies. The chauffeur shook his hands high. He cries “Sir, you can take some auto-rickshaw or anything you like but we can’t reach your destination by 12:30 p.m.” Race against time. My Bro leaves his work, steps on to the roads to set our path. My Bro orders me to give him one of my bags so that I can travel care-free in Salem. Tension builds in the air all over Bangalore. If I miss the bus, I’ll miss reaching Salem on time which means I won’t make it to my friend’s wedding reception, which in-turn means the amount of money, time and energy spent will go on tasting dust on roads.

Heart in my mouth
At 12:15 p.m. I meet my Bro, from the window we exchanged bags. I give him my lappie, he gives me mango shake and a pack of cookies and fully charged power-bank. The chauffeur hard at the wheel, the roads might smell the burning rubber, we did embark our way to the bus stop dot at 12:30 p.m., I sign the paper, cross the road, board the bus, sip the mango shake.

TWIST OF THE DAY
Too tired with the race and drama. I need rest. My body gives up. The mango shake is filling. I feel like having more of it. The cookies, I stack them for later. My neighbor sets to watch a movie. I smile at him for the familiarity of the race he belongs to. I feel the new belonging.

Anne, I have boarded the bus, all good here. The bag I gave you has my wallet and cards. I have no money!

Panic. Panic. Panic. My Bro calls his friend asking him to pick me up from Salem bus-stand. We exchange a couple of calls. Finally, it is decided that my friend, who’s wedding I am heading to, will hand me some cash. My Bro shall transfer some money to his account later. An embarrassing moment ends. I sit back with my mask on. I relax.

God! No more twists please!! Continue reading