When I visited Iran I was a bit apprehensive. All that I had read in the newspapers spelt trouble. The visa required a visit to the pathologist to ensure that I was free from various diseases.
At the immigration check, the officer asked me the purpose of my visit. I told him I was attending a seminar. The next moment I was shocked when he warmly welcomed me in Hindi, “Raju, swagat hai”. What a sharp contrast from the crude behaviour one often encounters at immigration and security in the West!
The whole visit was like a dream. I felt so much at home, and my hosts were so very polite, exactly as I expected from my childhood image of Persia as the land of adab and tahzib.
This last was true even of the traffic: the ultimate test of civilization. Tehran has huge traffic jams, but none of the uncivility that is so common among motorists in Delhi. Also, I didn’t see a single gun (except in a museum, that is!). This was another sharp contrast from Delhi, where it is clear that the Indian “democracy” cannot function one instant without the help of guns. State violence (or the absence of it) is, to my mind, a measure of injustice (or justice). The problem seems to be with the media, which never ever talks about these aspects, just as it never told us about the striking simplicity of Imam Khomeini’s life style (living in a small one-room house), though it used to go gaga over the Shah’s way of life.
It was very satisfying to finally visit the historic site of Jundishapur. However, while Choga Zanbil was fascinating and well maintained it was a bit disappointing to see Jundishapur in a state of neglect.
An unexpected aspect of Ahwaz was the “mundane” art: huge murals on the facade of houses.
The main seminar was at the Al Zahra Women’s University. A short video of my talk is here.
A visit to Isfahan showed no nuclear bombs, that the media keeps talking about, but only some very beautiful mosques and some extraordinary handicrafts. It is remarkable how people keep swallowing the same propaganda over and over again: first it was the non-existent Iraqi bomb, and now the Iranian bomb. But of course, the West has been waging its holy wars and holy genocides with the help of exactly such falsehoods for centuries since the Crusades.
The oranges at Shiraz were out of this world, like the falooda. A visit to Persepolis confirmed first-hand that Greeks imitated Persian architecture. This is a bit different from the way the Greek gods were all copies of Egyptian deities: for the argument is that culture and knowledge often flows towards the military conqueror.