The Exciting Tehran (From: The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall)

THE EXCITING TEHRAN 1974 – 1978 Before the Shah’s fall, Caro’s company transferred him, against his wish, from Geneva to Tehran. Naturally, not being in love with Iran, he was devastated to the point that he contemplated resigning from the company. I, however, was exuberantly happy. Once again, I could be with my mother and siblings; they had all gotten married a few years after my marriage to Caro. I was also excited for my children; they would be with their grandmother, uncles, aunt, and cousins. A year after returning to Iran, a major Israeli/US recording company, which had formed a joint venture with the royal family, offered Caro a job heading their organization. Caro accepted the position gladly. I, who had been a music lover all my life, was very eager to get a job at the same company. My knowledge of music was quite adequate, having studied for a few years as a teenager at the classical music school. Taking advantage of Caro’s boss, Mr. Schmidt’s visit to Tehran, I applied for a job. After a thorough interview, Mr. Schmidt hired me as assistant manager of Art and Repertoire. I had asked Caro earlier to get me a job with his company, but he had refused, saying that since I was his wife it would not be appropriate. The head of the Art and Repertoire department was a fair-looking fellow named Marcel. He used to be a classmate of mine at the Conservatoire. Marcel, who was a renowned pianist, gave me total liberty to do as I pleased. I signed up any artist, singer, lyricist, or songwriter that I thought appropriate. I also took charge of all the recordings. By 1978, signs of unrest were evident in the streets of Tehran and the rest of Iran. One day we would wake up to the screams of devastated citizens, flabbergasted at the sight of burnt military trucks or liquor stores. Another day we would open our eyes and ears to the cry of angry mobs demanding to gain freedom of speech. They carried signs that said, “Death to the Shah”… “Long live Khomeini,” and “Down with the Shah’s regime.” A few months earlier, Caro and I had noticed that fashionable young girls at work, who wore trendy, western clothes, began putting on Islamic clothing. Instead of gathering to socialize with boys and girls at the company luncheonette, they chose to isolate themselves and perform their special lunchtime prayer – the namaz. One night, as we were watching TV, shortly after the Shah’s announcement that he was creating a one-party government, we watched a young, female journalist wearing a black scarf interview the monarch. She asked him fearlessly, “How can a government have only one party?” The Shah responded, “Why not?” She laughed and uttered, “Without the existence of opposing parties, there won’t be a system of checks and balances.” The Shah losing his temper, stated, “What do we need opposition for? Opposition to whom, to me…?” She smirked. “Yes!” and pulled her scarf up, which had slipped down and was resting over her shoulders. The young journalist then scribbled something on her pad and addressed the Shah again, “Do you know how much you have enraged the people by your announcement of a one-party government?” The bold reporter did not give the Shah a chance to answer, and persisted in her line of questioning, “The Iranians are now asking for your abdication.” We were shocked at both the tone of her voice and the informal manner in which she was confronting the Shah! “How could she allow herself to address this powerful monarch with such blunt questions?” We asked ourselves. Nobody would have dared question the Shah in that manner before, and that young girl was challenging him without the fear of being arrested and punished. Caro and I had already been concerned about the grave situation the country was facing, when the Shah had announced his intentions of forming a one-party government. Now this! A few days earlier, when the Shah of Iran had announced the big news about creating a ‘one party system,’ Caro had turned to me saying, “Oh my God, this is no longer a safe country to live in!” That day, I was deeply sorrowed to hear Caro utter those words. So, springing to my feel, I retorted, “Please, don’t be so negative … I am really happy here!” “Can’t you see? This man is trying to make his regime more dictatorial than it already is!” It scared me to think how good Caro was at deducing facts from actual situations. He could read into the future, putting one and one together, while I was still naïve. I loved Iran the best of all the other countries that we had lived before. Even our children, Sophia, now sixteen, and Alex, thirteen, who were raised in Europe, loved Iran. They especially found Tehran to be very exciting. Alex and Sophia studied at the Razi French Lyceum and mingled with children of dignitaries, Westerners, children of ambassadors, and even the Shah’s children. The Shah’s youngest son and Alex studied in the same grade and class. The prince attended the same birthday parties as our son. Every time I took Alex to a birthday party at which the teenaged prince was invited, the secret police thoroughly inspected all the gift packages for security reasons. Caro was right. The situation was turning grave day by day. I remember my husband that day commenting, “Soon you’ll see that this ‘one-party rubbish’ is going to blow up in the Shah’s face.” Although I knew that Caro’s predictions were always right, I begged him not to jinx my happiness. For once I had a job that I loved… for once I did not have to worry about the children, because of Mama (who had now come to live with us. Elaine, Caro’s mother also lived with us). Indeed, I did not have to watch them so closely. I could do what I liked, and my lovely help, Soghra, took care of everything around the house for me. Soghra was a real gem! She shopped, cleaned the house, cooked, and fed the family. What’s more, I loved working with Caro at the recording company. I looked at him, trying to charm him with a flirtatious smile. Did I think he had power over the destiny of Iran? Did I believe that if he did not utter negative words about the Shah and the adverse impact of his actions, things would remain good forever? I think I did. Soon the situation erupted like a volcano, and caught people like me by surprise. We were desperate! We did not know what to do. The unrest was catching on rapidly. There was no time to waste. But, how could we get out of Iran. Our wish was to be able to escape to Europe. However, we were well-aware that European countries would not willingly give refuge to Iranian citizens, unless they possessed tons of money. That’s when, Michael, a God-sent angel contacted us! The telephone rang on a Sunday morning in May. It was one of our European friends, Michael, on a business trip to Tehran. Michael worked for a company in San Francisco that produced bleach and other cleaning products. His voice rang with contentment, hearing me, “Hi Carineh. This is Michael. I am so happy to hear your voice. So, you are still in Iran!” “Yes, of course we are still here. Where else did you think we would be?” I answered. He laughed, “You know, with the situation being as it is, and knowing Caro well, I thought he must have found a job abroad and moved you all out of Iran by now.” “No,” I sighed, “We are still here. Are you in Tehran, now? Do you want to come over?” Michael almost seemed to be a God-sent angel who had come to save us. He was a slim, blue-eyed, short fellow with a dark brown goatee. Michael was a friendly, smiley person. Whenever Caro and I had gotten together with he and his wife, Evelyn, with her deep French accent, we’d had a wonderful time. When we lived in Geneva, they, too, lived there. Michael, a Frenchman, used to work for the same American company in Geneva, as Caro. As we sat enjoying our conversation with Michael over some drinks, he asked my husband if he knew anyone who would be willing to move to San Francisco to work as a marketing manager for the Middle East in his company. “How about me…?” Caro asked and leapt to his feet with excitement. Michael’s eyes gleamed with pleasure, “You mean you would be interested in the job?” “You bet I would!” Caro blurted out, looking gleefully at his two teenaged children and myself. I was thrilled to see a smile of gratitude and satisfaction on Caro’s face. I knew what he was thinking: Our God never abandons us!