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Something to Eat

by ALI CHENAR in Tehran

17 Jul 2009 20:58Comments
4069136-Kabab_Lavash_and_soup_Iran.jpg[ dispatch ] Summers are hot in Tehran. The sun shines radiantly, and the heat can melt you down if you stay out during midday hours. People are sweating, swearing and going about their business, waiting for the cool of the evening.

Walking toward the University of Tehran, I passed several groups of people sitting in the shade of trees on Keshavarz Boulevard. The shops are closed except for small supermarkets selling cold drinks and bottles of water. I reached Palestine Square on Taleghani Street, which connects to the University of Tehran's main campus from the east, where more people stand listening to the sermon over loudspeakers.

The heat was unbearable, so I entered a small restaurant to get a cold soda. It was a medium-sized place, serving kababs with bread or rice -- clean but not very modern, a small operation of the kind that does well close to downtown or schools, were people want clean, cheap food.

A couple of ladies entered ahead of me.

"How much is beef?"

"1000 tomans per skewer."

"Give us two."

The cashier had set up a drinking station, a row of plastic cups and jars of cold water. More people came in.

"Can we have some water?" they ask.

He fills the cups for them, no charge. I approached and asked for a soda.

"Which color?"

In Iran, soda is not Pepsi or Coke or any other brand name; it is either black or orange.

"A black one, please"

I sat down, sipping my black soda and looking around. At a table, a young couple ate their meal heartily. Next to them, two ladies were about to start eating. A family of three entered. The father ordered kabab; he, his wife and his daughter have green ribbons and scarves.

Their meals were served and they started to eat. At the table next to them, three riot police officers were gulping down their lunch. Their colleagues were outside keeping an eye on the gathering crowd.

Outside, some people stopped to ask a question from officers or just to look at them. Inside though, they were just three other hungry guys eating their food.

The young girl at the table glanced at them; her green scarf boldly announcing her affiliation, as their uniforms did theirs.

She then jumped from her table to greet another family who had entered the restaurant to get some cold drinks. The family finished their meal and left with their friends; the riot police cleaned their plates off and stood up to leave. One of them turned around to the cashier.

"Thank you," he said. "Thank you very much, Agha."

I was leaving, too. Outside, the crowd was getting denser, and the family was walking towards the university with their friends. The officers joined their comrades. The first sermon was finished; the second one was starting. People listened over the loudspeakers.

More police units arrived. The restaurant remained open for business.

There is no fear from each other, not for now anyway.

Ali Chenar is a pen name.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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