Monday, 9 April 2012
In New York away from the United Nations building.
On our journey through the east coast we stayed in New York for a week. We were taken to the UN building for a tour. We went to Radio City cinema and watched recent Doris Day movie.
And closer to the building.
We walked the streets of 'the city that never sleeps' until 4 am and enjoyed every moment at the Times Square. If I ever were to choose among cities, I once thought to myself, living somewhere other than Tehran, It would be New York. Later, London replaced Tehran when I lost the city in the turmoil of history.
The scholorship was granted by the US and was called "Experiment in International Living". If you passed the exam with high marks, you would go free and all expences were paid. Should you get a lower mark then you had to pay part of the expences in total 50,000 Iranian Rials, equivalent of $ 700.
Fortunately, I was one of the few who passed the exam and secured a place without payment. We were due to fly in mid-June 1963.
At the time, my two siblings lived with me while my parents were faraway in Jiroft. I sent a telgram to my parents telling them of the good news and asked for some pocket money which was arranged ($200). The group of fellow students were introduced to each other. In all, we were 17: 10 men and 7 women from various faculties plus Mrs Rad, our supervisor who had been appointed to accompany us all the way. Mrs Rad, a woman in her mid-thirties, had already been in the US for several years and was well familiar with the country. She worked for an American institute in Tehran. A Mrs Mohtashami ( or Ehteshami) was involved as well but she did not accompany us on the trip.
We were preparing for the unexpected and exiting journey, unaware that the country was in turmoil and political upheavals of June 1963 were underway. That was the time of confrontation between the Shah and Ayatollah Khomeini. That was the time he was ultimately sent into exile only to return 15 years later to take Iran into the abyss of darkness.
There were days when we were taken in a minibus to downtown Tehran to the passport office when we would hear gunshots from the streets but our attention was faraway from the chaos under the skin of town.
A week before our departure, events took a different shape. Suddenly, we were told that we were part of the Youth Organisation in Tehran and a Mr Khodayar, head of the organisation was introduced to us or vice versa (Khodayar was one of the most handsome men of his time). Suddenly, we were informed that His Majesty would like to see us before departure. Suddenly, we turned into a victory card in the hands of the establishment which wanted to announce to the world that Iran was on the way to modernisation and it were the dark forces which stood on her way. Suddenly, we were to play a more cautious and different role and the intial innocent excitement was amalgamated with all these other excitments of going to the court and being introduced to his majesty.
We began to make ourselves nice dresses. I bought a silver grey silk material and took it to the tailors to make me a skirt with a jacket.
On the evening of june 4, 1963, were were taken to the Sa'adabad Palace in northern Tehran in a minibus accompanied by Mrs Rad and Mr Khodayar, now a familiar face among us. We were taken to a room and a butler brought us tea which we drank while making fun of our situation.
After a while we were taken to a hall and stood in a row for His Majesty to shake hands with us. We were already instructed to demonstrate our respects by revering when His Majesty approached us.
The Shah entered the hall, a much smaller figure than I had expected. He approached our line and shook hands with us in turn and asked questions. I forgot to do all that and stood smiling at him when my turn cam. He stood there more than necessary and asked me several questions as to which faculty I study and what I want to do in my life and etc. The photographers were taking photos which were later usde in the publicity machine against the Khomeini propaganda. One of the photos above this post was taken on the day we met the Shah.
The next day we left for the US by Air India. One of the photos above was taken at the airport. The Air India aircraft can be seen in the background. Mr Khodayar and a military officer can be seen bidding farewell to us. From left, Mrs Mohtashami (can be Ehteshami), me and others.
What I was informed later was the fact that my siling photo with the Shah decorated the front pages of all daily papers the next day! I was given copies of those papers but lost them in the course of time. I am certain that atleast they exisit in the Etela'at Newspaper archives.
We landed in Boston after a long flight and our exciting, memorable journey started from there.