TitleSolidarity and songs in Tehran's weekly resort

The eternal mountains of Tehran

19 Nov 2010

■ Shafagh Ashna
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On Friday mornings, Tehran looks like another city. If you go out early in the morning, instead of traffic and the noise of cars you’ll see some black shapes in groups moving towards the bus stations that have the north of Tehran as their destinations. Sometimes you can see men who are slowly walking along the street, alone. Maybe they find a car and the driver feels sorry for them and decides to give them a ride. In the coolness before sunrise, they ride in vehicles and pass Tehran from south to north. And while passing the streets, different memories come to their minds. According to their ages they have distant and near memories of the streets they pass, from Mossadegh’s period to Revolution and reform and last year’s election.

I myself just see the streets in green colors. When I pass Vali Asr Square I remember Qods day. Passing through Vanak Square reminds me of the day after the election, and when I get to Tajrish I remember the green human chain. Then I take my eyes from the streets and direct them towards the mountains, the weekly resort of people who gather there after six hard days of working – no arrangements needed; everyone just knows to be there.

Before the sun rises, large crowds gather at the square with the sculpture. Each of them is doing something. One is adjusting the belt of backpack; another is putting the food that he has bought in his bag. That one over there is waiting for his friends’ arrival and the other one is jogging to get warm. After some minutes people leave the crowd in groups and start going upwards. It is still dark and exhalations of people get out of their mouth like a bulk of steam, but no one feels cold anymore. And they all start talking cheerily and are guessing what the weather would be like this evening and what that weather forecast site predicts, or what the news said last night. In the beginning of their walk, most talks are about the mountaintops and how big the possibility is that they could climb them today. Then talks change to how much they slept last night and what they ate and to what extent they are ready for climbing. But one by one, as the sun rises and the weather gets lighter and faces get more recognizable, mouths open with laughter and the funs start. All people say hello to each other and say “more power to your elbow”, and then you can hear a soft murmur from behind or above and after a while it becomes a loud song that resounds in the mountains. It seems coming back to us with thousands of mouths. Everyone goes silent and listens to the song.

After a while, the soft murmur becomes a loud song that resounds in the mountains

You can see many of these scenes in the mountains: a lover who sings for his beloved, and a political prisoner who reminisces his period of battle and youth. If you leave according to program, you are far enough from Tehran when the sun rises and you feel it under your feet. Tall buildings and skyscrapers have the size of your little finger; even from up above it is clear that still Tehran isn’t waking up. One hour left until breakfast time, you have to go fast and orderly to reach the shelter on time. On each stone that people can do so, they write green mottos and greet the fighters for freedom.

When the shelter appears the first exhaustion disappears. When you enter a warm and friendly environment, every person you see says hello to you and asks you to join them in eating breakfast. This environment of shelter to me is something totally different from Iranian society. You can’t find this anywhere else, all this diversity of colors, euphoric mountain climbers and the hope glittering under that roof. Without even being aware of it, you can feel fun over here that is not just superficial. Suddenly from somewhere behind a bench someone is humming and a bit later another one start singing and one gets up and starts dancing, and after a while another one joins and another one … and now they are a crowd that has gathered in a shelter and is swinging and dancing. Then they remember it is time to go, they drink their teas and pack their backpacks and get out of the shelter. From now to lunch, which takes place on the mountaintop, no one eats, just some dates and raisins.

Mountain climbers try not to talk from here to the mountaintop and use their energy just for climbing. After three or four hours of climbing, with some short stops in between, the mountaintop appears. Now there is no sign of that crowd which had gathered beside the sculpture square; just a few of them remain, the real professionals. In climbing the mountain, each 1000 meters that you go up the people around you are clearer and more pure. At last, those who can reach the mountaintop and get in its shelter are those who I believe can be my best friends.

The scenery of the mountaintop is unique and cannot be compared with anything else. Standing on the mountaintop and looking around gives you such a great feeling of power: it seems as if after having done this, everything else is easy for you. From up above, Tehran is a small matchbox that you can hold with your two fingers and shake out of it whatever you hate and is persecuting you.

On the mountaintop, climbers do different things according to their power: some sleep, some eat their lunch and others are busy with joking and having fun. Those who have more energy than others sing for them or are telling their memories. I remember once a climber sang a song with such deep feelings that tears came from everyone’s eyes. In the end, you should come down quickly because usually the weather gets bad in the evenings and the mountain with his all its beauty and charm can be so cruel. If the temper of mountain gets you, your survival is not certain.

On the way back to the hillside they sing first of all the indelible song of ‘Sar Oomad Zemestoon’ (Winter Has Passed), although there are many centuries that winter hasn’t passed for Iranians, but shouting and wishing freedom in the mountains is the thing that gives us hope for the arrival of spring, although the mountains are full of tulips today (tulip is the symbol of martyr in Iranian culture). Or then it is time for other songs, one starts singing and the rest accompany him till they reach the hillside, and sometimes they are all silent to enjoy the silence and magnificence of the mountains.

And at last the sculpture welcomes them and in contrast to the early morning, the square is crowded and surrounded with restaurants and shouts of salesmen who are inviting people for buying their stuffs and people that have come out of their houses to eat kebab and smoke hookah. Again climbers gather around the sculpture and say goodbye to each other till another morning and another Friday when again they say hello to each other in the middle of the square.

Tehran Review
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