Ma's Iran memoirs '77-79... The Islamic Revolution and our Great Escape. Chapter 4

"Disclaimer: In this post I have tried to narrate the experiences that I had during the most transitional period in Iran. These views are purely mine. I was a young Indian housewife at that time. I might have misinterpreted a few of the political implications and some of the facts might have been blurred due to distance in time.  I sincerely apologize if I have hurt the feelings of anyone. " RK.

And then came the storm

We returned to Rasht after the Kyoto Conference. Life went on as usual. We came to know that a new International School had come up in Rasht. We shifted K to that school. The teachers were all British and Americans. K was very happy

Then came that fatal day. It was 1 p.m.  K’s dad called me from the hospital and said that something was amiss. We should close all doors and windows and must not come out of the house at any cost. He missed his lunch in the hospital, which was served free for the doctors, usually consisting of ‘polo’, ‘gosht’, vegetables etc.

The bell rang. I opened the door after the checking for who it was through the key-hole. It was K’s dad. He told me excitedly that Sahenshah’s reign had been taken over by the Islamic religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Shahenshah had fled the country with his family in his private jet whose interior was rumoured to be made of pure gold. All we could hear was the sound of guns and bombs. We were terribly shaken. Even in the morning, we did not have an inkling of what was going to happen later in the day. For three to four days, we kept ourselves locked inside the house. We managed to survive with whatever food we had at home. All around we could only hear sounds of bombs and gun shots. We had a TV at home which used to broadcast news in Farsi. But the TV became erratic too. There was no proper news. We did not know what was going around us. All communication lines were snapped.

Away from home and family, we felt very miserable. In order to divert our mind, we started reading books. We had very few books though. Incidentally, I got hold of a novel on a concentration camp of Hitler. I do not remember how we got hold of it. Perhaps one of our Indian friends had lent it to us but we did not have time to read it before. You can imagine my state of mind- bomb sounds outside and reading a book on Hitler’s concentration camp inside!

After more than thirty years, it is not possible for me to recreate our feelings at that time because time heals everything. But we were in a very sorry state, caught in the crossfire of another country, for no fault of ours.

Life after the Islamic revolution

Things improved after a few days. We heard from Haji Aga that most of the British and Americans had fled as their hotels were targeted. With them, K’s ‘International School’ also vanished in thin year. Thankfully, Indians were spared.

Gradually people started coming out of their houses. K’s dad too started going to hospital. But there were very few doctors in the hospital.  Roads were almost deserted. There was chaos all around which is usual in a transitional period

Photos of Shahenshah, which previously adorned the walls of offices, hospitals and houses were replaced by photos of the Islamic religious leader Ayatollaha Khomeni.
One day an Iranian friend called me up and said, ‘ khanume suma tamasa didi?’ when I expressed my ignorance, she asked me to go to a nearby ground where quite a few people were executed and hung from the trees

In the evening, when we went there, we found a ‘mela’/ fair  like atmosphere. People had come from for off places to see the ‘tamasa’. Balloons, food stalls  - all were there. But we did not have the courage to go inside the ground and see the ‘bodies’. We hurried back home.

After the initial euphoria subsided, things looked quite grim. Fear was writ large on everybody’s faces. The smile vanished from Haji Aga’s face too. People became devoutly religious. Girls, who wore mini-skirts in public before, started wearing burkhas while going out. Men gave up their favourite drink, vodka, which presumably came from Russia, across the border of Rasht. Soon most of them were in such a sorry state that they became fit to be sent to detoxication centers.

Many of the Indians also returned to India. But K’s dad wanted to stay back for one or two more months so that he could complete his contract of two years.

Everything looked different. The city looked like a ‘bhaanga haat’ or broken fair. Many heads rolled. Literally. We never expressed our curiosity and kept to ourselves. The Iranians too did not confide in us. But we could realize that there were many changes and arrests of those in power.

If you ask me which regime was better- this or that, I would not be able to say because I am not a historian but only a chronicler who simply records facts.

The great escape

Soon the time to leave came. We packed only two or three suitcases leaving everything else behind. Haji Aga came to see us off with tears in his eyes. We left for Tehran with heavy hearts, to go to international airport.

We waited in the airport the whole night without getting our designated flight. Then K’s dad thought of changing our route. We took a flight to Heathrow airport and reached the U.K. safely.  

K’s dad could have got a job in NHS. But he was very home-sick after staying abroad for so many years. We were also emotionally shattered due to the political upheaval in Iran.

We stayed in U.K for a fortnight with our friends and finally returned to India in 1979."              

RK                                                                                                                            TO BE CONTINUED

32 years later Kainaz is at Heathrow today on her way to LA! 

I also remember stories of how we were scheduled to leave by a PIA flight which took off without us. Intentionally as my dad said.Doctors were scarce and they didn't want to let go of any.  There was  a little girl waiting to escape who beat me up and scratched me too. We finally returned  to England via a Bangladesh Biman flight. l vaguely remember eating rice and chicken curry in the lounge. I was only five so can't  vouch for any of this. Kalyan) 


Sharmila said…
The very thought that you all were in Khomeni's Iran gives me the goosebumps. You were actually there then?! Wow!
Read through without a pause. Can call it an adventure now I guess ... but then it must have been so scary and difficult for your parents.
Madhu said…
I think you meant 32 years later and not 22
Pinku said…
Gosh....that sounds like one scary experience.

Am just so glad all of you came out of it unharmed.

waiting to read more.
very scary experiences ...butt it came out to be safe...
very scary experience.. but lovely read too!
Read all the posts today - such an amazing writer...
Unknown said…
Khub shundor lekha. Almost like a novel. Yeh dil mange more...
shobita K said…
Can't imagine what it must have been like in those scary times. But you still made me smile with the bombs outside and hitler inside comment. I am glad you all managed to get out of there unscathed.
Why did that girl scratch you Kalyan? You poor thing! Maybe she liked you and you didn't pay any attention to her. Hahaha...
missydee said…
The day the Shah's regime fell was the day when my mother was supposed to fly into Iran. I believe her flight landed and she was stuck at the airport for days. Eventually the airport was re-opened and my parents then left the country after spending a few more weeks there. Who needs Bollywood when the drama is all in your family's stories?