Ambush at IKA: Evading the Wedding Planners


Ambush at IKA: Evading the Wedding Planners
by Temporary Bride

“You’ve got to help hide me.”

I was sitting on the plane next to a chiropractor from Glasgow called Hooman who called himself ‘Dr Hoo’.

Apparently when Iranians return home from abroad, they aren’t greeted by the tender, discreet embraces of a small gathering of loved ones. They are swarmed by a family entourage of mafia-like proportions. Even at 4am.

“I’m going to sneak out the back and jump into a taxi.”

“Forget it. My brother tried that last year. They paid a few of my cousins to ambush him at the side exits.” On my other side was Maryam, another Iranian who was living in Stockholm.

A man across the aisle passed over some sunflower seeds and joined in.

“Don’t fight it man. Last time I came home I had 40 people waiting for me.”

“That’s nothing, my cousin had 70 when he came.”

Hooman described the dozens of cunning aunties anxious to serve double duty as wedding planners. His wallet was overflowing with pictures of prospective wives. Their overplucked eyebrows were replaced with fierce, crayon-like trajectories drawn in with eyeliner. They all had the same creepy ‘deer trapped in headlights’ expression. As a successful bachelor living abroad, he was going to be a fugitive on the run.

“Fuck. I can’t take another intervention.”

Our conversation had absorbed rows 14 through 17 and hands were anxiously reaching to grab the photos and dispense advice. Sunflower seeds and peanut shells rained down onto the carpet. Iranians seem to keep a veritable grain silo in their pockets for just such occasions.

“So let them try and marry you off. When my cousin came back from the States they had a beauty parade of girls lined up for him.”

“Or just tell them that you’re gay.”

Hooman slipped his hand under my blanket and wordlessly took my hand. He traced my fingers and flashed me his ‘victim eyes’. When he asked me I gave him my phone number. I’m a sucker for the underdog.

The plane began its descent into Tehran and it was announced that all ladies’ clothing must conform to the dress code of the Islamic Republic of Iran before disembarking.

On cue the ladies reached into their purses and handbags for scarves and draped them over their heads. As I tugged and pulled and yanked my scarf into place, I could see Hooman getting increasingly nervous.

“You got a chador in that bag?” he asked.

But now, as we left the plane - our last foothold of the West - and I took my first steps into Iran wearing my carefully selected manteau and my lopsided scarf, it was my turn to feel awkward and timid.

As we passed through passport control and down the escalators I saw a glass wall that separated us from the outside world. Pressed up against the glass were a sea of cloaked heads and dark eyes. Overhead hung a large life-like painting of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamanei with their unsmiling faces and long, white beards.

Beyond them I saw the foreboding curvatures and dots of Farsi script on the signs that would bear us to the highway and onwards to Tehran.

As the hundreds of anxious waiting families began to swallow up their émigré daughters and returnee sons that had been my fellow passengers, I felt nervous and very alone.

Hooman looked at my face. “Are you ok?”.

I smiled, but I wanted to kick myself. Both Hooman and Maryam had invited me home to meet their families and to attend garden parties with their friends, but instead I was stuck with my plans. I’d had the ingenious idea that Tehran would be loud, ugly and polluted and that I would want a gentler introduction to the kingdom of Persia. I was leaving Tehran to fly straight to Yazd, a quieter, serene sounding city in the desert.

Summoning up my courage, I took a deep breath and walked through the glass doors. I walked past all the families, past the border guards and stepped forward into this strange new world alone.


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