Nida’s Eyes and a Revolution

Maverick: A Revolution Seen Through Nida's Eyes
By Farzana Versey
Covert July 15-31

One floor below our flat in Mumbai, an Iranian revolution was taking place. As I flashback to those years, I clearly recall the face of the woman. She was plump and beautiful, a Madhubala on steroids.

I do not remember her name, but I distinctly recall that she seemed to be forever in the balcony. She lived with her parents and brother, Mohammed, a reckless fellow who thought he was Superman. Her father ran a small Iranian restaurant, which is quite distinct from the ones run by Zoroastrian Iranis. The mother was a quiet woman, mainly because she spoke no language other than Farsi.

Her husband lived in Iran and visited once a year. He ran a business and wore ill-fitting shirts and the bottoms of his trousers fell like squashed bags at his feet. They occasionally went out, she waddling ahead. She had refused to go live with him.

Whatever the family had escaped from, they returned to a home when it was well-entrenched as an Islamic state. Was it economics that prompted the move? Did they truly feel it might be safer in the comfort of religion? Was it to make it easier for their daughter?

I have been thinking about her for the past few days because of Nida, the 26-year-old who was shot dead as she stood silently witnessing the protests in Tehran. Nida’s revolution was by default, an onlooker who was killed. The lady I speak about would most likely never have attended a rally.

Is it right to label Nida a martyr, the face of the recent revolution, only because her death has been captured in the quick fix mode of visual communication and her name, by sheer co-incidence, means “the call” or “the voice”?

The problem with the wars within is that the voices are echoing foreign thoughts. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, no one protested.

There is a website for Nida. It states: “20 years ago the youth of Iran were completely unaware of life outside their country. And likewise, the youth of the West had no idea what it was like to live in Iran. There was no Internet. There was no Facebook or Twitter.”

Over 20 years ago, the lady who lived below our house had made a decision. About five years ago, in a conservative city of India, I met another Iranian family. They showed me pictures from back home where large tables were laden with all signs of excess and indulgence. People were clinking glasses – of wine, vodka, and the red liquid was not rose sherbet but Campari. I asked P about the restrictions and she shrugged; almost no get-together was without alcohol. They weren’t elitist wealthy. She worked and wore a scarf with pants and a tunic that just about covered her hips. In India, she dressed in jeans and T-shirts. She could out-drink her husband.

S was a quiet man who talked about Rumi, his conversation becoming more subtle and philosophical as the drink warmed him up. He was a highly-qualified professional and held a government job.

Their children studied in India, which is not unusual. They would return home one day. The older son had once accompanied me to a Zakir Naik lecture; it was his reaction that made me aware that the glass of beer he would guzzle down in ten minutes an hour later had not dimmed his allegiance to his Shia roots. He got up to question the speaker’s comments. It was a learning moment for me. Would Ahmadinejad’s so-called anti-Semitism possibly have such a deep impact on Iranians who still battle with issues about Sunnis?

Would this young man have attended a protest march? He had access to the internet and the world. He was open to knowledge but not brainwashing. He had friends from many countries and would find it demeaning if someone told him how he should rebel, least of all people downloading videos of a dead woman.

He would see through the limited vision of those asking him to look into Nida’s eyes. They are the ones who made a killing from her death and hoped for collective catharsis to tweet about.


  1. FV,
    Interesting that you pick up the Issue of Nida and Persian Culture. Courtesy CNN and Mr Laden, all of muslims in this entire world have got painted with the same brush , some shades on the side may be lighter but the brush and colour is the , that of Fundamentalist people who dont listen to music, appreciate art , drink Vodka and dance on bollywood songs. Fact remains that persian Culture in that neighbourhood of countries is very very deep rooted and fundametalism is finding it hard to suffocate it, hence the struggle. While Mr Ahmednijaad (I call him Ahmed Nijaat - get rid of wala nijaat) he has painted their beautiful country and culture and all Iranian in one "nuke" colour.
    This being said, the most important debate is what came first , Religion or the civilisation ....of course Civilisation, Malay Muslims are called Malay Muslims...they are Malay ...there is nothing called Pakis in this world ..they are either Punjabi Muslims or Pathans or Sindhi Muslims. I have had the most interesting debates on Islam and Hinduism /Sikhism with pakis gupling down "scaatch" and listening to Jagjeet singh ....Net Net ..Our umblical chord with Culture doesnt get chopped off even one we colour ourselves in "Religious" fervour .

  2. Manish:

    See, even if politicians indulge in culture, today they need to have nukes along with nazms...

    I think CNN and Laden have made Muslims into rock stars...teetotalers, of course.

    You are so right about demarcating religion and civilisation. After all, the cavemen did not worship anything, and is at all they did, they ate it later.

    Btw, Khomeini wrote some lovely poems.

    'Scaatch' is the great leveller?! Bilkul...I have been witness to it. But would Obama drink to Ahmednijaad's eyes?


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