This is not the first time I write about experiences I have had on the way to, from, or actually in Shahrerey. Sitting on the back seat of the taxi, I usually glance at the city scenes that drift past the windows: only last Monday morning, as I got off the taxi just before Hazrat Abd ol-Azim’s Shrine, a group of nine-year-old girls, dressed in white chadors decorated with pink flowers got off a minibus. This visit must have been part of the celebration of their ‘coming of age’ in terms of religious duties (jashn-e taklif), something like the Catholic First Communion. They were all excited, milling around like kittens, until the stern voice of their teacher brought them into line.
On the same day, on the way back to the metro station, the taxi stopped at a red light in front of a greengrocer’s. A couple of people with their back turned to me were doing their shopping, while two schoolboys a short distance ahead held two wooden sticks and rolled around a rotten apple in place of a ball. Their faces were bright with childish excitement, at trying, at having a good game, at changing the world around them with whatever is at hand.
Their smiles brought me back to one summer in Kassos, my native island, when my cousin Manolis shaped little doll chairs and tables from the metallic stoppers of glass Coke bottles. He had used a long stone with a flattish end to straighten them and had managed to make the pieces stick together (I never worked out how.) When he finished, he gave the same kind of smile that has the warmth of the sun coming out from behind the clouds.