The Art of Ta’arof

Some years ago in Tehran a 90 something gentleman got up to greet someone half his age since he said those are the manners he was taught as a young lad. I instagrammed it as “amazing ta’arof” and my Persian friends immediately corrected me that was not ta’arof but genuine.

So Ta’arof is not always a positive force since it’s mixed in with traces of deception. This article below was a very old post in my blog and thought I would share it since it’s so well-written.

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One of the most complicated aspects of Persian culture — and language — is the untranslatable ta’arof. Depending on the circumstance, it can mean any number of things: To offer, to compliment and/or exchange pleasantries. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I doubt if any study can lead to a full understanding of Ta’arof. A born and raised Persian, even I find myself losing my grasp on it from time to time.

Continue reading The Art of Ta’arof

Pakistani Psychosis

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEnrcpeIsYY

 

Our Brown Pundit Zachary Latif will hopefully share his perspectives on Pakistani Psychosis soon. Tarek Fatah gives a good synopsis of Pakistani Psychosis and Islamism in the above video. I am not an expert on Pakistani Pysochosis, and cannot validate many of Tarek Fatah’s perspectives on Pakistan. However, with respect to Islam, many muslims (including prominent religious leaders) privately share many of Tarek’s views, but the vast majority are too afraid to share their views publicly. Tarek Fatah is very knowledgeable about Arabic, Islamic scripture and Islamic law. If you have the time, please watch the entire video.

What is Pakistani psychosis? I am not completely certain and look forward to evolving my views with new information. To oversimplify, it is the combination of several things:

Continue reading Pakistani Psychosis

Why was India richer than Iran or Afghanistan-

Thread:

I don’t have many answers but the Indo-Gangetic plains have certainly fared a lot better than the Mesopotamian and Nile River Valley.

It may be that certain civilisation required manmade constructs and when depredations occurred; they simply collapsed. It seems that the Indo-Gangetic was ringed with a massive dessert (the Thar desert and Deccan plateau notwithstanding) in the same manner the Nile, Iraq, North Africa or Central Asia were.

Just a few thoughts on what is surely a complex matter..

Iran as a modern Zoroastrian nation

After the counter-revolution the majority of Iranians have decided that they have had enough with Islam and want to return to their Zoroastrian roots. After the neo-Zoroastrians (they prefer to be called noZis) wrest back control, one of their first shock findings is that the birthplace of Zoroaster happens to be under the Naqsh-e Jahan square in Isfahan.

The noZis tear down the square and leave the rubble while they decide what to do with the site. In the interim all the medieval Muslim sites, which form the bulk of the architectural legacy of Iran, are benignly (or rather callously) neglected in favour of Persepolis (which is garishly rebuilt in what the  noZis think was Darius’s court) and other “reconstructed” Sassanian/Achamenian sites (many mosques have been discovered to have been built on top of fire temples).

Ferdowsi is the only Muslim poet truly privileged in noZi Iran but even the Shahnameh is under threat because it’s written in the “alien Arabic script” and not in the purer Pahlavi script (in fact some noZis argue that there should be a switch to the more “Aryan” Latin alphabet). At any rate the majority of Iranians are back to being officially illiterate.

Modern Persian is deemed to have far too many Arabic words and so the more rustic Dari of Yazd is chosen as a base language. Considering that this Dari was spoken by insular villagers the last millennium; it’s deemed that Avestan is the only acceptable source  language. Reality turns out to be a bit different; Old Persian in the Arabic script remains the dominant language of arts, calligraphy and culture while New Dari in Pahlavi becomes totally dependent on Anglo-French borrowings to become a complete language.

In the interim any Islamic poet, scientist or historian (even if Persian/Iranian) is sort of cast as the “other” and a scramble/obsession begins to discover ancient Persia’s scientific & aesthetic contributions. Some of Iran’s finest minds have been able to prove that ice cream in fact originated in Yazd.

Furthermore thousands and thousands of online noZis descend on the web to foam and obsess about Iran’s Muslim neighbours and to complain about Iran’s preferential treatment of her Muslim minority (they still maintain their own separate laws to the chagrin of the noZis).

They are also fuming at Eastern Iran’s still heavily Muslim region decision to secede into a new Khorasani state with Mashad & Herat as the capital. Iranian nationalists draw maps of Greater Iran that prominently figure Khorasan and constantly remind the Khorasanis that their Islamic identity is a myth and in fact they were Zoroastrians just a few generations back.

Iran Pakistan border

It’s difficult to translate as the video is in Turkish but it’s essentially contrasting between Pakistan and Iranian border..

Also sharing Drew Binksy’s Iran Travelogue videos:

https://www.facebook.com/drewbinsky/videos/1781413925228862/

https://www.facebook.com/drewbinsky/videos/1782974775072777/

 

Various Thoughts on Iran & Islam

  • The discussion on Muslim birthrates is verging on the obscene. As I’ve mentioned before the problem with multi-ethnic multi-religious liberal democracies is that people start tracking population data. One strong about the autocratic and mercantile Khaleej Gulf Arab states is that they are simply indifferent to their population; you are either a citizen or not. I can see the Rise & Rise of Dubai as a enlightened despotic trading entrepot for Indians, Pakistanis and other Asians.
  • Vidhi made the very important to me in our discussions that as a Sindhi, she has an interest in her homeland. But she also made the critical point (I’m the only Punditeer who’s married to the enemy; the rest of you encounter them online whichever side your on) that she wouldn’t be able to dress as a Hindu
  • The importance of Khorasan to Turan, which I will expand on in future posts. There were two great Persian dialects in the middle ages; Sabk-e Khorasan and Sabk-e Hind. One of the great mysteries is what contributed to the intense “Persianiasation” of Khorasan; when it was originally Parthian/Eastern Iranian and “Aryan”. Middle East topographic map.png

Continue reading Various Thoughts on Iran & Islam

The Roots of Indo-Iranian cultural genesis

Here is my take on the significance of South Asian aDNA from Eastern Iran and Central Asia during the Bronze Age –

The Chalcolithic contacts between South Asia and regions immediately to its East & North i.e. Eastern Iranian cultures such as Jiroft or Halil Rud (from sites such as Jiroft & Konar Sandal) & Helmand (Shahr-i-Sokhta) as well as Central Asia (from sites such as Geoksiur or Sarazm) are not so well documented. This is an unfortunate lacunae that needs to be filled up in the near future because the Chalcolithic appears to be a critical phase where the communication channels within this vast region are likely to have become more intensified leading to a process of urbanism and continuing well upto the downfall of these urban civilizations.

Nevertheless, there are some tantalising and very important clues for this period that can have larger repurcussions as more research is done but I will come to that later.

Let me first point out the archaeological and genetic evidence we have for the 3rd millenium BC.

First let us note the evidence of interaction between the Helmand civilization (exemplified by sites such as Shahr-i-Sokhta & Mundigak)

A series of artefacts found at Shahr-i Sokhta and nearby sites (Iranian Seistan) that were presumably imported from Baluchistan and the Indus domain are discussed, together with finds from the French excavations at Mundigak (Kandahar, Afghanistan) that might have the same origin. Other artefacts and the involved technologies bear witness to the local adaptation of south-eastern manufactures and practices in the protohistoric Sistan culture. While the objects datable to the first centuries of the 3rd millennium BCE fall in the so called “domestic universe” and reflect common household activities, in the centuries that follow we see a shift to the sharing of luxury objects and activities concerning the display of a superior social status; but this might be fruit of a general transformation of the archaeological record of Shahr-i Sokhta and its formation processes.

The above is part of the abstract from this paper –

https://www.harappa.com/sites/default/files/pdf/Indus-helmand2.pdf Continue reading The Roots of Indo-Iranian cultural genesis

Sikhism & Iran’s Symbol

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I saw this in an Iran forum and was immediately intrigued but it turns out to be simply a coincidence. However it’s a nice segue to this article on the Sikhs of Iran, Iran’s Sikhs get a better deal than many other minorities.
The strong relations between India & Iran is no joke; I remember on my second trip to Tehran last year the queues to the Indian embassy for visas were literally bursting. Sadly (or not) the relationship between Pakistan & Iran seems to be a very one-way affair, Pakistani’s are more enamored and the Indo-Pak Shi’ite pilgrims in Iran don’t make the best impressions of themselves with their excessive fawning (or so I’ve heard).

Too light-skinned to be Pakistani?

We had a Pakistani Dinner late and it was quite a laugh (even though I’m quite Indianised these days & constantly rant about Muslims, I do love my Pakis). One of my friends brought along a white lady who joined us. As we left the dinner she asked me if I was fully Pakistani because I was lighter than the rest and they looked “more Indian.” She then mentioned that I could pass off as a Spaniard, which frankly was BS ???.

I was much annoyed (not faux-annoyed because it seemed like she was giving me a compliment) because I’m instantly taken for an Indian (& happily so) whereever I am in the West (not Arab not Middle East not even Persian). I am usually seen as Indian or Muslim (especially when I wear a beard, which is what I am, the collision of the Ummah & Mother India) in an all-white context; it takes a very discerning white person to see me as anything other than those.

A good rule of thumb is that the rounder my face the “desier” I look, the leaner the more Persian I get (an Iranian friend told me that and it makes sense).

What I found interesting is that in an all-desi context (which has been a while) my “otherness” admittedly did jump out (I felt it myself but then this was a predominantly salt of the earth Punjabi table, where the Urdu spoken has a nasal quality to it).  If I had been with Muhajirs (of the KGS strata) or Pathan-Punjabi mixes it wouldn’t have felt so stark; this was a case of regional rather than national differentiation. But Punjabis own Pakistan and good for them, some compensation for the horrid they had to undergo at partition.

I find this bestowing of “light privilege” by white people to be ridiculous and micro-aggressive (microaggression is a thing!).
It’s not that we don’t have our colour fixations in South Asia (and the Middle East) but colour is a spectrum/gradation rather than a stark barrier. There are dark Brahmins after all (even though I once heard a quip in Kampala that never trust a dark Brahmin lol) the Aryans seemed much more partial to mixing & mingling than Southern Slaveholder Landlords.

The divide & rule concept with which goras have categorised and classified coloured people borders on the ridiculous. One can be considered coloured if they have two or more of the following; dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin. The distinction between Meds & Middle Easterners (swarthy Sicilians are essentially like Levantines) does get more hazier but I do have to agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that I find the concept of “white” to be more of a political than a racial construct. Human societies have always grappled with light & dark (with preference for the former usually but then with few exceptions invaders tend to stem from the icy north) but black & white is a distinction that seems to have arose in the slave-holding societies in the New World (don’t take my word for it I’m not a scholar!)
Adios (gotta practise my Spanish now)
Ps: while my wife has done a very good job in Indianising me; as soon as I am in a Pakistani crowd my Pak-narrative conditioning kicks in and I blend in like a chameleon (that’s what my best friend calls me since I like to constantly blend in). I’m such a Munafiq!

Brown Pundits