Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Brief Takes: Revolutionary Ride by Lois Pryce

Revolutionary Ride by Lois Pryce. Hachette india.

About halfway into this book, an account of the author`s foray into Iran in 2011 on her motorcycle, I realised the book was less travelogue and more a political account of modern-day Iran. However,  I had no grouse with that because Pryce stays on-point all through, and the reader emerges with a clear-cut picture of just how different the repressive, suspicious, punitive government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is from the warm, hospitable and witty citizens.

In case of death, do not lean on balustrades.

The real revelation for this reader was the ultimate irony: 35 years of intimidating and dreary Islamic rule had created a rose-tinted view of the Reza Shah Pahlavi  era. The arrests, the intimidation, the decadence of the elite, the horrors of SAVAK had all been forgotten, replaced by a revised romantic version of the good old days, the man who had been ousted for being a spineless puppet of the USA was now, in retrospect, a good ruler!

Hafez: bring all the bottles of wine you own to this divine table — the earth we share.

It`s not all happy stuff, though. Pryce details Iran`s battle with drugs, specially heroin, its easy access from Afghanistan, as well as the inevitable fallout of a large,  disillusioned youth population with a high unemployment  rate and a bleak future of seemingly endless repression, where the creating of music or art or even dancing is under the control of the authorities.

As she stands gazing raptly at the badgirs of Yazd, the ingenious air- conditioning structures, the question in her mind is: how could a people who are capable of inventing and creating to this level of perfection also  be responsible for so much cruelty and carelessness? Both ends of the human condition represented, both taken to the extreme.

To conclude on a lighter note: a fridge-magnet seller tells the author, “More Cyrus, that is what we need.’’ And Pryce  nods, marvelling that the Iranian people still revered Cyrus the Great, Iran`s only benevolent ruler, founder of the Persian Empire,  and an early proponent of human rights who had helped establish the national identity of iran. But it turned out the man was talking about his stock of Cyrus magnets!

book reviewLois PryceRevolutionary Ridetraveloguetravels in Iran

Sheila Kumar • May 6, 2020


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