- Interview with Iranian THiNC. Reader Murray
I am primarily a movie discussion site. Not a movie review site. But a bit of a clever movie aggregator. We love debating and discussing movies here and along the way I meet a ton of fun, strange, humorous and exceptional people just like you! And occasionally, rarely, often… no idea, I will sometimes chat with them and then post those conversations to the site. These conversations don’t really gain me a lot of readers, it isn’t part of a bigger growth gameplan… I just love doing them. I love meeting people, and learning.
Well, the other day a gentleman by the name of Murray emailed me to say hello and chat about something or other. And when I asked him a few questions about this or that, it came out that Murray lives in Iran. Well, if you are in the average 90% of my visitors to my site, you have most likely never chatted with someone from Iran before. So, I figured this was all kinds of awesome and I was bound to learn something if Murray would just start talking and not stop. So I asked him if he’d be interested in doing an interview, and thankfully he agreed. And because he and I just talked and talked and talked, I figured I’d throw the conversation in all its ugly glory at the screen and you can follow along like we are all at the bar having a drink together. (ie, I don’t feel like editing, deal with it.)
So why don’t we just jump in…
Taylor: “Hey there Murray – thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me! I’m so excited to be talking with you. Maybe you should just start by telling us all a little bit about yourself, where you come from, your basic demographic details. Enlighten us generally.”
Murray: “My name is Murray, I’m 35 years old and single!”
Taylor: “Ok stop right there. I am annoying. I know. But I want to know more about your singleness. Which is great. But is this a cultural thing? Are your parents upset by this? In Iran – I would think that your getting married would be a pretty big pressure from your family. Is that true? Or is it more modern than we realize in this regard? Is there someone you are dating that we can email and interview as well!?!? hahaha. I’d be happy to put in a good word on your behalf! hahah.”
Murray: “To be honest it’s so hard being single in Iran, yes we have many singles and it’s increasing as we go on but families put tons of pressure on a single person, not only your parents but grandparents, uncles, aunts, in-laws and so on! And yes my parents are upset but you know one of the reasons I don’t marry is my family’s religious background. Iranian society and culture is facing a huge gap these days between tradition and modernity (it may be global but in an Islamic country with Islamic culture it will be more believe me!), between each generation there is too many differences, so it’s hard for me to find someone even close to my lifestyle and if I do I don’t know if my family can accept that (they didn’t before)! And other thing is I don’t like traditions before and after marriage at all! Here in Iran you can’t like move in with your girlfriend easily (it’s increasing but it’s illegal and it’s not accepted buy most of the families) so it’s hard for you to know if she is The One or not hahaha! It’s really complicated if you want to know more tell me!
Taylor: “Wow, so you are obviously a very modern Iranian, as far as that goes obviously. Moving in with a girlfriend still isn’t even 100% accepted here in America, let alone there in Iran I can imagine! In the more religiously conservative areas here in the it can go pretty sideways if they find out you just moved in with a woman. So yeah, this is fascinating.”
Murray: “But yes, I am from Iran, I’ve been born in Tehran and we moved To Babol, Mazandaran province when I was 5, we stayed there nearly 8 years, then we moved back to Tehran for 2 years, after that because of my father’s job we moved to the most religious city in Iran, Qom, and then after 4 years I came back to Tehran for my University and have been lived here ever since.
Taylor: “So good, I want to know more about all of it! Let’s just start with Qom. How is it the most religious city in Iran? Did it affect your life… this religious ferver? And more importantly, are you religious at all? And if so, how does that answer (whatever it is) effect your living in Iran? Or better yet, in Qom?”
Murray: “Well back on those days where I used to live in Qom, it looked like a super religious city on the surface but inside it wasn’t like that. Qom has one of the most important seminaries in the world and I think the biggest one in Iran so there are tons of Mullahs (Akhoonds) there, all the women must wear Chador which is advertised as the Superior Hijab by government (you know all the women should wear Hijab in Iran right?) and some of them used veils, it wasn’t not like that in most other parts of Iran at all, and it had many influences on me for sure, some of them I carry my whole life, like this one. I used to wear jeans at first when I moved to Qom, and you know when you wear a jean, the fly part is not standing straight, right?! hahaha! So I had this friend (which his father was a Mullah and he is now living in Washington I guess!) which told me it’s not good that you were jeans like that, you should put your shirt over your jeans to cover that fly! So I did and get used to do it on every kind of pants and I wasn’t be able to reverse that in till now!!! The other one for example was many girls back then wouldn’t talk to you or even look at you! So in my mind I thought that would be bad thing look at them or even trying to talk to them! Even one of my cousins had trouble communicating with me! So it became resident in my mind for many years after that but I fought that horrible feeling and surely it’s over for years now! And I had one other friend who is now a Mullah (I’m not in touch with him after high school), he used to walk near Fatima Masumeh Shrine and mention women that they should put their hair under their chador! He was so serious and harsh about it! After my 11th grade I changed my main friends and slowly started to believe life is not that ugly and hard, even in Qom! There were other people who used to live normally there and I have one my best friends (probably the best) from Qom days and he isn’t religious at all. I have too many beautiful memories which I wish I could be at 11thgrade once again! But Qom is not like that anymore, it’s a bit moderated. You know schools in Iran are teaching so many religious stuff that even many students without religious families are somehow religious, but after you grow up and can think and read more it’s over! So I lost my faith step by step till the 2nd or 3rdyear of university which I became free and after that I don’t practice any religion at all hahaha (you can’t say that in Iran too I mean officially). I don’t know if I’m an atheist or not I think I am! Sorry that was too much I know!
“But anyway, I studied at SAMPAD (Babol Shahid Beheshti, Tehran Allameh Helli, and Qom Shahid Ghoddousi) for most of my school period. SAMPAD are collection of schools across the country where we take some entrance exams that mainly is related to student’s IQ and then we have some higher levels of education and more complex courses and even more facilities than other ordinary schools and it’s supported by government.”
Taylor: “Oh no no, that is brilliant. So fantastic. That is really interesting. In America, we have a hatred that sort of boils beneath the surface for IQ tests. I mean, we have this belief that anyone can do anything. No matter how smart or unintelligent a person is. So do your schools actually give out IQ tests as entrance exams to schools? We use SAT exams to measure how much a student has learned. But not how smart the student is. If that makes sense? So you took IQ tests that then opened doors for you to study in some very prestigious schools in Iran I take it? I’ve always wished I could have a smart friend! Will you be my one super smart friend!? haha.
Murray: “I believe you are doing the right thing there mate, as a matter of fact studying in those SAMPAD school have many disadvantages. First of all you will become a stranger, to your society, culture, people and so on. They tell you that you are different but are you really?! And they will force you to do some things that it’s not normal or ordinary. You will be prideful somehow. You will learn to be some kind of a perfectionist there, and that’s a nightmare for itself! Other than that you will have many social issues later, some may make fun of you, some won’t understand you and can’t communicate with you. But to be honest it helped me too, and I liked it there. It will help you to be better at many things and it’s useful later in your life! Some of those issues I mentioned earlier can be resolved, not all of them, not by yourself at least. SAMPAD schools are running by government and they are free somehow, but there are other prestigious school that are too expensive for many, the good thing about SAMPAD is some impoverished (learned that from you hahaha) students can attend it, it will help them really, to have a better life… But the whole education system here is messed up and it is far from being decent! I think you don’t have that kind of problem in US. And I think you are super smart man!
Taylor: “Oh stop! Hahah. Man, every line you write blows my mind. So much goodness and interesting details at every corner. Your comment, “I didn’t want to go to mandatory military service” just screams interesting to me. When I was at school in England, I had a very good friend that was from Libya. He had evaded mandatory military service by getting a study visa to England. He and I had this routine where we would go up to the women one by one of the school and I would start by saying something like this:
Me: “What about this one, she is beautiful, lovely skin, I say 1 camel and 3 goats.”
Hassan: “Are you out of your American mind man? 1 camels? Look at her teeth… no no no they are absolutely perfect. And the blonde of her hair is the most beautiful shimmering perfection. And 3 goats?! No. 5 camels. 8 sheeps. And you can keep your filthy goats.”
Me: “FIVE CAMELS?!? Are you completely out of your mind? That is an impossible thing. Completely impossible thing. This negotiation is off!!”
Hassan: “Let’s not be hasty, maybe still we can come to an arrangement. I understand your perspective. 3 Camels 4 sheeps, and toss in your chickens and you have a deal.”
Taylor: “Done! Let us shake on it.”
“And then we would walk away leaving the woman completely gobsmacked. Always made me laugh. He was an awesome guy. He told the most amazing stories about civil unrest and wars that stormed through his neighborhood. Picking up bouncing grenades and throwing them back kind of stuff. But anyway, mid school year there in England he got word that he had to come back to Libya at the end of the year and spend a year in the military. And he instantly transformed from a carefree friend to a totally stressed out individual. I felt so bad for him.
“But tell me how is it possible to get out of “mandatory military service”? That seems extremely intense a prospect for an Iranian to even attempt.”
Murray: “LOL, great story. So in Iran we have some rules, like when I’m the only boy in the family, and my father is 59 or more, I will become Protector of the Family! So I can skip Mandatory Military Service. That was what I did. Because when you are studying (not in all university) you can temporarily skip the service and I waited till my father became 59. There are other medical situations you can avoid that, but that will lead you to have some problems finding a decent job later. There are many people fording some evidence that they have medical conditions to avoid the service and many of them will get caught… Although sometimes government will sell you exemption with lots of money! It’s not that stable in Iran you know!”
“Why England if I may ask?”
Taylor: “I went to England to attend University for a while. I was dying to get to Europe, and that was my ticket! Sounds like we might do similar things. I am a manager of web developers and help architect and design new solutions for a non-profit company that helps impoverished children around the world.”
Murray: “That’s really great helping all those children man.”
Taylor: “Non-profit organizations come with good and bad. Definitely depends on the day! hahah. Anyway, tell me about the 2009 Presidential Elections and the chaos there that caused you not to graduate? Why is that? Did you participate? Did it demolish the school? Did it cause you to just change your opinion of what was important? Tell me more! hahah.
Murray: “The main reason was I didn’t attend the final exams on that semester, and we have only 6 semesters to complete our education in national universities, and because of skipping my military service I already spent 5 of them before so that was the last one. So in those days I was participating in protests and I couldn’t even think about studying and attending the exams, and many other students did that too! I was so hopeful that we could do something back then, but unfortunately all of our hope turned into hatred and disappointment. Now our society is angry and many of us think there is no bright future for us… And one other thing is about my former website which I told you about, we supported protests on our site and after a couple of months they took down our website and we couldn’t continue our activities anymore.”
Taylor: “I can’t even imagine.”
Murray: “So then I went to Amirkabir University of Technology and studied IT Management but I left it because of Iran’s 2009 Presidential Election protests and never graduated from there, but IT and particularly Computer Networks became my job since then. Now I work at an Organization who hold exams for university entrances (I don’t like to mention the name) . I enjoyed working there for the first 3 years but then out department structure changed and we have a new manager which made it a nightmare for me! So I’m still there but I don’t enjoy my work these days!
Taylor: “You totally need to get me your manager’s name and email and phone number and I’ll call him up for you just to have a heart to heart! Happy to do what I can to help out. (Yes, I understand this would be a horrible idea.)”
Murray: “I really appreciate your work specially for Timelapse, Syncrocity and now Dark. You are the best! I have many favorite movies and TV Shows and books…
Taylor: “Dude, we love movie lists here! Anything that will point us to the next fantastic movie to talk about!”
Murray: “I list them in alphabetical order:
– 2046, In the Mood for Love
– About Elly (Iranian)
– Children of Men
– Crash (1996)
– Der Untergang
– Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
– Edward Scissorhands
– Fight Club
– Fish & Cat (Iranian)
– Following, Memento, Inception
– Funny Games (1997), The Piano Teacher
– Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Down by Law, Stranger Than Paradise
– Godfather Part II
– Goodnight Mommy (2014)
– Holy Motors
– I Origins (1st part of the movie)
– Le Samurai (1967)
– Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr., Blue Velvet
– Oldboy (2003)
– Pi, Requiem For a Dream
– Psycho (1960)
– Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 2
– Punch Drunk Love
– Run Lola Run, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
– Simple Men
– Slacker, Waking Life
– Taste of Cherry, Where is the Friend’s Home? (Iranian)
– Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street
– Terminator 2: Judgement Day
– The Big Lebowski
– The Dreamers
– The Matrix
– Time Lapse
– Toni Erdmann
– Underground (1995)
– Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux
Taylor: “What a great list. So many people come through my site and watch the movies I’ve listed and move on. (GRRRR) So it’s really nice to see someone actually sharing his list with the rest of us! (hint hint, to the rest of you!) We have very similar tastes I can tell.”
Murray: “I love watching Soccer to and my favorite team is FC Bayern Munich but I enjoy watching major soccer tournaments like UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup and I’m planning to travel to Russia for 2018 World Cup which Iran is qualified too. I went to Munich and watched a Bayern Munich match at Alianz Arena which is one the biggest soccer stadiums and that is one of the best nights of my life!”
Taylor: “I have always thought I was a failure as a human because I don’t follow European soccer as closely as I should. My one football claim to fame was being in Manchester during a Manchester United vs. Manchester City game which ended with the city half in flames. I guess they call those Derby games? Anyway, I do think football a much more interesting sport than American Football. But don’t say that too loudly, or the Americans on the site will string me up. Now that I know that you might be out at the World Cup I’ll be sure to watch. I’ll let you know if I see you. hahaha. Is there a team or a stadium you’d love to watch before you die? What would be the pinnacle of football to see in person?
Murray: “I love football it’s really a great sport, full of drama and I used to play football (not professionally) until I had an injury (Meniscus Tear). You watched a great match I think, yes those are Derbies! My first football experience was when I was 8 and it was World Cup 1990 which Germany won it and they became my idols! I used to like Lothar Matthäus a lot. In Euro 1992 beside German players I liked Ruud Gulit and Marco Van Basten. I clearly remember Brazil vs. Netherlands at 1994, I liked Bebeto and Romario back then and the match with Netherlands was a great one which Brazil won 3-2! After that Jurgen Klinsmann (which was USA National Team Manager last year I guess) and Rudi Voller were my favorites and we even played against Germany at 1998 World Cup which was the only match that I was hoping Germany’s loss! But they won 2-0, in the same group we won USA 2-1, we had a great team back then. Ali Daei, Mehdi Mahdavikia, Karim Bagheri, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh and Khodadad Azizi are my Iranian favorites! I like to see San Siro (Milan) and Camp Nou (Barcelona). More recent players that I like are Roberto Carlos, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf, Rivaldo. From the ones that still playing, I mostly like Bayern Munich and Germany National Team players, specially Thomas Muller. I really wish you follow more Football I’m sure you won’t regret it.”
Taylor: “You singly handedly talked me into it. I have a buddy that is a huge football fan and watches almost nightly. I’ll work with him to figure out how to even get the games to watch, and where to start. Maybe I’ll start with following the German national team. It seems like a good place to start.
“Anyway, thanks Murray for being such a willing interview participant. You have lived an amazing life so far, filled with so many interesting experiences and perspectives! Sorry that I had to edit this down a little bit, but I’ve met my match for finding a great talker! Kudos to you! And your English is just amazing.”
Murray: “It was really great man! I really enjoyed it. Some days maybe you come to Iran for a visit cause as you know we have a great and long history and there are tons of places you and your family would love too see I’m sure! Maybe then we’ll have our beer night hahaha!”
Come on… that was cool. And Murray, I’m totally coming to Iran some day. Count on it.