Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Persia: Chapter i

A heavily laden wagon inched its way over a rise, pulled by a lone mule, who at times seemed barely able to maintain headway. Rubble from frequent rockslides further impeded progress and caused the wagon to lurch wildly. The driver spoke continuously to the animal, first cajoling, then rebuking. The severe angle of a rear wheel went unnoticed as the old man concentrated on the treacherous trail ahead.

What the biography told me was that years before the Shah was born, his father, Reza Khan, later known as Riza Shah Pahlavi, was the leader of the renegade Cossacks in northern Persia. With little effort Reza Khan and his Cossacks took control of one Persian province after another. In an attempt to gain a strong foothold in the province of Ishfahan, Reza Khan arranged for the marriage of his sister Farrah to a wealthy Ishfahan farmer and land owner by the name of Oram Kabogian. The marriage was a happy one and it greatly benefited Reza Khan. Not long after the marriage Reza marched on Tehran and took over the city. The paragraph concluded by saying that during the ensuing years Farrah bore her husband six children; five daughters and a son. The names of the children were not given, but I'll bet everything I own that the name of one of the daughters was Irena. Old iron-face !

The weather on the eastern slopes of the Zagros rarely had been hotter and drier this early in the summer. All but a few of the normally full runoff streams were now dry or slowed to a trickle. Sparse vegetation at this elevation offered little resistance to the searing mid-day sun, with reflected glare burning-out even the shadows cast by the rocky overhang bordering the rutted trail. However primitive, this twisting road through the mountain range was the shortest passage connecting the village of Deheq in the north with the trading center at Najafabad, more than a days journey southeast.

The rocky prominence bordering the right side of the road began to flatten as the wagon rounded a long bend. Gradually dropping to road level it revealed a panorama of fertile valley extending to the east as far as the eye could see. Rocky slopes sparsely tufted with green gave way to a stand of broadleaf timber, then rolling pasture and, disappearing in the distant haze, the quilted contrast of planted fields. Passing his favorite lookout, the old man stopped, as had become part of his regular routine, to admire the beauty and stark contrast of his world. Below, in a hillside clearing, he spotted sheep and goats and heard the shouts of two young shepherds as they herded their flock down a steep wash.

Until now, he had led a very uneventful and colorless life, probably influencing no one. What Husein el Sadiq could not know was that in less than five minutes he would start a chain of events that would forever alter the history of the world.

 

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