Tourist & Resident Guide to Iran

Friday, January 09, 2009

Short Cuts: Ta'arof

The two men ordered their kebabs and the waiter motioned for them to sit at a simple formica table. The tiny kebab restaurant was busy this evening on the eve of Eid-e Ghadir.

Outside the first snow of the year was falling gently on the glossy black streets. One of the men adjusted the position of a steel frame chair and sat. It was a tactical slip which allowed his friend to open the play in a classic ta’arof gambit.

“Right, so why don’t I go next door and get us some fresh juice, what’ll you have?”

Taken by surprise, the seated man had no option but to come back at his friend with a rather cliched rejoinder, “thank you sir, but please be my guest.” His predictably vain attempt to get up and beat his opponent to the door was stopped by his friend’s outstretched arm.

“Come now, I won’t hear of it, let me this time, melon? pomegranate? These are on me,” the standing man said as he turned and made for the exit. Perhaps his move for the door was a fraction of a second premature.

“Ok, ok,” the seated man replied, seeing that the only way to keep his chances alive now was to feign surrender and come back with a different approach, “I’ll come with you, I can’t decide what I want until I see what they have.”

The two exited the restaurant together. Both men fingering their wallets.

(c) William Yong

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