0524 GMT May 26, 2022
Last Thursday I was leisurely walking home with a light shopping bag, lost in thought, when I turned left onto a side street, and there he was, bare-chested, standing with a box of oranges raised above his head. Much like a Middle-Eastern Hercules, he was ready to smash the box onto the ground, held back only by the two men heatedly in discussion with him. It seemed they were trying hard to change his mind. He kept shouting, “You think I care? No, no, I don’t.”
Intrigued, I overcame the initial shock of witnessing a street quarrel and began to look around. What I saw was a now calm, orange sea where the asphalt used to be; a few broken fruit boxes scattered here and there, and about a dozen passersby standing near two greengrocer pickup trucks, one a white Paykan and the other a blue Nissan, full of orange boxes, watching how the scene unfolds.
Eventually, our Hercules forwent smashing the box, put it down and walked towards the white pickup and picked up his shirt. Relieved that the storm had passed, onlookers started gathering the oranges from the ground and putting them beside him. I did the same. When I got to him, he had finished buttoning up his shirt and was still mumbling. I unloaded the oranges next to him and asked how he was doing.
“I’m a fine man, I’ll always be fine if they just let me be,” said Dara, 29. A well-built, hot-tempered man who I came to know has been a greengrocer for three years now.
“I used to get into a lot of fights back in my own little town. So my father decided to buy me this pickup and send me away,” he later explained to me. Interestingly enough, his father gave him total freedom in choosing whatever job he pleased and whichever city he fancied.
Dara told me his early days working on the pickup were not what his father had hoped.
“I came to Tehran and, for the first three months, worked inconsistent delivery gigs. It was no good because I had no steady income and also got into fights with clients. I had to think of something else.”
Then one day he came across a greengrocer who tempted him to venture into this business. So he went back to his hometown and brought his childhood friend, Saeed, along for the ride. They have been together ever since and enjoyed a moderately successful career.
“I don’t get into as many fights as before, but today this guy really ticked me off,” he said, pointing to the blue Nissan. Seemingly, the other greengrocer had told Dara that he can’t work this spot because it was his.
“I know this spot. I know it doesn’t belong to anybody. We’ve been here before countless times. We’re all just trying to make an honest living. If he was here first, I would’ve respected his right, but he won’t do the same. I tried to reason with him but he wouldn’t listen, so I flew off my handle.”
When our little chat was over, there was no trace of the orange sea left. Saeed was putting the oranges into new boxes and Dara was positively calm. The blue Nissan guy hesitantly hung around. He eventually uttered some words in the way of an apology, got into his pickup and drove away.
*Ali Amiri is a staff writer at Iran Daily.