Everybody Has An Ayatollah

Ayatollah Khomeini Returns to Iran During Iranian Revolution

Iran’s theocratic system is marked by one of the most simplest (simplest only to the layman’s tired mind) form of rule – though there is democracy where the population votes for its President periodically, the final say with regard to countries most important and strategic decisions resides with one man who basks in probably the most envious titles in this world – The Supreme Leader of Iran. Also a spiritual leader of sorts, he is known as an ‘Ayatollah’ – which means the ‘Sign of Allah or God’ in the Arabic language. The final dictate resides with him and to appease him and guard his happiness is an obligation every citizen of the country promises to bear in thoughts and actions. It’s a form of salutation and respect he enjoys because of the rare position he is bestowed with. The significance that this individual enjoys in the highest rank of national and political affairs is sometimes dismissed as absolutism, and sometimes held as proof to state the redundancy of any affiliation to democracy in the country. And often this political structure is seen as the paradox of modern Iran.

What matters to me at this moment, for a change, are not the implications of this theocracy and the challenges it could pose to the strategic functioning of a country. Rather, I’ve felt a queer urge to peep into private lives and observe what looks like possibly a similar sort of arrangement. It wouldn’t surprise anyone, it did not surprise me. But the slightest possibility of making this interesting connect fascinates me, and at times this explanation could help to fall back on when accepting a few unpleasant realities of life. And even if one cannot accept them, the unbreakable pattern and arrangements that come out of such explanations may make sure that one’s personal aspirations reveal the impossibility of a situation and corner him away from a peaceful and happy scenario.

Like it or not, but my surroundings scream out that everybody has an Ayatollah. If not the same as the one from the theocratic set up, then a more refined version – the Ayatollah he should be. Each one has that one person in life that is critical to his or her daily functioning. The Ayatollah doesn’t merely witness higher presence of people around him, but their minds and their thoughts tug along to the well-being of the Ayatollah. The rate at which this happens is constant, which only increases with time as the Ayatollah’s expertise in dealing with the person’s private matters increases over time contributing to the greater significance of his presence. Placed at a pedestal that is highest in stature, the Ayatollah of Iran is not disconnected with the dynamics of the Iranian economy pertaining to agriculture, trade, power generation and other such elements.

The Ayatollah of the man is at the pulse of his endeavours and constantly in check of the vagaries of his life. Often the first one to receive important information, he is the most experienced to analyse and use this information to improve the person’s life. People live by a single minded dedication and affiliation to their respective Ayatollahs. Largely insulated from developments from the outer perimeters of this strong relationship, they are intrinsically driven to worry about the Ayatollah in times of distress. Their support for the leader is vehement and leaves little room for challenge from those who may seek an occasional chance of stealing some of it. And if the others do manage to fathom the support, they’ll realise it wasn’t the support they ever aspired for, it would never be a support marked by robust vehemence.

The care and concern for the Ayatollah is clearly a reciprocation of what they duly receive – anything divine is a blessing, and blessed is the Ayatollah and his people. All thoughts, strategies and plan revolve around the combinations of how acceptable it would be to the beloved Ayatollah. The person feels a sense of solitude and calm with the Ayatollah’s presence in a noisy crowd, and the person feels at ease with his mere memory without his physical presence. And all this, while others silently strategize their next move to inch closer to form this blessed relationship, only to find their ambitions playing a prank with their minds. Discouraged, they retreat to mull over the present situation and plan their next move, while the blessed ones have seen another layer of bond blossom in their shared space.

Referring to them in their absence becomes an added task which the men beautifully execute. This constant reminder becomes imperative for others to hear lest they may feel they’ve spotted an outside chance of getting closer. Their place and roles in the lives of these men is duly defined at that moment, and their role in this world is best never discussed about. Any form of opposition to or criticism of the Ayatollah by the others is instinctively resisted with an arsenal of love, affection, reverence and an unwavering concern for his happiness. His happiness is made to be impregnable over time and not be susceptible to any form of discomfit that may arise through an unpleasant remark – be it rhetoric or a substantiated opinion.  Any strain in this relationship – genuine or trivial, between the Ayatollah and his men is a cause of deep concern. A touch of sadness is visible in their demeanour. Fixing this strain becomes top priority to avoid the possibility of a decision delay from the supreme command, or perhaps simply to avoid the desolated feeling one would get of not being with your go-to man. Though not formidable, an air of incompleteness reflects in their eyes and stays on till they realise that long and warm greetings were not exchanged for two days too many. A few wider smiles towards the end of the day, the country has been fortified ever more strongly.

With the kind of role played by the Ayatollah, one may find himself guilty of being envious of the position. Envious because eyeing the position of Ayatollah is tantamount to challenging divinity’s grand plan of events and desired roles to be played by individuals. The devout would rather accept the scheme of events as they are and push grand ambitions into the darker recesses of his mind. Or, for consolation, prep up to become the Chief Nuclear Negotiator of the country, and of the man – a position that maybe isn’t half as decisive, absolute, vehemently supported, or noted in the eyes of people. But it’s a position that assumes much significance while dealing with the volatile situations of power generation. The Chief Nuclear Negotiator takes the brunt of questions from influential and powerful entities and his answers reflect the preparedness of the country in handling situations of complex nature. Though less prominent in the lives of people and barely manages to salvage care and concern, he is someone who people can do without only in short spurts. Kicked from his sedentary state, he is constantly reminded to work harder each time and never forget to turn away before his heart hopes for a kind gesture from someone. The Chief Nuclear Negotiator cannot be the Ayatollah, and perhaps never will. For the one who helps generate power cannot be the same who exercises it.

In a world that doesn’t exist, if we were ever given a chance to choose from either of the positions, what would that be? This is a question I’ve asked myself too but never been able to convincingly answer. You can either be an Ayatollah to one or the Chief Nuclear Negotiator to many. I would ask my ambition to feign an injury and sit back than regret later on. I would choose to become the chief negotiator with its limited and diluted capacity. Because to me it seems like there’s nothing to pick from. Perhaps because non-Ayatollahs never have a choice – and that is the paradox of life.


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