My Last Transaction with “the Hajji”

In 2005, entering the Bazaar Vakil in Shiraz with colleagues from Tehran acting as agents and translators, I didn't know if "the Hajji" would be there or not. But we found him sitting where he always sat, looking quite ill now, and old. He was only selling very small things he could carry by hand into the bazaar, mostly "chanteh," single bags nomads formerly made to carry personal items, coins or a copy of the Koran. (Later they were made for tourist and export markets.) 

So, there was the aged and beloved Hajji, surrounded by all these chanteh! 

As my Tehran companions watched, I sorted through these goods, selected about forty pieces and in the fullness of time asked Hajji Rahimpour to name a price for the entire lot. At this point an old neighbor of his, also aged, came over to help him with the math. Out came the old abacus as they worked through the goods, one by one.

None of the chanteh were antiques and many cost only six or seven dollars. 

Hajji named a figure, which I don't remember but, converting his approximate tuman figure into dollars, let's say that it was $260.

He and I never bargained much and he looked at me as if to say, "Okay?"

I objected to his price and without help from my Tehran friends made a counter-offer: $300. 

My Tehran friends stepped in. "He is offering them to you for less! Didn't you mean to offer him $200?, instead of $300?"

But I had named my price and stuck with it. $300 was my offer and $300 I would pay.

I knew this would be our last transaction . . . . 

During that visit I asked Hajji if his religion was as important to him as it always had been.  This was something of a coded question, relating to the Islamic regime under which Iran was, and is, ruled, and concerning which Hajji was much too smart to speak openly. 

Hajji smiled in his unique way---a layered smile, communicating more than his words---and said, "I only say my prayers and hope that God listens."
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