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Our Mothers Recycling Business Back in Iran

Back in Iran and in our childhood there were special men who visited our home town most days of the week.

In those old good days these visits in our quarters had particular purposes. These men had special business offers for our mothers. Women mostly housewives were the customers of these very unique trades. I guess our mothers have many stories of these men who would also enjoy having business with ladies in our quarters. Our fathers did not appreciate these visits mainly because this business offers would mean a financial loss instead of gain for the regular households. Women were enjoying that little unique trade which was an exchange of goods right at the door. Somehow these trades were helping the society in large, it was about recycling goods. If today there are recycling places you take your unwanted clothes or furniture, back then our mothers had the comfort to have things removed by these men.

Namaki or Satlman was one of those men. We used to have various salesmen coming to our neighbourhoods. How can we forget jacket and pants salesman (kasse-boshgabi), vegetable salesman (sabizi forosh), Pond Cleaner (abhouzi), Snow Shower workers (barfparokoni), and blanket sewers (lahafdoz)? How could we forget our garbage men (Asghali)?

These names are only familiar to most of us Iranian whether we have lived in Iran or not. Indeed depending on the neighbourhood and status of the citizens in that area, these services would be more or less appreciated. You could tell that these mobile workers enjoyed their walks in between neighbourhoods. As a child I always wondered whether these types of trades would really pay enough for a living. Would these men be able to buy their children school clothes or school items? The mystery was and still remains, how could these men support their families with this type of jobs? I guess job security was not a concern back then. Other days we would have other mobile salesmen in our quarters.

These salesmen used to come on certain days, mostly on an unwritten and informal schedule. They came one after another in each week day. Our mothers would always be happy to see these men who were willing to take our old clothes and unfit shoes, not mentioning our father’s shirts and suits. These men would instead give our mothers some plates, plastic baskets, or some household items that did not have any material value anyway. The good thing was that a natural recycling business was happening. No one wasted bread, food, and clothes. Indeed no household items used to go to waste, if our mothers did not engage in this exchange many bread would have gone to waste.

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