|Visit my grandfathers grave
I woke up today late again today. I wouldn’t call it late, but 8 am here is pretty late, because most wake up around 5am. I did my daily routine again. Washed my face, hands, and feet and then had some breakfast which consisted of tea with sugar and nan. I wouldn’t complain because that breakfast is really good. Light and filling it is just right. I sat with my uncle for a while and asked him when we would be leaving to meet the Minister of Sports/Olympics. He said we would be leaving later in the day. I took that as a chance to go up the TV Mountain to go visit my grandfather’s grave. He asked one of the people at the house to show me and we went on our way. As we entered the dark hallway on the way out of the house the little girl from the windowsill that asked me if I was Afghan was there with her sister and little brother. The guy told the little girl to show me the way and we went up. Her name was Sheila, her older sister Zarifa, and her younger brother Amin. She and I talked on the way up the mountain. She was in 2nd grade and school would be starting soon. She had goldish hair and wore a silver and black long shirt. Pink baggy pants and sandals. She had a fair complexion and a warm smile. She was my new buddy. My new little sister in Afghanistan. We walked up the mountain and to the graves where they thought my grandfather was. I had Abu read all the headstones, but with no avail, he couldn’t find it. I sat down there surrounded by these graves and looked down the mountainside.
So many people had died on this land. So many innocents had been killed and abused. The graveyard did not faze Sheila. I watched the mountainside and she watched along with me. I asked if she was happy now that the Taliban were gone and she smiled, but didn’t respond. I think she didn’t want to give the wrong answer. Her older sister, Zarifa, immediately answered and said yes. They told of stories of how they would shave the boys’ heads; take them to fight, and how woman would disappear after coming back from the mosque. How the kids of those mothers would walk around the mosque crying. How they would hide in the house if any Taliban came close to the house. I sat there and listened to the two sister’s talk and all I could think about was the abuses Afghan woman have faced over the years. The story of the three little girls the Taliban abused in the documentary. The thousands of Afghan girls sold in Pakistan, the recent rapes and abuses Pashtun woman have faced in the north. I saw all this in the little girls face and felt rage. I looked at her and knew that if anybody ever touched my little sister I would burn all of Afghanistan. How could somebody hurt such innocence, how could somebody destroy such beauty. I turned from her because I could not face looking at her any longer. How many other sisters had been raped, how many other sisters sold in Pakistan. These innocent girls made to wear see through white shirts and made to strip at the request of Arab and Pakistani “Muslims.” Where does one start in a country destroyed in every way. Where does one start….
We walked out and decided to go visit my grandfathers old house in “carte 3”. Total destruction is the only word that describes the scene. From what I understand this area was destroyed by the factional fighting in 1992-1996. The whole city lay in ruins. We stopped in front of what used to be a house. All that was left was the skeletal remains of the house, and even this was a miracle. I asked about mines, because it seemed like a menacing area, and my uncle told me that the area had been checked, and he knew this by the white check mark on the outside of the courtyard. I felt a little better, but in Afghanistan you’re never sure. We walked into the house and took a tour. The two story home seen from the eyes of years past must have been a beautiful place. Kids running around in the house in the courtyard. Guests visiting my family. But now we were looking at the remains of what was. Even the wiring from the house had been ripped out. I stood there on the second floor, the doors windows all gone. Where once there must have been doors and windows to the balconies there were now gaping holes. I stood there and looked out into the distance. I wondered what it must have been like in those days, what this view would have looked like then. I recommended we go on our way and headed back to the car. My new friend and our guide, who was a cousin to my uncle, asked me what I thought of the ruins, the dust, and destruction. I’m sure he expected to me to say it was a horrible sight. But for me, this house was memories of old. Not my memories, but stories I had heard throughout my life. I told him that even the dust, destruction, and ruins were beautiful to me.
All of my uncles and elders had recommended the night before that I cut my hair, and I realized that this was the reason that most people on the streets would stare. I didn’t understand why long hair was such a sight, but being in an unknown land I took the advice of the elders to heart. I asked my uncle to stop at a local barber. I walked inside and sat down at one of the couches. It was hot outside, but inside it was much cooler. They had turned off all the lights and the door was covered with a light “parda” window shade. I greeted everybody and waited my turn. There were six chairs in all. The room was full of men. A boy was sweeping the hairs. They were using very old scissors that made loud clanking noises as the blades came together. I watched for a while until it was my turn. I had been growing my hair for some 9 months now and it was shoulder length. The dust and dirt in Kabul had taken its toll on my hair, but if groomed it was starting to look real nice. I directed the barber to cut the back and fade the sides all the way up. I also told him not to cut to much off the top and make the whole of my hair just neater and more respectable. He agreed that my hair was not fitting for Afghanistan and proceeded. I heard the first clanking of the scissors and watched as a large chunk of my hair fell onto my shoulders and down the green smock. I had already become victim to the Afghan ways.
We stopped in front of ACBAR which is a umbrella organization for NGO’s in Afghanistan. I walked right into the compound without any hassle. My suit and tie were doing me wonders. I asked about a family friend who used to be the president of the organization and was told he no longer worked here and had started working for a Swedish organization. I thanked the Afghan man and went back to the car. We were all pretty hungry. It’s weird you seem to get real hungry in this dry arid land. It made me realize just how lucky I was to be able to afford a meal whenever I wanted. My uncle knew a place around the corner so we headed in that direction. We walked up to the restaurant and right outside was a woman with a child in her arms with her hand out. Next to her were 2 other woman in “chadaries” what afghans call the burqa. It made it hard to eat knowing there were Afghan woman begging, my mothers. The place was packed with afghan men. There was hindi music playing and the place had the décor of an old pizza restaurant. Red plasic “leather” chairs and square tables without tablecloth. Bearded men sat everywhere, some in traditional clothes and some in suits. It couldn’t have been any larger than a living room of a house, but the place was filled. I walked in and scoped the place. It’s weird in a place like Afghanistan you find yourself sizing everybody up. Not for any other reason than you want to be aware of your surroundings. I didn’t see anybody threatening, nor did I find a place for the three of us to sit. Our waiter in a blue smock like outfit told us to sit at two tables, right next to each other. There were two empty seats at each table for four, so we sat. I sat at the table to the right my back facing the door. The two young guys to my right were brought their food and they asked me to join them. I thanked them for their hospitality but told them my food would be coming. My uncle, our escort, and me started talking for a while. I started looking around the restaurant and at the people. I felt confined in the room and needed some breathing space. I excused myself and walked outside. I walked by the woman with the child and the other beggars and went a little farther away. There were the rugged looking pickup trucks with men inside. Vans and Corrolas parked outside. There was a park across the street and shops to my right. The street was busy with people. Adolescent children in the park playing. I watched as an older woman with her chadari lifted over her head approached cars from my left. She would knock on the windows and beg for money. She approached 6 cars before receiving any money. The man in the backseat of the car had his legged crossed and reached into his pocket and pulled out what was no more than 1000 afghanis. You can’t even buy bread for that much. I watched her and she saw me watching her. She walked up and I said “Salaam Bebe.” Hi grandmother. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the only bills I had which were 10000 afghani notes and gave her one. She paused for a moment looked at me, her wrinkled face, and broken eyes seemed to tell stories of what she had been through. She stared a bit longer and said “Khoda amrait basha, tashakur bacheem.” God be with you, thank you my son. I smiled and nodded at her and she walked off. A man in a contraption that I wouldn’t even call a wheelchair saw the exchange and started carting towards me. I met him halfway and gave him another note. He was about to turn and go when he looked at the note, then turned back towards me and said thank you in suck a way as both of became humbled. I would call my almsgiving selfish, because the amount of joy I receive from the people I give money to is worth the world to me. In a world of broken friendships and promises, of selfishness, and ruthlessness, one moment of kindness makes living worth it.
I walked back towards the restaurant, my soul at ease. As I approached I gave the woman and a young girl, as well as the other woman in chadaries a note each and went inside. I sat down and my uncle asked me what I had done outside. He asked me how much I gave the beggars, I told him. He said the only reason I’m asking is because they were running and telling other beggars and they were gathering outside. I didn’t dare look back, I didn’t want to see how many people were outside, not because of the money, but because I was uncomfortable seeing so many hungry and desperate people. Our food was ready when I walked in and I started eating. I had some kabob with nan and palow. I would take a piece of bread put it around a kabob or two and then grab some palow with the bread. Then I would put the whole thing in my mouth. It was a good meal. I offered my kabob to the kind people on my right, but they declined. We finished eating and I got up and washed my hands in the sink next to the cash register. It was no ordinary sink though. It was about 5 feet long and 2 feet wide with 5 faucets so multiple people could wash their hands at once. My uncle was already at the register and wouldn’t let me pay. I asked the cashier to change some of my notes into 1000 notes so I would have more money to distribute outside. I walked outside and was hit by a wall of children and woman in chadaries. I smiled and pulled out the wad of 1000 notes and started handing them out. I passed them out as best I could but people starting grabbing and pushing and grabbing at the wod of money. I continue to pass the money out until I began to be pushed backwards. I told everybody to stop grabbing, but they wouldn’t stop. I would try to give money to a woman and a child would grab it halfway. I was being tugged at and pushed until finally my the restaurant owner and the people around told me to stop. I was causing a scene. It was a horrible sight. My smile turned into anguish. Afghans had a history of not begging. Afghans had a proud history, where a woman or man would not beg for money. They would accept any job necessary to feed their children. I put what was left of the wod of money back into my pocket and walked back to the car. I was still being tugged at and pulled all the way to the car. The children were in front of me, behind me, to my left, to my right. They were screaming and shouting. I pulled the car door open and got in, but before I could close the door to the car, three children blocked the door. They continued to ask for more money. Next thing I know the left rear door opened and a man put his head in asking for money. My uncle in a very stern voice asked him to close the door. He didn’t listen. I asked him to close to the door now. He did. I asked the kids to please move away. I asked them 20 times to please move away or they would get hurt. They wouldn’t budge. Behind them were at least another 20 people waiting their turn. It seemed hopeless. I asked the driver to start driving slowly. The car started moving down the street and the children kept up. I asked them again and again as the car picked up pace to please move away from the car. “Oh Doktar, as motar pasho, awgar mashee.” I couldn’t help but smile at the pretty young girl as she ran with the car. She smiled back and the car finally started pulling away. I pulled the door closed and looked back at the crowd. The girl was still smiling. One of the saying of the prophet peace be upon him was that even a smile can be charity, and looking back at the girl and watching her smile even though she received only a little money, I understood. These people had been depraved of the most basic human right, kindness.
We stayed in the house for a while, I helped with the serving of tea. I asked my uncle if it was ok if I left, and he said it was ok. I left.