Book of Marvels
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Young Afghan Man Speaks

“What is your work here?” asked M, as I was waiting for a ride that never came.

I told him that I'm a writer and that I was in Kabul to work on three magazine articles.

“Are you writing about the women here?” he asked. “Because when writers come, it seems they’re always writing about the women.”

I told him that only one of my articles was about women. And that if he was interested, I’d plug in my laptop and write about him for my blog.

“My story is very long,” he said, but agreed to try to keep it within an hour. An hour wasn't long enough, though-- I planned to sit down with him again and ask more questions, but never got around to it.

These are some of the things he said.

"I was born in Kabul, in Khair Khana. We left the country when I was two—I’m 19 now—and my family went to India. They left to get away from the war. We stayed there for one year, then we came back to Afghanistan for my uncle’s wedding. We stayed here six months, then went to Pakistan. Everyone was still fighting in Kabul. Even if boys were only fifteen, they were taking them away to fight. I stayed in Pakistan for fifteen years...

Afghan men face many problems, but the women can cry and show that they are hurt. The men don’t cry and don’t want to show anyone they’re hurt. A lot of men have lost their wives, their parents, and their children, but they don’t want to show anyone they are hurt by this. My father was hurt by having to leave this country. He loves this country. Now he’s very happy to be back and to find his county is out of war, out of danger. But he is still searching for work. He used to be in the Afghan army before we went to India, but he can’t find work now. So I’m supporting the whole family...

First, I found a job working in the parliament doing shorthand for their meetings. But after three months, they didn’t pay me any salary...then I found a job as a waiter and worked there for one year. I met X in the restaurant and we became friends. She told me my English is very good and asked me what else I had studied. I told her that I had studied MCSE—Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer—but that I hadn’t been able to find a job doing that. I tried finding a job at the NGOs but they said I didn’t have enough experience. Then she called me and told me she needs me at her NGO. Now I am happy with both jobs...

When I was living in Islamabad, we boys would be able to play outside until 1:00 or 2:00 at night, and no one would tell us this is bad. But in Afghanistan, people will tell you it’s too dangerous. If I finish my work at the restaurant at midnight, then I just stay in a room at the restaurant. I can’t go home because it’s too dangerous. The Taliban are still here. You can find them everywhere. I’ve never seen them, and I hope God never shows me to them. There are different types of Taliban. Talib means the one who has memorized all the Koran—so people who are just like that, they won't hurt people. The Taliban who are fighting, they are not human...

I like the people of Pakistan, but not the government. The people are really good. Whenever I go back to Pakistan, I see them and they’re happy to see me. And it’s not so expensieve in Pakistan. Clothes, shoes, everything is very expensive here. Lots of people don’t have enough food for their families—they can eat in the morning, but not at night. It’s difficult to live in Afghanistan right now...

In Kabul, there are now people who have moved here from all the provinces. They are uneducated and they don’t know how to be with other people. Because of these uneducated people, the war will not be over in Afghanistan. Always these people want to fight -- they fight with each other, with Pakistan, with India, wherever. But we can’t find anything from fighting. We have to be like brothers and sisters to each other. Everyone has mothers and sisters. We should not look at each others’ mothers and sisters with bad eyes. "
I like the people of Pakistan, but not the government.

Isn't that always so true? As an Indian I feel the same way about Pakistanis, even though I've never been to that country. The people are one and governments don't like that. It's the politicians who constantly try to divide us, to fulfill their own vested interests.

Wonderful blog you have here. I have linked to it. Do drop by mine when you find the time. :)
We should not look at each others’ mothers and sisters with bad eyes.

Wow! Thanks for sharing, Kristin.
Welcome, bhaswati. Glad you stopped in. Yes, I think it's always true-- the our governments divide us. People don't always recognize that, so I was happy to hear this young man say it.

Hello, Wendy! I love that part about the bad eyes, too. When I was in Afghanistan, there were several times that I complimented someone on their English and they said, "You have good ears." This suggested an overall wonderful sensibility, I thought-- that often, the apparent goodness or badness of one's actions had much to do with the spirit of the beholder. I liked the idea that one has or can choose to have good eyes and ears for each other.
K: That is one of my favorite Afghan sayings, when you compliment someone, they say, "Your eyes are beautiful."

This is such an interesting post. I love the fact that the voice of the 'ordinary' Afghan is given a platform. I am inspired, perhaps I will try to do something similar
It's a shame that the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan are at odds but as your article points out average Afghanis and Pakistanis get along well. Dare I say that Pakistanis are probably a great deal more hospitable and accepting of others than our neighbours.As a Pakistani I'm not sure whether I would be treated so well in eithr neighbouring India or Pakistan. I'm no fan of President Musharraf beacuse he is an unconstitutional dictator but the fact that he became Military Chief speaks for itself. Musharraf was a Muslim immigrant from India, not a native Pakistani (Pakhtun, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Sindi or Baluchi). Another former Military Chief was General Musa who was a Hazara. Ethnic Hazaras are treated like second class citizens in Afghanistan. I think that Pakistanis, Afghanis and Indians will learn to get along well when their governments appreciate that common people don't care about tensions. Let's learn to respect that we are all different but citizens of one earth. We are all different peoples, nations and cultures with different destinies but we should learn to be friends.
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