It was a little more than 7 years ago, jet-lagged and pyjama clad, that I floated into this sepia-world I now call home. I remember peeking through the slits of my sleepy eyes, my talkative mind garishly beckoning me to realize what I was seeing. Afghanistan had arrived, long before I could spell it.
The city today is less intimate to me than it was before. Then, narrow lanes between mud-bricked houses were a game of maze. At each bend I was always eager to find another child, or family; “tell me a story,” I would whisper. There was always giggles over a cup of tea. Girls played with my hair. I painted their nails and designed henna on their ruffled hands.
But the world around me has hardened. I have hardened, caught in the paranoia of foreign-ness. “But you are just like us,” my Afghan friend tell me. “Am I really?” There is no time now to hold little hands, to walk the edge of Masood hill and braid each other’s hair. I don’t want to be this person.
Frustrated, I wrote once “I am sitting here in my castle, writing about human rights.”
Shoaib and I had a long conversation a few nights ago. We met a beggar along Darlaman Road. Her name was Maryam. Shoaib lovingly called her Modar Jan……no one should be standing out there so late in the cold. I thought from this large car, I cannot recognize her humanity. We just drive by them most of the time.
After our conversation, I heaved my frustrations, my part-relief, my gratitude. One for my super-star man who stood for the same principles and who identified with my frustrations. Another for a new commitment.
When night fell, I went back to “writing about human rights”.
One of my biggest fear is to write. I remember once being too fastidious for words, as if the objective of “love” was, to write of it. Gullible, I was completely bought by literary fashion and models of construction. When I fell in love, I was a woman of words, and they needn’t be true. A sentence of many words, conjunctions, or new vocabulary would throw me into an unusual high. I cannot read without wanting to write. Experiment was my excuse to pardon grammatical errors. I was caught in the mess of ingratiating myself; I was pleasing words for the love of words. Then when I fell in love with Shoaib, I had to drop my pen. I wanted to experience our love outside my words. Anyway, he did not always understand what I wrote!
This year I wrote little. But in this time I realize how I miss writing stories of Afghanistan. Writing gave me a lens to view life with more clarity. Writing allowed me to explore even disturbing personalities with a little more sympathy. The lives of women and children would rest appropriately in its nuances, in all its identifications. Spoken, not instructed. There would be no need for judgement. Just observation.
Writing would explore my weaknesses for me, allow me to sit with it, experience it and let go when I it needed to go. As it did now, as it always will