Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 29

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My sister is a far cry from the tall and empowering figure she used to be. She is older than me, and I have always looked up to her. It is difficult to see her in that perilous shape, laying in bed, counting down her days.

She had a stroke. She has been hemiplegic for four years. She can barely move. She needs assistance to perform her basic bodily functions. She needs to constantly rolled over to one side and the other, otherwise her flesh will rot. Her daughters-in-law are having to look after her, and they have a hard time doing it.

Those bechara are not to blame. It is difficult to look after someone for so much and for so long. Four months is a long time. Four years is too long.

I saw her last year. We talked all the time. As usual, I went and sat next to her one day. She looked at me and was startled. She wept.

Are you my aaghaye? Where have you been? When did you come? Who are all these other people with you?

I had to sit there and explain things to her like I explain them to my baby grandson. Old age is a cruel time of life.

I pray that if something like that ever happens to me, I should die quickly. I don’t want to end up like that. Else, I will suffer and so will everyone else.

*bechara = hapless, poor
*agghaye = sister

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Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 28

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Ibrahim is the one guy who I know killed his wife. He lives in the next village over, and is related to your grandfather. He is wicked.
He beat up his wife. He beat her up so bad, her young daughters had to arrange transport to take her to Kabul for treatment. She didn’t make it. She died on the way to Kabul and the vehicle returned her lifeless body to the village.
I had met his wife. She was hard working – dokhtar-e-watan. Like the other poor women in the village, she labored hard, spent her days working the farms. She looked after his horse and cattle.

We were shocked to hear about her death. They lied to us about it. They said she had suddenly fallen ill and passed away. We still don’t know why he killed her.

The women who washed her body to prepare it for burial said the body was covered in marks and bruises, especially on her head. The hit on the head was what probably killed her. Nobody asked him questions or even tried to find out what had happened. They just took her and buried her body. That dog didn’t even attend the funeral. Then it all went quiet.
Her sister came over from Hotqol. She screamed that her sister had been beaten to death. We believed her but could not do much. His daughters cried and screamed but they didn’t say much. This continued for a few days and then everyone returned to their lives. People stopped caring and then forgot what had happened.

Ibrahim later remarried. He is still alive and lives in the village. I hear his son has taken to banditry.

*dokhtar = daughter
*wantan = homeland
*dokhtar-e-watan = daughter of the homeland

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 27

When I turned 9, like the girls of my age in the village and beyond, I had to observe fast. The boys had it easy; they could wait until they were 16 before having to do the same.

I was young, quick on my feet, and hence the family shepherd. Shepherding was exhausting work. I had to go up and down the hills all day, chase and look after the herd. It didn’t make fasting was any easier.

The summer days were long, the Sun shone bright and hot like the Sun of roz-e-qiyamat. You can imagine what it must have been like to eat and drink nothing from dawn to dusk. My tongue would dry up and stick to the palate of my mouth.

To avoid exhaustion, I dipped my feet in the cold spring water, and poured water over my head before heading back into the Sun. I wouldn’t dare drink water or eat anything, or even think about it. If I did, I would be punished by my parents, and bring bad name to the family.

SONY DSCAfter observing fast all day, we gathered around the earth-oven where my late mother baked bread. We quenched all that thirst and hunger with a piece of bread, and water. Occasionally, mother made tea. In that hot weather, we would rather have that than anything oily. For Pash-Shawi we would eat bread with yoghurt. The food in Watan wasn’t good or plentiful to begin with. By observing fast, we just made it so much worse for ourselves.

When I missed my prayers, or didn’t memorize and read it properly, my older siblings cursed me, and my parents got angry. They cursed and scolded me for defying the commands of God. We just blindly followed what we had been taught by the generations before us.

When you see people of the older generations with all the health issues, remember that it is a consequence of how they lived most of their lives in the mountains. In our youth, we didn’t care much for the pain and illnesses. Now that I am old, I can trace back all my illnesses to my difficult youth and childhood.

 


 

*Roz-e-Qiyamat = Dooms Day
*Pash-Shawi = Pre-dawn meal
*Watan = Homeland

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 26

Jang-e-Jawri (The Battle of Corn) took place when your aunt Aabay Esmatulla was still a baby. That’s sixty years ago, may be seventy…I am not sure, dear.

One night in the summer of that bloody year, two Hazaras from Hotqol-Anguri went to the mill at Thangi Uthla to crush the family’s grain harvest. In the darkness of the night, they were set upon by Kuchis, and killed.

At the time, the villages bordering Pashtun lands constantly guarded their hills and mountains against recurring attacks. Villagers took turns to send their men to the mountains on guard duty. The bodies of the murdered Hazaras were discovered by the guards the next morning. The news soon spread to the villages, and soon, the villagers mobilized seeking revenge.

The guards and villagers then chased down the Kuchis, and killed them.

Sayed Ismail, once a farmer in our village, had been a guard and an eye-witness. He narrated:

We went out looking for the Kuchis responsible. We spotted them in the plains just beyond the gorge. We sneaked up on their position, surrounded them, and then in a surprise attack, killed them all.

Once the rage was over, we realized we didn’t know what to do with the dead bodies. We picked up the bodies, and climbed up a narrow ridge in the nearby mountains. There, one of the locals took us to a hole in the ground. One of the guys threw a rock into it to see if it was deep enough to hide the bodies. He threw the piece of rock and it was many moments before we heard it hit the bottom. Then we picked up all the nine or ten bodies one by one, and threw them down that hole.

That wasn’t enough. There had to be more bloodbath. The killers had been done with and disposed off. We wanted to teach the Kuchis a lesson. We went out looking for the Kuchi tents. We had to walk a long way to find them out in the plains. We walked up to their tents, and found an old man there. He was afraid. He had hid his daughter under the camel saddle. We killed him, we killed all their men. We left the women and children alive. We brought with us all their cattle, and distributed them amongst people in the villages. Our group then took the road up the hills and dispersed. In the hills we found another Kuchi man hiding among the rocks. We killed him too.

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Battles don’t end when the killings stops. It continues so long as the thirst for revenge is still there. When both sides want revenge, it is like the seasons of the year. It goes on forever.

The surviving Kuchi women went to the governor of Ghazni to plea for help. They cut open their breasts, and dared the governor to fight for their honor. The governor at the time was Sayed Abbass. He was powerful, and ruthless but unwell.

He sent his soldiers to speak to the Hazaras. The Hazaras denied any involvement in the massacre. The soldiers investigated. They could not find any bodies but they found out about the Kuchi cattle, which by that time had been sent deep into the mountains of Pashi and Shirdagh. The governor’s men demanded compensation for the cattle. All the Hazaras of Jaghori had to contribute wheat and other harvest to the villages of Hotqol Anguri to help them pay off the compensation.

When the men returned to Ghazni, Sayed Abbass vowed revenge, and swore to crush the Hazaras as soon as he recovered from illness. He instructed his men to be battle ready.

Sayed Abbass never recovered. His illness prolonged. He died before he could attempt to fight any battles.

They call it the Corn-War/Jang-e-Jawri. I don’t know why because it had nothing to do with corn.

*Aabay = Mother as in Aabay Estmaulla = Esmatullah’s Mother
*Jang = Fight/War/Battle as in Jang-e-Jawri = Battle of Corn
*Jawri = Corn
*Thangi = Gorge as in Thangi Uthla = Uthla Gorge

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 25

Khalil’s Baaja was employed in Ghazni city. His name was Ali. It was the first year of his marriage, and the man had to live and work away from home to make ends meet. I think he worked with the Khariji.

Back home, his wife gave birth to a daughter, their first child. He was jubilant, and asked the family not to name the child until his return. He said he would return home and name the child. He bought presents for everyone, clothes for his baby girl, and made all the preparations to come home.

On a warm summer day last year, there was an incident in Ghazni. The Taliban attacked the compound housing Khariji and their local employees. They set off bombs, and sent suicide attackers inside the compound. They killed many people.

Alarmed, Ali’s family called him. He didn’t answer his phone. They called his friend. He didn’t pick up either. The friend called back later. Ali was dead. Ali was one in a group of employees killed by a Taliban suicide bomber. It was his last day at work before his return home. It was his last day and there was to be no return.

Ali never got to see his new-born daughter.

Days later, your auntie, Khalil’s mom, went to attend Ali’s funeral.

*Baaja = Sister-in-law’s husband
*Khariji = Westerner

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