Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 38

Your mother’s family lived in Kabul. We lived in the village in Watan. The Soviets ruled the country. We had to go to Kabul to bring over your mother for the wedding. The elders wouldn’t let us travel. They feared we would be harmed by the Soviets, or the Mujahideen or get caught in the cross-fire. We could not take the young men with us because we feared they would be conscripted by the Soviets and the government, and sent to the war-front. My son-in-law Aatay Ali Jan had already completed his military service. He accompanied us. We had to go to Kabul, and we did.

My sister’s husband, the Qareedar saw us off at the Shilbitu crossing:

What should we do with your kids if the Soviets come?

I really did not know what to say:

Take them wherever you go. Hide them somewhere.

d7684d5334a161630c02e18373d0bac341235374cdaa0c4f298e16dfa2421e91We left for Kabul. There were four of us in the car: I, My youngest child, Aatay Ali Jan and the driver. As we reached the main road, I noticed there were other, many other cars on the road ahead of us, and behind us.

At a place just past Ghazni, the cars diverged off the main road, and stopped. Turns out there was a Soviet military convoy passing that area. All other traffic had to move out of the way. They convoy came. There were soldiers, and trucks, and cars, and tanks, and more trucks, and more tanks, and more soldiers. There were tanks everywhere. They also had dogs on leash. Then they stopped. Some of the soldiers pointed the guns at the cars, and the soldiers with the dogs approached us. We were terrified. The dogs sniffed around car to car, and then they all returned to their trucks. The were looking for mines or bombs or guns. They didn’t find anything. As fast as they had come, they left, may be for Kandahar. The soldiers in the last vehicle waved at us. Perhaps they were Afghans.

We continued on. A short drive later our group of cars were waved at and stopped by a man on the road:

There are Soviet tanks ahead. The Soviets will kill you. Come with me and I will protect you in my village.

The passengers in the other vehicles refused to go. The driver said the man might be a bandit, who would take us to his place, kill us all, and take all our belongings. We refused his invitation. He wasn’t very happy about it. He cursed us. We drove onwards to Kabul but did not see any tanks or any more Soviets.

We got to Kabul, stayed a few days, and began the trip to bring your mother home. We came across another convoy of tanks on the way back. We were terrified, but thankfully nothing happened. Despite our fears, the Soviet didn’t hurt us. We returned home safely. We had a small party, and that was that, your parents were married.

*Watan = Homeland, Countryside
*Aatay = Father
*Qareedar = Village chief

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 37

Your father didn’t tell us he was going to Australia. He talked about going somewhere, but I had never heard of Australia. I thought Australia was some place just across the mountains.

I asked my nephew, Sharif, about this place. He said it was a big big country that was far far away. He said the refugees were going there but not everyone made it there. He said that people spent up to 3 weeks on water, crossed jungles, and that it was a dangerous journey.

I was terrified. I pleaded with Sharif to remind your father of the dangers. I begged him to stop your father from going. He said he would try.

Then the day came. He left. We wept. He told me not to worry and told us all to look after one another. From Autumn that year to the following Spring we had no information about him, his whereabouts, or whether he still lived. Some people even started terrible rumors about his safety. I chose not to believe them. I did not want to believe them. I believed my son was alright wherever he was. I prayed for him everyday.

A few months later, I overheard women from our street talking about a boat sinking, and people drowning. They said those who drowned were Hazaras. Darkness fell upon my eyes. I immediately got up and returned home. I asked around if anyone knew anything else. Some relatives told me not to worry as these were other people. Nonetheless, I wept all afternoon, and did not sleep that night. There was nothing we could do.

In the Spring of that year, some time after Nowruz, Moallem called from Iran. He said he had heard about your father, and that he was fine. It made me very happy, but also perplexed. I was concerned as to why he wasn’t getting in touch with us. I wept.

A few months later, a man came over from Marriabad and said they had heard from their relative in Australia. He had met your father and had passed to us greetings from him. I was overjoyed, but even more perplexed and terrified as to why he wasn’t getting in touch with us.

A few months later, just days before the Eid that year when we were preparing Bosragh when I heard the door knock. The kid from the house next door stood at the door with a phone in his hand. He handed me the phone, and on the other side, I heard your father’s voice. I screamed out of joy. I could barely speak. He was alive, and speaking to me. It was him. I passed it to you. You screamed and cried your eyes out. Then your mother, and the others. We were happy.

A few weeks later, your uncle returned home, and said he had received a letter from your father. We were excited, and all gathered around uncle to listen to him read the letter. In his letter your father had written of his year in detention in the desert, his journey through the jungle, his encounter with wild animals and the possibility of death. He said they were being kept in a place in the desert that was cut off from the rest of the world. There were snakes and dangerous things all around their camp. They were in a prison. Our happiness quickly turned into sadness and tears. Your uncle couldn’t read any more of the letter. He folded it up and, we all cried.

A long time later, we received another call, and another letter. We found out that he had been released and lived in a city. He sent us his photos. And I saw my son for the first time in years. I was happy. We were all happy.

*Bosragh = A traditional cake

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 36

I hate lightning.

A long time ago, a man from Haidar visited Balna-Aaghil of the village. He was there to borrow a bull from Chaman to crush his wheat-yield for the year. He was staying in Chaman’s guestroom when dark clouds rolled in over the village. At that moment, Chaman’s wife happened to be on the roof, cleaning the roof-surface to dry apricots.

In a few moments of mid-day later that day, a man from the village saw her being flung from one end of the roof to the other; half of her body landed on the ledge with the torso dangling off the edge. What followed was the loudest crackle and thunder I have ever heard in my life.


The guest from Haider, the man I was talking about, he lay dead in Chaman’s guest room. He had been standing at the window inspecting the drizzle outside when he was struck by lightning. He could not move one step before he was struck dead. He was killed in an instant. The same lightning bolt that killed him, also struck Chaman’s wife on the roof. She was badly hurt but fortunately for her, still alive.

The villagers got together at Chaman’s to inspect the damage. We were all so shocked we couldn’t believe it.

The villagers in Haidar couldn’t believe it either. The man’s family suspected that he had been murdered. They sent many villagers to look at what had happened. Some of them came armed, ready for a fight. They spoke to the people from our village. They met Chaman’s wife and saw her perilous condition, they saw the visibly charred path of the lightning bolt. Only and only then did they believe that their man hadn’t been murdered but had been the victim of nature.

In sad mourning on a dark afternoon that afternoon, they carried his body back across the Haidar mountain pass.

In the village of Awboorda-Joysulto, a woman, who had sat by the window of her house spinning wool, was struck by lightning and killed. Another man was struck in the village of Shilbitoo, just past the gorge. He died on the spot. In Daala-Ambolagh, a lightning bolt struck a large rock and sliced it in to two clean halves, with one half rolling down on to the pathway.

So you see Hadi jan, that is why I am very scared of lightning.

*‌Balna = Upper
*Aaghil = Neighborhood
*Kotal = Mountain Pass