Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 30

In my days, people had many children. Some children died. More sons meant more helping hands, more people to work and earn for the family. Bechara girls were unwanted, uncelebrated at birth and unappreciated in life. People preferred to have as many sons and as few girls as possible.

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I had 10 children. I lost one. My first child was a son. I lost him when he was twelve days old. He turned pale yellow and then passed away.

My oldest is Gul Zewar. She has 8 daughters, 2 sons, 36 grand children, and 6 great grand children. Her great grandchildren are my great great grandchildren.

Then I had Rubaba. She has 4 sons, 3 daughters, and 14 grandchildren.

After her, there is Habiba. She has 6 daughters, 3 sons, and 11 grandchildren.

My fourth daughter is Hafeeza. She has 6 sons, 3 daughters, and 4 grandchildren.

My fifth child is a son Hassan. He has 4 sons, 2 daughters, and 1 grandchild.

Then I had Bakhtawar. She has 5 daughters, 4 sons, and 4 grandchildren.

After her is Sakina. She has 6 daughters, 3 sons, and 11 grandchildren. She lost four others.

Then there is my youngest daughter Zubaida. She has 3 sons and 1 daughter.

My youngest child is Nabi. He has 3 sons.

One day when I am gone, if every child, grandchild and great grandchild of mine prays for me once, that will be sufficient for me. That’s all I ask for.

*Bechara = Hapless

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 22

We lived isolated lives high in the valleys. We were strangers to the changes in the world, or rather they were stranger to us. By the time I first got to watch TV, I had already raised many children. Let alone televisions, many of us had barely seen a vehicle or an airplane.

Your late aunty from Hotqol visited Kabul. One morning her hosts turned on their pocket radio to listen to the news. Upon hearing a male voice, your auntie covered her face to do purdah. She noticed that the women of the host family did not cover their faces, did not observe purdah. She was old, and she immediately scolded them:

“You have no shame! There are strange men there, and you dare let them see your faces!”


 

When I visited Kabul, we would gather at Aatay Hafiz’s basement at night to watch TV in secret. He owned a small television set that was easy to hide and put away during the day. Your maternal grandfather was a strict man. He disapproved of television, and called it Haram. We made sure he didn’t find out we all watched TV.

 

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It is said that in the Pas-Qad valleys, when the women first saw a car, they assumed it was a type of animal they had never seen before. They called it pesh-ghorghoor-e-pas-khaagbad – literally translated as the thing that ‘makes noise at the front, and blows dust at the back’. Some women even threw grass in front of the car, assuming that if it was an animal, it had to eat grass.

That’s how strange these machines were for our people. Things have changed now. Nothing can surprise me anymore.


*Purdah = a religious and social practice of female seclusion prevalent among some Muslim communities; the practice of females covering their faces in the presence of a non-family male
*Haram = Arabic term meaning sinful; Items and practices forbidden in Islamic belief
*Pas-Qad = Backward; A derogatory term used to refer to those living deep in the mountains

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 21

Prologue: As barbaric as the treatment of prisoners and minorities at the hands of groups like ISIS is, it isn’t new, or even unusual in the recent history of the geographic and cultural Middle East. What’s unprecedented is the detailed coverage of these crimes in the social and news media. Cases in point in Story 15 and here in 21:

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In the year they killed Ali Madad Khan, your uncle was still too young to attend school, and your father worked in Tameer. It was just after Shorawi had left the area, and the factional war had only begun.

Ali Madad Khan was a tribal noble. He was old, pious but open minded. Unlike the ones before him, his generation of nobles were good people. They were educated, they had traveled the world, and knew a few things about how the world worked. They helped bring in new equipment for agriculture, introduced new crops, and set up proper schools for girls and boys.

The educated children of these nobles rebelled against the old way of life. They became teachers, doctors, engineers and officers. They spoke against the Shorawi and the mullahs. Yet they were only a few in number, and were almost all killed in the wars. Some of them were taken away and killed by the government, others were killed by the Mujaheddin and mullahs.
They mullahs issued a fatwa calling for the death of Ali Madad Khan and all the their opponents called Tanzeemi and Sholayee. The mullahs accused them of receiving support from the infidels of the USSR and China. They had introduced these slogans at school:

The USSR is worse than the US, the US is worse than the USSR, China is worse than both.

They told the people that Ali Madad Khan had strayed from the right path, and was organizing dance and music parties in his castle. They accused him and his allies of being communists, atheists and apostates, and by decree called for their death.

They besieged his castle and shot their way in. The thick walls of his castle were said to have tunnels in them, and the Khan had hid in there. The old man was chased in those tunnels, dragged out and killed in front of his young daughter. Following the execution, the mujaheddin molested his daughter, his only child at home at the time.

The Mujaheddin used his execution as a show of power and as a way to terrify their opponents. They did not let his family bury his dead body. When his daughter tried to approach his body, they Mujaheddin soldiers groped her under the pretense that they were searching her for concealed grenades and weapons. The Khan’s body lay in the open for many days. After the body had decomposed, and had been mauled by jackals, the Mujaheddin allowed his brothers to bury his old body.
Those responsible for his murder were the mujaheddin, including the commander who later tried to kill your father accusing him of apostasy and being a Sholayee. They killed everyone who opposed them. They were no better than the people they had fought and deposed. They were worse. They came from different parties. Some were called Nasri, some Nahzati, others were in Hezb Islami, and still others in Shora.

 

 

*Shorawi = Farsi for the USSR
*Mullah = Islamic clergy
*Mujaheddin = Islamic fighter; Collective noun for Islamist factions fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan
*Tanzeemi = A member of Tanzeem – nationalist faction active in the central highlands in the 1970s and 1980s
*Sholayee = A member of Shola-e-Javed – A Maoist party active in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s
*Nasri/Nahzati/Hezb Islami/Shora = Islamist Parties active in Afghanistan in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 20

It was the wedding of Aatay Rasheed’s daughter. The party was ready, and on horse-back and on foot, the villagers set off for Thayna Jaar – soon to be the bride’s home.

As we set off, the groom’s party sought Aatay Rasheed’s permission to play some music and dance in celebration. He gave a hesitant nod. No sooner had the music started, that these bearded few people began screaming. They were the mullahs, and they pushed their way to the front. They were fuming with anger that someone had dared play music.

“It’s HARAM!”, they declared.

One of the mullahs, my Iran-based nephew Baseer, picked up the cassette player over his head and threatened to smash it to the ground if any more music was played. He frothed:

“Music invites the devil. Prayers bring blessings.”


The villagers and the procession began chanting prayers and salawat. There was no more music, no more laughter, just a loud chorus of salawat. It felt like a funeral procession.

Once the procession had reached the outer limits of the village, your father, still young, walked to the front. He held his arms up, jacket in the one hand, and began dancing. The children clapped, some of the men joined in. The women beat the drums. There was music, and the procession danced and laughed all the way to Thayna Jaar. Fearing backlash from your father and the youth, the mullahs could do nothing but watch in anger and despair.

It was a good day. But once that was over, they stopped inviting us to the weddings. My nephew Mohammad Hussain got married. They didn’t invite us. Your auntie got married. They didn’t invite us. They didn’t like your father’s dance.

*Haram = Arabic for sinful; forbidden on religious grounds
*Salawat = Prayers wishing peace upon the prophet and his family.