It was one of those sunny, dusty Spring days of Kabul, and a holiday because of 7th Saur (28th of April, the day on which the mujahadin took the power from Dr. Najib’s regime.) I was at home, busy cleaning and washing. The phone’s ring tore into my stream of thoughts. I picked it up and heard the soft voice of my friend. She sounded so happy I could feel it over the phone. “I got engaged! My dream came true.” I was both surprised and happy. They had loved each other for a long time but because of family problems, they couldn’t get together. Now they overcame the problems. It would be a love marriage, which is exciting because such cases are rare in this part of the world. Most marriages are arranged and the woman does not have the right to choose her future husband. She said the party was in couple days. She asked me to be part of her happiness and suggested I go buy a beautiful outfit. Since it was a holiday, I had spare time to go shopping.

My sister and I decided to go to Lycee Maryam, a well-known bazaar in suburban Kabul. In the taxi on the way there, my sister asked if I took my medicine this morning, as I was sick. I said yes, but the driver interrupted us. “These medicines are not effective. They are useless,” he said. “The merchants import low quality medicine. They do not care about people’s health or their financial situations. They only seek profit.” He was around 45 years old. His tearful eyes were ringed with dark circles which explained how much he had been suffering from life.

“That is absolutely true,” my sister said.

“Six months ago, my young brother was kidnapped by a group of robbers,” the driver said. “He was a taxi driver. We found him three months ago with his body broken in pieces; he lost his life just for a taxi. They killed him and threw him in a pit. When we brought his body home, my mother couldn’t bear it. She became paralyzed.”

He paused for a minute; his tears did not allow him to carry on. After a short silence, he continued: “Since then, my mother became sick. We took her to the doctors every day. I am a driver; I don’t make enough money. This taxi is not mine. The owner pays me 200 Afs per day. (About $4.30) I have a family with children. We live in a poor neighborhood. All my income used to go to my mother’s medications. Whenever I got her prescriptions, I used to buy less than half because I couldn’t afford to buy it all. Most nights we go to bed with empty stomachs. I deceive the kids by telling them tomorrow they will get good food with fruit. But how can they sleep after being hungry all day?” He stopped the car for a few second and put his head on the steering wheel.

He started again with red and tearful eyes. “Last night, my mother began vomiting. I did not have a penny to take her to the doctor. I was lost. I did not know what to do. I knocked on the doors of neighbors and asked to borrow money. I couldn’t get a single Afghani. I don’t blame them; they are all struggling to avoid starving, just like me. By the time I got back home with empty hands, I heard the loud voice of crying. I knew my mother had died… I lost her. I couldn’t do anything … I hate myself. How useless a son I am. I couldn’t save her life. She went, but she left me in a river of pain.

“For a few minutes, I was unaware of my surroundings. My wife shook me. She said ‘Get up, control yourself. Neighbors are here. Soon all the relatives will come. We should arrange the funeral ceremony. We need money for that and for burying her.’ I was totally confused. Where can I find the money was the only thing moving in my head. I left the house not knowing where to go; suddenly it came into my mind to go to the taxi owner to ask if he could help. I went there and told him the story. He started crying. He said, ‘I am sorry. I had some money but I paid it this morning to my landlord for rent. I can’t help, however I really want to help.’

“On my way back home, devil thoughts were flowing in my head. I decided to commit suicide. It is better to die than live in a shame like this. I parked my car in a relatively quiet place. I had a rope in the car trunk. I brought out. I put it around my neck, but suddenly I heard a voice inside which was preventing me from suicide. For a few minutes, I forgot I am a Muslim. I forgot what my kids will do without me—they will starve. I threw the rope away. I thanked Allah for not committing an unforgiveable sin. On the way home, you stopped me to take you Lycee Maryam for 100 Afs. I thought something is better than nothing.”

I couldn’t control my tears. We were stuck in traffic and a strange silence fell among the three of us. I looked out at the many people in the cars and walking on the streets. I thought every single one of these people is struggling with problems. I wished we could all get together and trust each other to solve the problems. We are all human beings; we have lots in common and we can understand each other very well if we want.

We reached Lycee Maryam. I took my wallet, put aside 100 Afs and gave the rest to the driver. He looked at me with questioning eyes. “I did not tell the story for this,” he said. “I just wanted to share with somebody. I don’t know why I felt I could share with you.”

“Please accept this,” I said. “We are human beings. We are for each other to share, to solve the hardships of life together.  I can understand you have your pride, but today you are in need. Your mother’s body is at home waiting for you to bury her. Please accept this.”

He took it. His tears were like rain. “I am grateful to you for my entire life,” he said. “You secured my dignity and saved me from being disgraced. I could have died today from shame if you weren’t here.” Then he said: “May Allah keep you from all dangers.”

My sister looked at me with tearful eyes and a beautiful smile. She hugged me and said: “You did a good job. Let’s have ice cream to celebrate. We are happy we helped a needy man.”

I told her we only had money enough for a taxi home. “I have an idea,” I said. “Let’s use half of that money for ice cream. We can walk halfway home, and the second half, we can take a cab.” She smiled and agreed.

When we got home, Mom asked us to please show her what we had bought. My sister narrated the story to my mom. She cried and kissed and thanked me. She said, “This is my daughter.” I felt that my heart empty from all pain. I wish I could help more needy people. It makes life beautiful.

By Emaan