Editor’s note: The Soviet-influenced Afghan government of the period took the writer’s father from her home when she was 11 years old, and she never saw him again. This is Part IV, the final part, of what she knows of his childhood and life.
Shah’s friends were waiting for him desperately, saying, “What happened to him? God forbid, what if they put him in jail? What if they punished him?” Again, all those “what if” questions. Even the teachers were worried; they came out of the madrassa waiting for him, but there was no sign of Shah.
Suddenly they saw a royal wheel-cart drawn by two brown horses riding towards them. When the wheel-cart came closer, they saw a uniformed horseman holding a well designed whip, something they had never seen before. The closer the wheel-cart got, the more they became excited and worried. At last the wheel-cart stopped, the uniformed man jumped out and opened the door, and Shah emerged.
Everyone’s mouth was half open; they couldn’t say a word at first. Finally one took the initiative to speak: “Shah? Is that you?” Shah said goodbye to the guard and joined his friends, smiling. Everyone was asking different questions: “What took you so long?” “How did you come to be in this royal wheel-cart?”
Shah couldn’t hide his happiness and told them the entire story. He told them his essay was rewarded by the PM, “and while I was sitting in the wheel-cart, I opened the envelope and saw 2000 Afs!”
Everyone was like, “Whoa, 2000 Afs, it is lots of money. What you are going to do with this money?”
“I am going to rent a room, buy some clothes and lots of books, establish my own library and you guys can read my books,” my father answered.
This was an unexpected moment for Shah. He began to write more for radio, then he wrote books, and since he memorized the Holy Qu’ran, he learned Arabic and he translated books from Arabic into Dari and Pashtu. He started working with different media organizations, and after a few years became the General Director of the independent Directorate of Media and Culture, which was equal to a minister position. Shah was getting promotions one after another. Since he wrote books in Arabic, he became famous in Arabic countries as well. He got a scholarship from Al-Azhar Islamic University in Egypt. Once he arrived there and spoke to the sheikh, the sheikh said: “Oh dear Shah, I am extremely sorry to ask you to come here as a student, you are too qualified for that. I will change my mind and please accept my apology. I would like to request you to become a lecturer in our university.” Since Shah didn’t like to live abroad, he stayed only a few months. He taught, received a special Islamic title from the university, and won the best Azan and Qu’ran reader title in an international reading competition among all Arab and Islamic countries in Egypt.
In 1961, for the first time, Afghanistan’s King Zahir Shah decided to establish Constitutional Law. Shah was appointed to the commission that wrote the first Afghan Constitution. He was also elected as a member of the parliament. Because of his work in the Afghan Parliament Shah became famous and well-known throughout Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries.
Twenty years after he had left as a child Shah returned to Bagram—his birthplace. He returned to see his mother and father—his father who had kicked him out when he was just eleven years old. Shah was now famous; he had married and had eight children (five daughters and three sons). His children were all on their way to being highly educated.
When Shah saw his mother she took him in her arms and cried. She said she missed her wonderful son who was like a king (Shah means king) among her children. She couldn’t stop her tears. Shah kissed his father’s hands, and said: “Sorry, Father, that I left your house.” His father’s hands were trembling and he couldn’t talk because he wanted to hide his tears. He shook his head and said, “No, son, I apologize.” Shah didn’t let him cry, but changed the subject and started joking, saying: “Come on, why are you crying? Can’t you accept my promotion? See your son, your Shah, is not a little boy anymore.” Both his mother and father said, “Thank God. Allah, we are so thankful.”
Shah had a wonderful life, a loving wife, and children. He worked hard but he was always there for his family on weekends and holidays. Shah loved to go to countryside with his family so he bought summer and winter homes as well as grape fields. Because of his own wealth, Shah asked of his rich father that the property he was to inherit should instead be given to his brothers and sister.
Shah lived the way he wanted until the Communists took power. Their policy was to kill powerful, rich, religious, high-ranking government people, specifically well-known people. The government arrested Shah along with his two young sons and two brothers. That night when the KHAD secret police came to arrest him, Shah didn’t know they would arrest his two young sons and brothers as well, and that is why he asked his sons to take care of their mother. “She was my best support and my right hand,” he said. “Thanks to her, I was successful. She took care of my house and my children so well, and that is why I had peace of mind and could concentrate on my work.”
Shah left the house with the KHAD agents, thinking that he was leaving his sons and brothers behind. But after almost an hour, KHAD came back took his sons and brothers as well, leaving Shah’s wife with five daughters, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren.
My mother spent thousands of nights in the yard looking at the gate, waiting for her sons and husband for almost twenty years. When we daughters asked why she slept outside every night, she said: “Oh, dear, I like the open area. I can’t breathe inside.” But one day when her sister asked her the same question, she said: “I am waiting, I am waiting for them. If at midnight they come and knock at the door, I may not hear it if I am sleeping inside the house. I don’t want to make them wait. I want to be the first person who meets them.” This strong woman, who cried and waited for all those years, never let her daughters see her tears. She cried at midnight while everyone was sleeping. She encouraged her daughters to get their diplomas.
She spent all those years in the hope of seeing her beloved ones, but that day never came. Then she got sick and was paralyzed. She was sick for two and half years, lying in bed, at a time when most of her daughters were abroad. She said to one daughter still at home, “See if someone is knocking at the door. Hurry up, what if it is your brothers or father? Don’t make them wait. Hurry up, open the door, hurry up, open the door.”
When other Muslims die, they always read holy words from the Qu’ran, but my mother died calling her sons’ names. She died with her eyes open, waiting to see her children.