Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part story. In part one, Rabia’s older brother and two sisters persuaded their father to buy a video cassette player so they could watch television despite the Taliban’s strict rules against it. The electronics were kept hidden in a bedroom closet.
A group of Taliban called Amre Bell M’Roof, which means Taliban police, used to walk around at night just to know if everyone was sleeping, no lights were on after 10, and that no one was watching TV. They rode around in open-back Toyotas. One would be driving with the rest like ghosts standing in the back, gazing into the houses. Even now, whenever I see an open-back Toyota, it reminds me of them.
In our house that night my sister was saying, “How in the world are we going to take the big, fat TV out of the room? It’s not like Daddy has fainted, he’s sleeping. That means if he hears any noise he will wake up any minute.”
My brother said, “Leave that to me,” and that he would need someone to help him lift up the TV. My other sister raised her hand, and so the two thieves tip-toed into the room. We waited by the door, watching. They lifted the TV without making any noise and quietly walked out of the room. We all cheered up then, and gave them a hand to carry it to the other room. Everyone started moving, one covering the windows with a dark, thick blanket that we had reserved for the days when we watch TV, others plugging it in and setting up the video player.
We placed the TV on the ground and we put a big blanket on top of it. For an extra precaution everyone stuck their heads inside the blanket. There were three heads inside and the legs swinging outside, me and my sisters. We turned on the TV.
It was such an amazing moment! I was so happy I couldn’t close my mouth. I felt like kissing the TV. It was an indescribable feeling with the light of the TV right in my face. I can never forget the white and black dots on the screen when Merwais first switched it on.
It was so new and adventurous. This was my first movie. I thought I was inside the TV. The movie started and the first thing that appeared was the name of the movie, Dil Wale Dulhania Le Jayengay, starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. Then the rest of the names came on.
I didn’t know a word of Hindi, so I just watched, people walking here and there, crying and smiling, the houses and the background and the dancing. I noticed every single thing. I didn’t care about the story or what was going to happen at the end. I was looking for other things, like the women wearing fancy things, the traditional Indian clothing, their lifestyle, the scenery, the water and jungle greenery. Everything. I was in my own world.
It was hard to breathe under the blanket, that small space with three people inhaling and exhaling, so every other minute one of us would take our head out to get some oxygen. We were so lost in the movie that it was about 12 am when suddenly the door bell rang.
Oops! Our hearts started pounding so fast, our eyes were sticking out, and our jaws dropped. The three of us were thinking the same thing: Taliban, we are dead and what is going to happen now.
“I guess it’s them,” my brother said. “The light of the TV probably. Or the sound.”
“How could that be possible,” I said. “We’re covered inside a blanket and the volume is so low that I hardly hear it from this short distance.”
“I don’t know, but I know they have found out about this,” he said. We were terrified.
My dad ran to the door. He also was overwhelmed with his own questions. Who could it be at this time of the night…no one is allowed to walk around after the curfew … except for Taliban. He opened the door. It was them.
God! We were all busted. I thought there was no chance. We are dead. We are gone.
I went to the door and stood behind my dad, looking at them with one eye, scared and blushing, when one big, fat, football type Talib came forward. He had on a black turban and black clothes, his fat belly hanging out, and a long, dark, black beard.
“Why do you people forget to lock the outside gate? If some thief breaks into your house, then don’t come complaining to us,” he shouted angrily. We lived in an apartment block and each corridor had a gate. Since we were on the first floor, the Talibs had knocked on our door to ask us this.
All I thought was, thank God, so they haven’t found out about the TV. We looked at each other and took a deep breath and relaxed a little bit. In reply to their question my dad told them that every house in the building takes turns locking the outside door and “It’s not our turn. The one responsible probably forgot to do it today.”
The Talib looked at my dad and said, “Okay. Lock the door and make sure this doesn’t happen again.” And they left.
My dad went out to lock the outside gate. Ignoring us, he went back to his room and fell asleep. The three of us ran to the TV. We waited a couple of minutes just to make sure the Taliban had gone far enough, and then we turned it on.
We watched the entire movie and early that morning returned the TV to its place before my dad woke up. I can never forget the fear and the happiness of that night. We were doing our favorite thing, but with so much fear in our hearts because during the Taliban, enjoying life, even little things, was a sin.