My Grandfather’s Gift

elderly man in kabul

My grandfather has six children: one daughter and five sons and my father is the oldest son. There are thirty-seven grandchildren. He loves all of his grandchildren, but he loves me so much that he named me Mahbooba, which means beloved. He always says to me “You’re my Mahbooba.”
When I was a kid, all the children played together, but I had a problem walking because of my feet. My grandfather said to me, “Don’t worry, one day you will be so much smarter than them and they will say to you ‘Oh Mahbooba, you’re so much better than us.’”

Then he told me a wonderful story about how we can make ourselves happy in life and he made me laugh. He was good friends with my other grandfather, my mother’s father. They told each other funny stories. He would say to us, “Life is another name for love and fun.”

When I went to the United States for my feet to be operated on, he said to my father, “If I die and I don’t see Mahbooba again, please say to her, ‘Never forget your religion and culture. And help the people less fortunate than you.’” 
He always said, “I have thirty-seven grandchildren, but I trust Mahbooba the most because she never has a bad idea. When she says something, she does it. She is brave and she has never failed. This is the best that I see in Mahbooba.”

Now he is seventy-five years old and he has been a good, kind person and father. Although he went through bad times himself, he said that by working hard everything will be fine. The Taliban hated him and they burned everything he owned when he lived in Parwan. He didn’t eat anything for three days and he became very sick. At that time, my family was in Kabul and we also had very little to eat. Everything was so expensive and we really needed help, but no one was there to help us. When he became ill, he came to Kabul and my dad brought him to a doctor. Finally, after ten days he got well and returned home.

Afghanistan has had many problems and everyone has a sad story, but it’s not so bad that we stop our lives. All people have problems, but we have to try to create a good family where we help each other. We all have to respect our family because without family no one knows us. If we study hard and have learned knowledge, we will honor our family. My grandfather was like this.

One day he told me, “I trust you.”

I said, “Why do you trust me? I am human, I can make mistakes.”

But he said, “We are human; therefore humans have to make mistakes. But some people make a lot of mistakes and these become sins, but they never accept that and they say ‘I didn’t do this.’”

He said, “You never say these things and you always admit if you have made a mistake and try to do better the next time. Therefore I trust you.”

This was a special gift from my grandfather. If all people give this gift to their children the children will be lucky. Yes, we can use a car for ten years or we can use our clothes for a year, but I can use my grandfather’s love like a moral compass forever.

Now my grandfather is in bed. Sometimes I call him and talk with him, but I am busy studying so I can’t go to see him. Now it is our turn to do what we can for our grandfather. Yesterday when my father went to his side, Grandfather became so happy. He needs all of our help and respect.

Islam and the Holy Quran say this about family: respect your family because family makes you strong. It says don’t yell at your father and mother and when they become old, accept everything they say because father and mother are the best people in your life. 
My grandfather is just one example, but many people in Afghanistan think that no one supports the women and this is not true. My father also helps me in my life. I know he loves me. I respect my family and grandfather because they show me the way to be strong and moral in my life.

I want all people to respect their families, to try to have a good family and to help their family. Family is like a small society. We are born in a family; we become like them because we are part of them. Family is like a school where the children are like students learning from the family. I live in a big family and we all are not the same, but we help and love each other. 
By Mahbooba

Photo by David Gill.


  1. liz titus says:

    Dearest Mahbooba,

    Absolutely lovely, this tribute to your grandfather! A moral compass forever, just beautiful and so very true.
    It is nice to read about this strong family, a model for society as a whole.

    All the best,

  2. Dear Mahbooba,
    I absolutely adore this tribute to your grandfather. His belief in you is an incredible gift that you very much deserve. You’re absolutely right that his support is a model for other families and for society. Thank you for sharing your strong connection with him.

  3. Dearest Mahbooba: This ode to your grandfather is so deeply moving to me. I am choking on all of the words I want to say, write. I am just so happy that you had your grandfather’s love and wisdom and *trust* in your life. I believe very much that if every child just has *one* person in their lives as loving and nurturing as your grandfather, they are going to be OK. We can’t all have perfect, nurturing parents, but if we can just have one family member like this… and if we can’t have that, here’s to us being that loving family member to someone who needs it. I am proud of you. Please greet your grandfather for us. Please thank him for all that he has done for you and your family. I am so happy that you were able to write about him in English so that someone like me so many miles away could get to know him just a little bit. All best, Stacy

  4. Among the stories we hear of cruel men in Afghanistan and of the Taliban who treat women as less than human, it is wonderful to read about your loving grandfather and your father, decent, loving, humane men. It is wonderful to read about a fun-loving grandfather!

  5. Carol Knight says:

    Your writing has so inspired me to spend more time with my family. My grandfathers have both passed away, but they too taught me many good things. You are a very special person with a truly wonderful grandfather and family. You have shared the most important part of life that a lot of us seem to forget, the love of our family. Thank you for sharing your story.

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