Here I am behind my laptop again wanting to write about another misfortune, another life gone astray, another doomed woman. It’s easy to write about, but very hard to actually feel each and every moment of hardship and grief one might have gone through. It’s overwhelming. When you want to write about such things, so many cases pop into your mind and you can’t decide which one to pick.
The baby whose father exchanged her for only a few bucks to a man in his 70s? Or that little girl who was bought by a married man and died after being tortured; or the young beautiful girl whose body parts were cut so brutally? As I think about it, something starts hurting right behind my sternum to the left. My heart sets on fire, and it makes me choke.
I take a moment and think. “Who is behind all this disgust and who has spread all this evil? Is it a human who has the same features, the same heart, and looks like I do? Is he or she just one simple human who can build as great a thing as an airplane, yet he can also set a person on fire?
I think about Nelson Mandela who changed the lives of thousands of people for the better. And then I think about the warlord who dragged Afghanistan to such a point where millions can’t clean up his mess.
My grandma’s house is the place I always imagine as the world’s heaven. You pass that dirty stinking brook right after entering through the thick wooden gate, bending down—it was hardly tall enough for a four-foot person—and as you look up, you’re in a different world, like Alice entering Wonderland, as if you had gathered all the beauty of nature in one small fort. Cows, a herd of sheep, ducks, hens, trees of apple and almond, children running here and there as you pass through the smell of smoke coming from the chimney and see a beautiful small-domed, mud house in the corner, ready for my massive fun and enjoyment. And there was my grandma with her long velvet antique dress, and her traditional footwear called mochanee.
She had a penny from all the regimes clinging to her hand-made dress. She was tall, with a slim, straight spine. A strong woman, the wrinkles on her face narrated the ups and downs she had gone through, but she also wore the shine of a young girl who was brave. After sixty years her feet never stumbled; she walked like a model on a ramp.
I remember she used to tell my mom, “We are the women of yellow ghee,” referring to the animal fat used in cooking. She believed women of her generation were made of nature. There was no artificiality in their lives inside or out; that was the reason they were strong and lived longer. She was a homeopathic doctor and people from all across the village came to her. She made medicines out of all types of herbs; no wonder why I inherited the love for medicine.
The best part about being at my grandma’s was that my mother would be too busy to look after me and I’d have all my cousins and the girls in the village gathered around. They’d check my new hair band with two dolls dangling down, my bracelet, and my long French braided hair. All the girls there had short haircuts. I would blush with pride and attitude as they checked all the stuff I had put on just to make them jealous. It makes me laugh to remember how I would show them how to bathe for good hygiene. I was already acting the sophisticated, picky child from the city.
Among the girls was her—that cursed child. Her adversity was preset the day her mother died giving birth to her. Her mother had delivered ten babies back-to-back for ten winters but this last time she couldn’t fight back and surrendered to death. My grandma helped her give birth to the child. She said the room was so cold that water froze in a glass. But all ten babies survived.
Men in our community are very dominant creatures in a typical Afghan family. They are the wage earners of the family; they make the decisions for everyone. But they won’t stoop to help women with the chores, even if they are lying at home with nothing to do. Sultana, in spite of having nine siblings, was like a football from birth—her sisters were too young to look after her and her brothers were too good to help. So they sent her back and forth to relatives’ houses until she was five or six and big enough to look after herself.
By Rabia J.
Rabia’s story continues in part two. Photo by Seair21.