“Love letters from Kabul – more on friends & borderless-ness”

A fairer life for all




Dear friends and fellow human beings,

4th January, 2013 ( Gregorian calendar )

15th Jadi, 1391 ( Afghan calendar )

From Abdulhai

When I was back in Bamiyan, I messaged Hakim to send my school books from Kabul. But my heart seemed to be saying something else.

I’ve sometimes wondered if I’m mad.

One evening, Hakim spoke to me on the phone. He said sorry, and that he wished to see me again.

I prepared hand-sewn handkerchiefs embroidered by my sister and mother, as gifts for Kathy, Maya and Hakim. I bought the dried apricots which Hakim likes, and set off for Kabul again.

I was uneasy and uncertain when I arrived in Kabul after just one week in Bamiyan. What now?

The other youth volunteers welcomed me with warm smiles.

Abdulhai sweeping the corridor of the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ home

And when Hakim arrived at the house after a meeting, we embraced.

While cooking in the kitchen, I told Hakim my story, “When a tree is small and just a sapling and water reaches it, the water becomes a friend to the tree.”

“And the tree grows because of the water’s friendship.”

Hakim, aren’t we always asking if love can outlast the troubles of these times?

Watch Abdulhai tell his story of the tree and the water

From Samia

My older sister, Topikai, misses talking and laughing with relatives and friends, like we used to do in Laghman province.

We feel that people in a city like Kabul are less friendly, and more suspicious.

So, when our American friend Kathy and other new international friends came to visit the Afghan Peace Volunteers, my parents extended our hospitality by inviting them for lunch at our rented house. Maya was among the new friends. Her name and Mariam’s are easier to remember than the other names – ‘Soozan’ and ‘Befp’ ( Susan and Beth ). Hakim and Abdulhai came too.

The lunch Samia’s family served –

rice, French fries, chicken drumsticks, leek pancakes, salad,

buttermilk, chutney spice and of course, nAAn

I asked Hakim a few days after the lunch how he had felt. I told him that it was such a happy day for me too!

It’s so nice to have friends. It’s so nice to prepare food for them. We Afghans believe that ‘guests are the friends of God.’

Samia, her father, her siblings and cousins conversing with guests after lunch

From Hakim

With the strain in ties with Abdulhai, I was tempted to ‘clinically detach’ myself as I’m taught to do as a medical doctor.

But, Abdulhai is not a patient. He is my friend.

He is like the water he describes, suggesting that friendship reaches the deeper roots of our souls, with no regard to borders. Everyone, including visually impaired Afghans, wishes for this better world.

Visually impaired Afghan children wish for a better world

Abdulhai, our friendship will demand the courage of conscience, which you’ve been seeking to practice in greater earnest than the current presidents of the world have.

Our friendship will need courage to resist the ‘wisdom of our age’:

To reason with the world’s governments that their policies on ‘terrorism’, ‘security’ and ‘human progress’ in Afghanistan is conventional, but gravely wrong.

To tell the world the human stories in Afghanistan, so as to dispel the myths of education, politics and religion about ‘the other’, ‘the wild Afghan’, ‘the ignorant and chaotic masses’, and all that demeans our shared human identity.

To show by miniscule example that the building of wide-scale friendships across the world, especially with the vulnerable and oppressed peoples of the 195 nations on earth, can shift our solidarity and consciousness enough to heal our global inequalities and our inner wars.

Simon Moyle, a peace activist from Australia who knows both Abdulhai and me, sent me a quotation from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. “Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attaining love. I am sorry I can say nothing more consoling to you, for love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. But active love is labour and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science. But I predict that just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting farther from your goal instead of nearer to it- at that very moment I predict that you will reach it….”

Abdulhai back in Kabul with the multi-ethnic Afghan Peace Volunteers’ community

Abdulhai, thank you for coming back to Kabul. I missed your cooking…:).

And since love is stronger than social convention, I need not ‘save my face’ by pretending I could manage in Kabul without your company. I can continue taking steps towards personal redemption and mutual freedom in saying without reservation, “I couldn’t have been happy if you did not reach out again.”

When I experience how you, Samia, Ali, the other Afghan youth and each and every one of our international friends have touched each other’s lives, I see a revolution erupting.


Abdulhai, Samia and Hakim

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