Inam hopes to be enrolled in the Borderfree Street Kids School in 2015!

Inam with Rohullah in the streets of Kabul

Inam, like the sun, has a ready, warm smile,

with an extra  pair of sandals, beige.

You would wear them while he polishes your boots.

“Yes, sir, there’s so much brown and grey dust in Kabul!”

And you’re tired after taking

the side streets to avoid chance, planned suicide attacks.

“It’ll only take a minute, Sir,” Inam beams,

“everything would be over.”

Nur Rahman also polishes boots

Nur Rahman dreams of becoming an Afghan Star

Nur Rahman imagines taking the stage,

belting out songs of unreciprocated love,

and tulips, and the Amu River,

“I want to be an Afghan Star!”

We can already spot his potential,

the cheeky, cherubic cheeks,

the dreamy, solid eyes,

Even an affectionate nickname:

“They call me Shanmu!”

“My phone was already connected to the INTER-NET,

but I want to cut it off,

‘cos they steal one Afghani each time

I turn on my phone

to listen to Aryana Sayeed sing.”

 Gulsom ( right ) speaks with the volunteer teachers

Gulsom ( left ) and Fatima receiving their oil and rice

Till a few months ago, Gulsom

would dread going to the ‘hookah’ joints.

She had to pretend she didn’t mind the smoke,

and the men who wanted

to forget their plans to smuggle themselves

to an increasingly xenophobic, Islamophobic Europe,

men who ‘knew better’ than to resort to heroin.

“Some of them looked lecherous,”

Gulsom had quickly recognized human frailty,

before, soon, she would be hidden from men,

for good,

apparently for her good.

She dreams of becoming a judge,

when she could be as sure as she was during the class test,

“Nonviolence means we harm no one and nothing in creation.”

Habib’s mother and Habib with his weighing scale last year

Habib back in our street kids program, hoping to be a doctor some day

His mother was so distraught when

Habib left for a ‘madrassah’ in Faryab Province

that she had to be placed on an IV drip for days.

A tearful storm wet the ‘web-eye-openings’ of her ‘burqa’.

“Did you manage to study there?”

“No, there was fighting,”

his voice not yet broken by puberty,

his desire to be a doctor un-dampened

by the weight of the world.

You see, he used to take the weight of pedestrians for a fee.

“You’re a good 90 kilos, Sir!”

The 5 Afghanis for his soft declaration of obesity

were not enough to keep the pet parakeets he had loved so much.


 Rohullah has a partner in his work of washing cars


 Rohullah is distracted

“I can say ‘how are you’

in Dari, Pashto, English and Russian!”

That’s it! Rohullah’s mind is in the streets

that clatter with a thousand sounds

except his,

so he can’t concentrate on forming

more than five Dari alphabets .

But he’ll stand respectfully, and flexibly,

when the exasperated but kind teacher tells him to.

A day-old bubble gum makes his tongue

stumble over  his counting to

“yak…yak…one hundred?”

“Finest Superstore is a great place

for catching cars to wash.” he says,

“The cloth and pail?

My partner has them.

We split whatever we’re given.”

Gul Jumma learns Dari

Gul Jumma knows when to speak


Over the past year, her Dari became as fluent

and sweet-sounding as her native tongue.

“I collect plastic which my mom

uses as fuel in the Camp, explains Gul Jumma ( Friday Flower ).

“I have a doll,

which wears a black dress, a scarf, no shoes.

I carry her. I like her.”

“Do you prefer Sangin in Helmand, or Kabul?”

( The British, including the Prince, were based there )

When there’s war everywhere,

children choose to be where they feel safer,

where their mothers warm up the tea and leftover bread,

Char-e-Qambar Internally Displaced Persons Camp,

“Kabul,” she didn’t hesitate,

unlike when she said

“I had five brothers. Two died.

And, so did a sister.”

“What’s your wish in life?”

She looks away.

She twirls her fingers.

She doesn’t answer

because she knows that her wish to be a teacher

may be quenched by a NATO bomb,

like the one that killed her father in Sangin,

or by an improvised ‘insurgent’ device

that had killed her friends near Kabul Polytechnic.


she remains

as silent as the world.

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