Often, when I travel along the streets of Kabul in Afghanistan, ordinary scenes provoke questions about the disparities of life in today’s global human society. Some vistas arrest my attention, and leave me wishful and in want. Sometimes, I feel sad, or a little angry.
I often end up pursuing ‘whys’. How did it become like this?
These questions keep me raw and alive.
Inham in the ‘office’
I post these photos for Inham, who is 13 years old, but wise beyond his cheekiness and industry. Recently, I had walked into a street kids class just as Zekerullah was disciplining Inham, instructing him to leave the class. Inham had forgotten his pen and notebook again. Inham was already facing the door, but when he saw me, he stood still and told Zekerullah that he would surely remember to bring his pen and notebook the following week. Zekerullah told me later that Inham was probably hoping that I would put in a word for him.
I didn’t. Zekerullah was firm. Inham walked out with a downcast face. I followed him out to the corridor, and stopped him to say that ‘everything will be alright’. He stood still, his haversack strapped to his back, and began to cry into my arms, thinking that, “Zekerullah is expelling me from school, not just from the class.”
I suggested that he apologize to Zekerullah. When the class was over and Zekerullah had gone to the ‘office’, I accompanied Inham to the ‘office’ door. There, standing hesitantly like a considerate child would, he said, “I’m sorry for not bringing my pen and notebook. I won’t do it again.” I felt proud of Inham. Zekerullah told Inham he could sit in the ‘office’ till he had calmed down.
I sat down beside Inham for a while. He was still tearful. He said, “I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning to start work in the streets, and so I forgot my pen and notebook.” I asked, “Can you remember to put your pen and notebook in your haversack first thing every Friday morning?” Inham explained, “This isn’t my schoolbag, teacher. This is my boot-polishing bag.”
I sensed he needed affirmation. “Zekerullah is disciplining you because he cares for you. I care for you too. Everything will be alright.” Inham was hurt, but nodded his head with understanding.
Each sight is a tiny window to many hidden stories. Not only can we look. We can listen to each photo. The sounds will arise soon enough.
Inham washing cars for a fee in the streets of Kabul, 2016
We can assess the priorities of the world by the way her children live.
Local Afghan news had reported that 12 Kabul children had died in the cold following heavy snowfall.
In this picture, the boy had received two winter duvets from the Afghan Peace Volunteers.
Behind him is the familiar scene of a graveyard marked by stone tombstones.
A young girl with a sack of collected plastic on her back stood staring at the truckload of duvets.
She was not on the list of surveyed households which received duvets that cold and rainy morning.
What do these internally displaced children from Kunduz burn to keep warm?
How many Afghans have enough bread on their tables?
What do hungry sheep in Kabul graze on?
Behind the sheep are a group of drug addicts on a bridge.
Why does Afghanistan have the most number of drug addicts in the world?
Kabul river is no longer a river of life.
What is clogging up Kabul’s drains?
What percentage of Afghans have access to clean drinking water?
What percentage of the population have regular electricity?
Is there room in Afghanistan for every Afghan ethnic group?
How do we measure women’s rights and gender equality in Afghanistan?
In the foreground is a weighing scale.
How many Afghans with disabilities have to maneuver through the unpaved streets of the capital city?
Why do we keep building walls and fences?
Why has there been less and less snowfall over the past years?
Will bicycles ever become more popular than cars in Kabul?
What kinds of homes to people return to every night?
Do they sleep well?
Is freedom a basic human need?
The roofs had clothes hung to dry, a blue water tank and a satellite T.V. dish.
In the sky over many roofs in Kabul are U.S. surveillance blimps.
Who’s watching who?
What is sold as beauty and dignity?
Mahdi longs for a different world.