“Let’s take it easy and go eat at someplace nice for a change, I said one lazy Saturday morning. You know, just spend a relaxed, agenda-less morning. Some place I can wear this to.” I said. I was fondly looking at my new dupatta, carefully embroidered with dancing peacocks.
The kerfuffle just to spending a relaxed morning doing nothing I tell you! There was hectic activity everywhere: feverishly looking for things, toddler shoes worn on wrong feet, missing cell phones, cell phones without charge all needing urgent handling in a 10-minute interval.
I ignored the daughter as she took charge while throwing me a disdainful look. We felt the charges of love and tension squirt back and forth.
Appa! What are you doing? That’s it! Stop playing chess and come on.
Time for me to take charge around here, she said. Amma, stop dancing! Why are you wearing this fancy dupatta-thing-y now anyway?
“Because I can! Dance! Dance! More!”, I said in a smart repartee and chuckled. Completely lost on her of course.
(‘More’ (मोर ) means peacock in Hindi)
The husband meekly looked up from his game of chess and sighed yet again. I heard him murmur something about loss of freedom as we headed out.
Pretty soon, we found ourselves in an Afghani restaurant sitting quietly. I turned the menu card over and the back of the menu had an iconic cover picture of the girl taken by National Geographic magazine in 1985. That single picture defined the turmoil of war world over.
Sharbat Gula (meaning sweetwater flower girl in Pashtun)
That was enough. The husband and I got a professorial gleam in our eyes and we set about trying to enlighten the daughter to the plight of women the world over.
We had not even started on the political turmoil with the Russian occupation of Afghanistan when the pesky waiter came and took the menu cards away. I tchaa-ed with feeling at this tendency of waiters to hoard the menus. “The restaurant is empty – what do they want to do with the menus? I am sure they don’t have to read it!” as I fumed inwardly.
“You finished ordering and what are you doing reading the mutton and chicken section anyway? You are a vegetarian!” the daughter said in what she thought was a scorching debate point. I have to admit, I like to traipse through the menu especially after I’ve ordered. I enjoy reading all the entrees and getting a feel of the cuisine, the culture, the spices and a dip into life in the normal households in the area. I like to imagine their grocery lists, their dinner tables, their lunch boxes and so much more.She thought I would fumble and drop my eyes in repentance. She was talking to the author of the (Why-are-you-dancing-now? Because I can! ) response, remember? (scroll up to beginning to remember what I said earlier).
I caught her eye and took her on a wild ride through the streets of Kabul selling spices, the perils of underttaking mundane tasks like grocery shopping in times of turmoil, past the beautiful poppy fields and the orchards of apricot, gasping through the crevices of the Tora Bora mountains and finished with a comparison of Indian, Pakistani and Afghani cuisines.
By the time the food had arrived, we had sent a prayer for world peace and a goodwill message to Sherbat Gula and hoped her daughters would have a chance at peace and happiness in a strife ridden world. Sherbat Gula has three daughters and was deported from Pakistan back to Afghanistan recently. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan_Girl
In the world today, there are currently more refugees than ever before. The rise of populism and nationalism means that the situation is deteriorating everyday. As of Dec 2015, an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world had been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. Nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day as a result of war, conflict or persecution.
As Seneca said,
Dum inter homines sumus, colamus humanitatem
As long as we are human, let us be humane
My daughter is at an impressionable age; so, that evening, I casually left a copy of the book : Because I Am a Girl: I can change the world, in her room. A book that tells the story of girls from different parts of the world, and how we as women can and should play a part in changing lives for the better.
A not-so-subtle move, that!