The elections is over. I think the situation exceeded my expectations. Although there were a series of attacks across the country, including Kabul, the elections remained somewhat peaceful for its volatility. I slept till very late this morning, so I slept through the worst of it before waking up to the roaring engine of a plane or a helicopter flying above me. I respond quick to loud noises, at least while I am here, seeing that I drew my curtains automatically to assure myself everything is okay.
I spent my afternoons between hindi movies and the BBC. The lockerbie case, central baghdad bombing and Afghan elections seem to dominating the channels at least for today. My temporary shift to this guesthouse has done me some good; at least I get to watch news in English and know what is going in the world around me. I also get to see what my family members see on TV, as they keep an eye on Afghan developments.
Kabul streets rest in silence. Today has been a silent day.
I am here, in a beautiful guesthouse on my own. Razia and her room mate left Kabul, one to Dubai, one to Lebanon to escape here for awhile whilst things are crazy. There is a family that stays here in a quarter on the outside compound. They have 3 little boys and I spent some time talking to two of them today, actually about Hindi films but later ending on a very serious topic about the importance of school.
I am glad I met this family because I had been wondering how love exists here, in what form, what nature. Is it I love you because you are my husband, or I love you because I love you?…..I had somehow come to a conclusion that love was founded based on the very fact of a relationship. I wondered how films of love influenced their perception and expression of love. Mursal said to me once ‘In Afghanistan, no girlfriend, boyfriend’ All marriages are arranged, beginning with a long-lasting engagement, usually a buffer period to get to know each other, to meet, to talk, to fall in love before the real pit drop and bang! Game over. Haha. It is very interesting for me to see how this relationship develops over the engagement period; what love means, how love is expressed. I think some kindness and some physical attraction can go a long way into determining acceptance or not. I asked Mursal ‘What if the boy is bad, can you cancel your engagement’ She said "NO NO NOOOO, If you do that, all the people will say you’re bad.’ So I persisted ‘No but what if he is really a bad person.’ Then she said ‘Maybe you can. But most people in Afghanistan cannot.’ She was telling me about her engagement. She hated her fiancee and actually told him straight at his face until he cried. He was very persistent, very devoting and after awhile she found herself slowly falling in love. Now they are really in love with each other.
Actually ordinarily I would disagree with that conception of love. Perhaps I am too demanding to expect spiritual bond, mental connection and depths so unexpected, that each day it grows. It is is even hard to explain how I view love. But I am quick to note that my dismissal of their conception of love originates purely from the fact that I come from a different place. Maybe within the boundaries of what is permitted and what is not, THIS is love. This is how it begins. This is how it blossoms. This is how it is expressed. In Afghanistan. They can only act and react within their boundaries and if they cannot see beyond those boundaries then that is it. That is love. But still I am demeaning their conception by saying in my society, or where I come from, our boundaries exceed, we know more, so we know more about love…Otherwise could I explain that my society, or amongst my people, we have made everything complex. Love is not just physical attraction. Love is spiritual. Love is an extraordinary bond that occurs between soulmates. Maybe the communicative depths, the spiritual longevity, the telepathic knowing and intuition is just what we (‘my society’) make up in order to categorise further what is love, what is not as a basis of judgment.
Habir, the father of the family, is different. I noticed when his wife was sleeping, he took the initiative to wash the dishes for her. He looks after the children and plays with them. Rabia said to me today whilst I was cooking for us ‘Habir is a very good husband.’ When she had burnt herself with hot oil this afternoon, he touched her by her shoulder blade and later her head as he looked at it and later jokingly dismissed it lovingly. It’s nice to see them together. It’s not Hollywood. It’s not Bollywood. There is deep concern and genuine care. Maybe it doesn’t take spiritual bonding or telepathic knowing. Maybe these simple gestures themselves are very telling about love. And it is nice to see this in Afghanistan.