This is an excerpt from an email dated 13/11/2010.
I was talking about volunteer work. I was also very disconcerted about the need for the media/journalists/interviews to inflate what I do in order to sell their stories. I keep telling them that the key feature and objective of a story piece should be to benefit the cause supported or to illuminate fresh perspectives that bring out alternative narratives, stories of heroes and not victims, accounts that inspire more role models amongst us. Do not portray me as though I were some kind of hero. So many turned away at my disapproval of their story angles
My point was – the fact of my work – doesn’t necessarily demonstrate my character/passion. [I am so much more and less than this]. Do not inflate it disproportionately. It was hardly a sacrifice on my part [to volunteer/work pro bono in Afghanistan]. They [journalists/interviewers] were disappointed. ‘So why do you do what you do?’ I said ‘For many reasons – all of which benefits them and me“. “What then is the underlying reason?” — I love people. I have a lot of love for people. But as much as I give, I also receive.
I am not unusually or unreasonably rebellious on this point. I only ask for any one who publishes or tells a story about ‘me’ to narrate a more fluid account of what I do and why I do it; to narrate it in a way that sits outside the rigid and fictitious dichotomy of ‘the saviour’ and ‘the oppressed’, especially when it concerns Afghanistan, women and children.
Inflated accounts make me cringe. I don’t need to be paraded.
I will tell you a story that makes me feel proud, that moves me. My brother sometimes end work at 12am. The bookshop gives him a cab voucher to take a cab back because bus/train services no long operate after hours. Taxi drivers work really hard. Some hardly take a break, because losing a patron could mean losing 10-20 dollars for every 15-30mins. Taxi fares include a midnight charge past 11pm. Some work over night throughout the night. They are often at most risk of accidents. I know it. My father is a taxi driver. He has been in a serious accident that put him out of work for 2 months. Do you know what Amir does? He tells the taxi drivers that they can utilize his cab voucher and take the longest route, drive everywhere, all around, to make their money for the night. One taxi driver after dropping him off, said, “I made my money for the night. Now I am going to go home to sleep. Thank you very much ah.” My brother doesn’t do it because he feels for my father – actually he doesn’t – parents divorced when he was only 5 so he has almost no memory of papa. My brother does it because he has a big kind heart. At 12am, on a standing job at the bookshop, working for 8-9 hours — Amir is tired too. But if it means the longer ride will earn more money for the taxi Uncle, he’ll do it.