I lived in Delhi in the early nineties. My next-door neighbours were refugees from Afghanistan. They lived with their mom and younger brother. Their dad was in Kabul taking care of business and property.
They were moved to India for safety when it started raining bombs in Kabul. The girls, Naaz and Nazia, had had to drop out of high school. One of their friends, Zakia, had a little sister who had been to school only until second grade. All of us felt bad that she hadn’t got to experience normal life at all. The only life she knew was sitting around at Nazia’s, hanging out at the market or the park in the evening, and shopping for clothes and stuff. The brothers of all these girls moved around in a gang (a harmless one) dressed like Hindi movie stars. It wasn’t possible for them to go to school/college or to work, so this is how they passed time.
Their dad called from Kabul every few days. When I dropped in at Nazia’s one evening I found her alone at home, hugging a cushion and sobbing bitterly. I sat down on the gaddha beside her and held her close. After some time she told me her dad had not called for many days and she had no way of contacting him. She was worried about what this was doing to her mom too. She went into a flood of tears again. “Do you think he is . . .?” Though I tried to soothe her and raise a smile by saying “Tch, tch, now don’t be a giriyanok” – a word she often used when my infant son cried, meaning ‘cry-baby’ – I was worried too. But there was nothing we could do.
Nazia was just one of the few people I knew in this situation. These were ordinary kids with ordinary lives, till their country had got embroiled in a war. Now their lives were fraught with uncertainties and anxiety. Family members scattered, education disrupted, constant fear of losing loved ones left behind in Kabul. Living as refugees in a foreign country (though it was admirable how they picked up both English and Hindi) must have been so difficult. Those who stayed back in Kabul probably had it even worse.
A whole generation of kids grew up in Kabul exposed to violence. And those little kids are young adults today. Chaturasti? How are you? Do we really want this to happen to the little children growing up in Syria today?
I don’t understand international politics very well. All I know is that I don’t want a war anywhere on Earth. And I’m happy that a lot of people agree with me, regardless of what their Presidents want.