#21 Life in Afghanistan :: FatimaPosted: October 21, 2013
Today we have a guest post from a woman who is very special to me, a woman who has taught me so much over the years, who has loved and supported me through much of life, who has set me a great example, and who loves the Afghan people so deeply. This woman is my mother. My parents also spent several years in Afghanistan, and it was my honor to be able to ask my mom to share a story here with you all.
The gate bell rang, I glanced at my watch as I grabbed the pink chAdar (head covering ) I had chosen for today, 7:45 am. I knew who it would be and as the front door scraped open across the tiled floor I heard the familiar rustle of my cleaning lady’s burqa as she removed it & hung it on the coat hook. As always I hurried into the kitchen to greet Fatima* quickly before dashing out to my office, I would normally see her standing by the sink or the stove preparing some green tea to revive her after the long journey to my house, which involves a long walk followed by a ‘liney’ ride (shared mini bus, where often up to 25-30 people will squeeze into a fifteen seat bus) followed by another long walk.
“Salam Alekum” I sang out walking towards the kitchen – then, “oh Fatima, what is the matter?” I asked. Her already diminutive figure seemed further shrunken as she sat at the table with hunched over shoulders, gently shaking and head bowed low. Her small, strong, rough hands rested in her lap but fidgeted continuously with a piece of old cloth, twisting and twisting it. She lifted it to her face and dabbed her eyes.
I took her in my arms lifting her into a hug, just holding her before asking again what the trouble was. She was as stalwart as ever and tried to make light of it, apologizing for being a nuisance. I dismissed her protestations, insisted she sat back down as I prepared tea for us both. Slowly with encouragement her story unraveled.
One of Fatima’s daughters was living in Kabul and had recently given birth to twins. She now had six children. She had become weak and in pain. Her hands were constantly cramping into a claw shape leaving her unable to get her chores done or care for her small children confidently. On top of this her husband was cruelly demanding, expecting her to behave better and achieve more while he was away working. Reluctantly but seeing no other alternative she had called her mum. Fatima wasn’t sure what to do but just knew she longed to be with her daughter and help her. She wept some more as she rued her own ignorance of years earlier in allowing her daughter to be given in marriage at the age of just fourteen! Fatima had only more recently understood some of the implications of having done that and would have given the world to be able to turn the clock back.
An hour later we had agreed that Fatima would be on the bus to Kabul the next day. Her time away from work was given as holiday so she wouldn’t lose her precious few pounds earning and the bus fare was covered by it being an early Eid gift. This meant she could go feeling free from obligation.
On her return two weeks later she shared the wonderful news that following complete rest, good nutritious food, some hand massages with a simple moisturizer (I had plenty, it was easy to share what for most Afghan ladies is a luxury), her daughter was back to health and strength.
However, Fatima is under no illusion that everything will suddenly be ‘right’ in that poor Kabul home. The deep sorrow of her young daughter’s plight will forever sit heavily upon her shoulders and her heart.
*Name changed to protect identities
This is part of the 31 Day series