Everything was fine until that night.
We lived in one of the relatively large houses in the small and green village of Karokh. There was a water stream in front of our house and after the stream a large garden that belonged to one of the famous residents of the village. I remember when the fruits were ripening in the summer, we went to the orchards with my older brother and some other girls and boys of the village to pick pomegranates. One of the children was hooking his hands and the other was climbing the wall.
Doing these things belonged to the boys and the girls were responsible for guarding. If someone saw us doing this, not only would he punish us, but he would also reach our parents, and another punishment would be waiting for us at home. My father was a strong man with a long beard, thick eyebrows and big eyes in that bony face, he was not very angry, but his reputation was more important to him than anything else. So he reacted strongly in this matter. In addition to this, we were known as thieves in the village.
The yard of our house was very large, there were flower gardens on both sides, and the narrow path between them reached the hall of the house. There were large windows on the left side of the hall, and there were large niches next to each window. I woke up every morning with the sound of swans and roosters and looked at the flowers from the window.
My father used to show his happiness and sadness by playing songs from old records on the windowsill. Like other people, my father was one of the supporters of Ahmed Zahir, the most popular singer of that time. When my father was happy, he would whisper loudly Laili Laili Jan, and he would drown in his quiet songs when he was sad.
The biggest room in the house belonged to my father’s guests, since he was one of the elders of the village, we had guests most of the nights or he was a guest. On party nights, my mother spent the whole night cooking in the kitchen and serving my father’s guests. During the party nights, if my mother made a mistake, my father would scold her severely after the guests left.
It was very rare for my mother to fight with my father over an issue. My mother was a petite woman and shorter than my father. Massaging my mother’s feet after a night of work was with me and since I was not old enough to wash clothes, my mother would wash her dirty and black clothes. My mother always came out of the kitchen with wet eyes, the smell of smoke and coughing. And my father always left the house with clean and neat clothes that took an hour to iron because they were long, and waxing shoes, that I was responsible for waxing.
My father always takes my brother Mustafa with him when he goes out. My father taught Mustafa manly behavior, for example, he told him that a man’s words are one thing and he should never go back on what he has said once. And he also told him about the importance of a man’s pride and that he should never listen to a woman’s words because women are imperfect. I had heard the word “incomplete intellect” many times when my father told my mother, and I wondered why God created my intellect incomplete and if it is really incomplete.
As the days passed, my brother and I got older and my parents got older. In one night after a long war, the Taliban took over Afghanistan. We did not sleep that whole night because of the loud sound shooting. With the arrival of the Taliban, school doors were closed to girls and I could not study more than the fourth grade. I was not even allowed to go out alone anymore. Women could leave the house only if they had a necessary job with a mahram. Men’s times did not seem so good either. The Taliban forced men to dress the way they like, such as wearing a headscarf and having a long beard. Men spent most of their day listening to sermons in mosques. In the meantime, the Taliban also had their supporters and followers who they listened to.
After some time passed after the arrival of the Taliban, my father found out that Mustafa, who was no more than 18 years old, had also become a member of the Taliban and was doing what the Taliban said for Jihad and reaching heaven. He could hardly come home at night. My mother was very worried and afraid of losing Mustafa one day.
One day, Mustafa came home with white clothes and a handkerchief in his hand and gathered all his belongings. My mother tried to stop him by crying and wailing, but he talked about Jihad and dying in the way of God in order to reach heaven, and my mother’s cries could not stop him from going. And he has changed and no one can stop him. And my father did not try to stop him from going.
Nothing remained the same after Mustafa left. Every day my mother’s hair became whiter and she coughed much more than before. Most of the time, long after leaving the kitchen, her tears would flow for hours and she said the reason was smoke, but I knew it was because of Mustafa’s absence. She talks less. She was staring at something for a long time and tears were flowing from her eyes. My father was no longer that brave and strong man, his beard had become longer and whiter, and his face was wrinkled and sullen.
My mother and I were alone at home most of the time, my father spent the night outside the house. When he came, his clothes were dirty with a cigarette in his hand. Did he come to see if we are still alive or not? The flowers in the other house had faded. And I didn’t want to wake up anymore. I was tired of breathing. I couldn’t do anything except cry quietly and secretly. One day, something I was afraid of happened. My mother did not wake up again. He left me alone with all the pain. I saw my father for the last time at my mother’s funeral. They said the reason for my mother’s death was her cough, but I knew separation from Mustafa killed her.
31 May, 2023