Behind the name of each place in my country there is a hidden story that people tell each other, and over time it transfers from one generation to the next and becomes a kind of knowledge, agreed upon by everyone. Some of these stories are good, pleasant, or sad, and sometimes hearing the tragic story behind the name of a place can hurt me a lot.
The first time I visited Mazar province I was with my parents and my sisters. My grandma lived there with my uncle’s family, in a street called the “Tuberose Alley.” The beauty of Mazar—its cold weather, its white and gray pigeons in the blue sky, its green, tall trees— had always attracted my attention, and I wanted to explore everywhere there.
When we reached the Tuberose Alley, the school bell rang and the students were happily leaving the school one after the other. I asked my father, “what is the name of this school?”
My father said, “its name is Sultan Razia and it is one of the most famous girls’ schools in Mazar e Sharif.” The Tuberose Alley was long and wide, lined by many buildings crowded along its length. There were some business centers and a tank for storing oil there too. As we entered the Tuberose Alley we saw a small stream in the middle of the alley, with houses on both sides. Far along, on a corner, there was either a garden or perhaps a yard with trees; it’s branches could be seen from far away.
It was quiet in the Tuberose Alley, and only the sound of the wind blowing in the trees and the chirping of song birds could be heard. Along its whole length green pine trees grew, and the alley was lined with buildings and houses. It was a gray, wet day and the smell of the pine trees mixing with the soil was unforgettable for me.
I wondered why do people call it the Tuberose Alley. What is the reason? Which story is behind it? Neither I nor my elder sisters knew the reason behind its name. After walking for a few minutes we reached our uncle’s house and our grandma happily hugged us, bringing us tea, dry fruits, and candy.
Sipping the tea, I asked my grandmother, “why do people call this the Tuberose Alley?”
She smiled and, after a short pause, began: “many years ago, there was a wide and beautiful garden, like a big forest in this place, and a stream watered every corner of it. There was a young man named Ahmad Baghban who was the gardener and he fell in love with the beautiful daughter of the garden’s owner; she was called Maryam. There were different flowers inside the garden with tall trees and among all the flowers Maryam loved the tuberose flowers the most. She was so beautiful and attractive, she could capture the young gardener’s heart with her smile. Every time that she came to the garden Ahmad gave her a bunch of the beautiful tuberose flowers, and soon Maryam fell in love with him. But her parents decided that she should marry the young son of a wealthy businessman who was selling carpets. Maryam did not love any man except Ahmad. She loved him with all her heart, so she rejected her rich suitor.
“When Maryam’s father learned of this he got very angry and he sent Maryam to Badakhshan Province to live with her grandparents, until she came to her senses. It was a difficult and tough time; every day she cried and told her family they must let her go, as she cannot live so far from her beloved. And neither would she marry another man; but no one listened to her, and one day Maryam committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree. When Ahmad heard about Maryam’s death, he had no hope left for living. Ahmad never married. He grew tuberose flowers everywhere in this place, until one day he ended his life under the tuberose flowers, too.
“Forever after, the tuberose flowers grew everywhere along the alley, which is filled with their perfume. Many years passed and people started building the tall buildings and removing the flowers and the trees. Now that earlier beauty is no more. There are no more tuberose flowers here. Neither is there a long stream nor that garden, but the love of Maryam and Ahmad still remains in this alley and with it the delightful fragrance of the tuberose flowers remains, reminding everyone that true love never ends.” When we heard grandma’s story my sisters and I grew silent and then we cried for the two lovers who couldn’t be together but their love became everlasting in the alley of the tuberose flower.
10 November, 2023