A memoir by Ahmad Murtaza
The author is currently writing a memoir about growing up in Afghanistan. This is an excerpt from that work which will be published at a later date.
The situation was getting worse. Kabul residents were worried and distracted. Most of our kin and neighbors asked my father to leave and some wanted his advice about where they could go because a huge, dark and depressing future was knocking at the doors of everyone in the country, especially in Kabul city. The Mujahidin were getting nearer and nearer to the capital and the government was heading downhill towards collapse. Employees were leaving their jobs especially if they were in the army.
One cloudy afternoon I was in our yard among all the greenery and wonderful yellow and white flowers that decorated this heavenly place. My parents were there, too, the wind blowing through my father’s hair, my mother sitting beside him, leaning on his arm. When I got closer, I could hear that they were arguing. My mother was insisting that he should leave his post with the army, something my father was strongly against.
“The government is not weak. It will continue for long time, and we in the army must stand and defend it. That is our sworn duty,” my father said.
My mother took a deep breath. “Then all will be well,” she said.
Several days passed and the government’s stability became increasingly precarious and questionable. My father received many warnings from various groups of Mujahidin. They were trying to make my father leave his job, but my father was still optimistic about the continuation of the government. Even though some parts of Kabul were captured by the Mujahidin, we could still hear the sound of guns and rockets.
One night when we were all sleeping, there was a horrible explosion that woke us. Shabnam was screaming. My mother held her close, but she would not stop. My father shouted orders for us to get inside the smallest room in the corner of the house. We all obeyed. Father took heavy luggage and stacked it in front of the window. Zia and Ahmad helped him. My mother prayed and encouraged us all to recite any verse of the holy Quran we could remember. In that frightening moment, I searched my memory, but it was like a bind spot and I could not think of a single word to pray. That night we all stayed in that small room and my father as always sacrificed his peace and comfort for us.
In the morning I woke up and I saw that even the hens, turkeys and Wolf were different, more wary and fearful. The yellow cat was hiding itself among the thick leaves of a blackberry bush, not moving or mewing at all. My father had gone out to see that what had been going on. Upon his return he and my mother had a brief conversation and she said that we would have to wait and see what would happen next. After my brothers came from school, they related different stories they had heard to my father. My father said that we had a new government now and he hoped we would have a better life with the Mujahidin.
My father left his post with the army, not wanting to work with the new regime. He bought a small blue container that he filled with clothes, including coats, took it to a busy street and began his new job as a clothing vendor. Although he was not an expert in his new business, he was happy with his job. My mother, as usual, went to her job as a midwife, however, she told my father that she was going to take me with her from then on.
In the morning while I was sleeping in a peaceful world of dreams, a lovely, warm hand rubbed my cheek. I opened my eyes and saw my mother.
“Let’s go my little body guard,” she said softly.
I got out of bed and got dressed, then went with my mother. She held my hand when we went outside. There were strange soldiers everywhere with long, unwashed hair and long beards and mustaches. They didn’t wear uniforms like soldiers I had seen before, but even in their traditional clothes with their trousers rolled above their ankles, I knew they were soldiers by the guns that hung from their shoulders, and their grim, angry faces.
As soon as we passed this group of Mujahidin, we encountered a new group. They wore different clothes with circular hats called Pakols and scarves around their necks, but they had the same long hair and beards and mumbled curses at us as we passed. My mother was scared, and she pulled my hand, telling me to move faster.
Finally, we reached the bus station. I was looking for the bus when a very loud, unfamiliar sound made me tremble. It was coming nearer, like some hellish monster and I envisioned being swallowed alive. I tried to pretend I was a strong boy, but the strange sound forced me to hug my mother. She told me that I should not be scared. It was not a monster of the kind I imagined, but six Mujahidin tanks crossing the road. It was the first time I had ever seen that.
About the author: Ahmad Murtaza Ahmadi is an Afghan currently living in Kabul. He started studying anthropology and politics when he was in the 5th class at Marefat Private High School and gradually became more eager to study. He graduated from Kateb University with a degree in Political Science in 2011. He has been working in the Ministry of Higher Education since 2012 and teaches English at Star Educational Society part time.