It is said that when you step in inside the country, a sign board will greet you, written something like the following-
It is absolutely forbidden to cross this border into Afghan territory.
In reality it is forbidden! Forbidden by nature, forbidden by weather and forbidden by man for centuries………
A stony land will welcome you once you are gone through the Khyber Pass- the gateway to the country from the side of Pakistan. For miles there are only stones and pebbles, without a trace of grass, without a trace of green, without a trace of moisture! It is one of the driest countries of the world. The extreme nature of the weather and topography, it seems, has been reflected into the weather of the people of Afghanistan!
But if you jump at such a conclusion too early, you will be wrong. At first glimpses it may seem that Afghans are rough in nature, but it is only their outward appearance. They have a warm heart inside their big strongly built body. They doesn’t only plat Buzkashi, they can also love.
And in this backdrop let us start with ‘The Poppy Field Diary’ by Carey Richard-the poetic story of a next door simple Afghan girl (she has some European connection too.)
I mentioned poetical. The memoir is full of poems, beautiful poems-only written in prose. It is the style that we can hardly found in run of the mill books. Probably such narration can only be generated when the writing is spontaneously flows from the deep inside of the heart- like the flow of Amu Darya! It is the poem of her hope and her despair, her joy and her tears, her love for the nature and for human. Simply speaking it is the story of her true self!
It is the story of her being what she was and what she is!
Let us quote a lovely narration from the epilogue of the book
“I thought my life would be romantic. I thought I would squander idyllic seasons in my medieval valley, among my books, surrounded by my children and my grandchildren. My life did not follow the course of my dreams.
I was wrong to dream. I was wrong about many things. But most of all, I was wrong about love.”
It washer beloved poppy field that gave her the feeling of adolescence, bestowed her with the blessing of meeting of her prince charming and………
And then started a wonderful journey of her life-where she grew up, where the first fragrance of her youth had blossomed and where she first had the wonderful feeling called love. Descriptions are sure to steal one’s mind. The first feeling of the addiction named love by her is described by the writer –
“My face was uncovered, and I knew a crimson blush was visible on my throat. This man was not my relative, and it was scandalous for me to stand before him uncovered…….I glanced around to see if anyone was watching us. He laughed-not in ridicule, but in an open, abandoned way that at once settled me, as if he’d cast some mystical charm over me. I smiled at him and felt a surge of desire. As surely as he had tamed the restless beauty he held by the reins, he had tamed my impatient heart.”
Description of Afghan rituals and customs are immaculate and perfect-a patriarch society has been drawn by the writer with the precision of an artist. The changing dynamics of Afghan society has also been detailed at length –particularly the difference when the Afghan people are under the influence of western culture and after the Islamic fundamentalists got powerful in the land locked country.
The story has some startling revelation described honestly that can degrade a woman’s soul in a male dominated society, have also been narrated at length. Take for example- the test to prove that a newly wed bride is virgin or not.
“I somehow remembered to use the handkerchief to clean up. By the candlelight, I could see there would be no need for the supplemental vial. On the next day, I gave the cloth to my mother –in –law, as was our custom. I knew the women in the family would pass the cloth around for careful examination, and all of them would commend me for my virtue. It was barbaric and embarrassing, but I knew it would be done.”
In Afghanistan, women are nearly devoid of any right. That coupled with domestic injustice make them totally non- liberated. However it is not only the problem of the country. In south and south East Asia the picture is more or less gloomy! So when her husband has got attracted to a foreigner she had nothing to do but to fume within her-
“Her long, slender figure gestured towards the object or that and her musical voice echoed softly in the cavernous rooms, accompanied by a faint jaunty tinkle of her bracelet. My husband followed her through rooms after rooms like a hungry puppy eagerly waiting for the next morsel to drop to the floor.”
(Now readers-just close your eyes and imagine the scene. You will just visualize it-just like me- such is the beauty of her narration!)
Dream may sometimes be proved real but sometimes it is as fragile as a glass. Her worlds fell like a pack of cards when she discovered the betrayal of her husband. his sons were with fundamentalists…………………..
And what the future beholds for her-our protagonist! Where this journey will take her? I have expressed enough of the book –if I divulge the story line further-I will surely spoil the joy of reading by the reader. It is better to enjoy the reading- reading that will give you the pleasure of wandering through the snow fall at Afghan Land, give you the pleasure of witnessing the mighty Hindu Kush range of mountains and ……..
Propel you to think that there is never an end –after every night comes the dawn!
Let us draw the conclusion of the critique of the book from the conclusion of the book itself-
“The land was beautiful in the way the aged men of my childhood had described it. The land was beautiful in the way I remembered it in my longings. Thick forest blanketed the mountain slopes and rich, green patchworks terraced the lower hills. In the valley, a strong and clear river descended through fertile pastures.
As I gazed on that land, I knew that my journey has ended. And I knew in the valley below, a man would mourn my departure. And I knew his love was true.”
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