Afghan encounter Print E-mail
Dear Ones,
Mrs Laura Bush Jnr's failure to spot a woman enshrouded in a burqa during her recent flit to Afghanistan [read *Kabul*] becomes increasingly less credible with each passing day, but read the below item as a possible explanation for her myopia i.e. that Mrs Bush's visit was restricted to a Kabul park where women and girls are safe to shed their burqas on a once per week basis!?!?! - Lynette
The Deccan Herald -- London -- Wednesday  June 1 2005

Afghan encounter
By Maya Jayapal
Torn by decades of war,Afghanistan is a lesson for those who take freedom for granted

There were scores of them. Afghan women of all ages. Women with haunted eyes that had seen the atrocities of war and deprivation for the last three years, women who had seen their husbands and brothers and fathers disappear into the maws of death, young women escaping from the atmosphere at home, and girls out to just play on the swings.

They were in the Bagh-e-zenana in Kabul, a garden built by a king for his queens more than a century ago and now open to all women. On Fridays, the women could come here, throw back their burqas and enjoy themselves. Only males under twelve are allowed in. It was a treat to see the older women on the swings enjoying their outing. Elsewhere others had brought food and were picnicking on the grass. Hard worked mothers rested while older daughters looked after their siblings.

Our entry into the gardens created a mini-uproar. We were 5 of us — three Indians and two French women. They attached themselves to us with affection, touching curiosity. They talked about their fascination for Hindi movies, for Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan.

They had seen the movies and picked up the lyrics. Their Hindi was good, many had fled to Peshawar during the Taliban years and knew Urdu. They told us their dreams — to study, to become doctors and teachers, to rebuild their ravaged country, to become journalists so that the world could read about them. Some wanted ‘medicine’ so that they need not have 6 and 7 children. Some wanted to come to India to study. The young girls were beautifully made up, with kohl rimmed eyes and lovely rosy Afghan complexion enhancing their strong features. One of my friends had a digital camera and they giggled as she showed them their snaps.

We felt like pied pipers. They followed us, touched us, told us that they liked Indians, that Indian women were smart, that they would like to invite us for a meal, and took down our mobile numbers. They were starved for news about the outside world. They wanted exposure, the information, the warmth of other friendships.

It was their one day in the week that they did not need to wear a veil or burqua, or cover their arms. They could speak freely. They could laugh and tease each other and tell us their stories. Some of their stories moved us to tears. Like that of the woman whose husband had been jailed in a place she does not know, for an offence she has no idea about. She had five mouths to feed. It was their space and time. And we, who take our freedom to speak and dress and study for granted, were given the privilege of being there.