Sunday, July 2, was the fifth day of Eid al-Adha in Afghanistan, and I had to go outside to pay the electricity bill. As I reached the bank, I saw a lot of people waiting in line to do so in the heat of the sun. I stood in line like hundreds of others.
I noticed a middle-aged man sitting in the corner under the weeping willow tree, thinking about what? I was about to ask and decided to write a story about him.
“Salaam, dear uncle”, I said, approaching the man. “How are you doing?”
He turned his head towards me and replied, “Alaikum Salaam. Thank you.”
I could see from his appearance that he was a simple worker. Then I decided to have a little chat with him and ask him about his life under the shadow of the Taliban.
“Kaka jan (dear uncle), what time did you get here?” I asked him out of curiosity in order to open the window of conversation.
His voice, just like his appearance, narrates the harsh situation and the cowardice of life.
“Just two hours ago, I got here,” the uncle said in a faint, depressed voice. “The bank was still closed.”
“Is it always so crowded? Like today?” I asked him, sitting against the wall.
For me, it was the first time since the Taliban swept back to power in August 2021 that I went to a bank to pay the power bill.
“Yeah, it’s very crowded,” he said, nodding. The beads of sweat on his wrinkled brow had a slight jerk. “The other banks are all still closed.” I, too, might refer to another bank, like some other people. This bank is not working very fast.”
The uncle was talking very quietly, showing less interest in chatting with others.
“Kaka jan, what do you do?” I asked him, nodding in response to his previous words. “How was the Eid?”
He intentionally skipped my first question, jumping to the second as I asked him: “Eid was nothing, just like other ordinary days. Hot and boring routine. What’s the point of Eid when most people don’t feel it is an Eid ceremony? People—the majority of them—even couldn’t do Qurbani. Last year was not bad. But this year was a disaster. I saw no one who has done Qurbani.”
Then he grabbed the grey hem of his scarf around his frail neck and started wiping the stingy beads of sweat on his forehead and bony cheeks. He added, “For me, it was just another ordinary day. Getting out of bed and going to work Whereas there is—no ghareebi, no work. Poverty is the second-biggest monster here after the Taliban. In this heat, what do you expect?”
Saying that, and he was silent. And I did not ask him anything anymore, as Afghanistani people say: “Anche ayan ast, che hajat be bayan.” What is clear is that it is all there.