The Sahars of Afghanistan

‘Hello ma’am, hope you are safe. I pray to God to protect you, your family and friends from Covid 19…’ was her last message dated April 30,2021 on Facebook Messenger when the devastating second wave of the coronavirus was ravaging the country.

It was a touching message fro Sahar, one of my old students, a post graduate student in Economics from Afghanistan. I remember Sahar as a simple girl  with a pleasant demeanor. Though her fundamentals in Economics were not strong, she lacked proficiency in language, she overcame  challenges with her dedication and sincerity and managed  a second division. After completing her education, Sahar returned to her homeland. Through my occasional interaction with her on social media, I learnt that she was decently placed in a government job in Kabul.

Sahar was one of the few Afghan students studying in my college. In fact, it has been not been long since Afghan girls have started coming to Chandigarh for higher education. Recalling my initial years as a lecturer in 80s; there were many foreign students from Fiji, Mauritius, Iran and also plenty of African students from Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa studying in our college. The African girls would stand out with their distinct physique and looks. I can’t forget how frail and pygmy I looked, in my early twenties, in front of those girls with athletic built. Over the past few years, the demography of international students has changed altogether, none from Africa but now the foreign students are mostly from SAARC nations especially Nepal, Bhutan and also Afghanistan. The Afghan girls look distinctive mainly because of their attire, a scarf fully covering their head and a loose garment over their dress.

Coming back to Sahar’s heartwarming message, I happened to read the text a couple of days later on 2 May when I checked messenger, which I seldom do. I responded immediately, thanked her for the good wishes and at the same time warned her of the notorious new strain of the virus. But there was no response. Suspecting something amiss, anxiously I checked her Facebook page but found her social media account deleted. (It occurred around the time when withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan began)

I had advised Sahar to beware  of the virus but little did I know that there was a bigger danger, the threat of Taliban looming large over Afghanistan. Ever since the American troops started withdrawing from Afghanistan, Taliban has been seizing control over many parts of the country unleashing a reign of terror . And now the barbaric fundamentalist forces are in control of the country.

I pray for peace in the land of Kabuliwala, a country which has a special place in my heart ever since I read Rabindranath Tagore’ iconic short story in my childhood. My heart goes out to Sahar, and all girls and women in Afghanistan whose safety and rights are at stake.  I wish their hard won rights and limited freedom gained over the past two decades is not snatched away. I sincerely hope that notable improvement in women’s education, job opportunities and civil liberties is not eroded. With prayers on my lips for the well-being of all the Sahars of Afghanistan,  I sign off.

(Published in The Tribune as MIDDLE on 18 August 2021)

24 Replies to “The Sahars of Afghanistan”

  1. We hope that reign of terror ends in Afghanistan and it moves towards development. All my prayers for the females of Afghanistan.

  2. Sehar had pleasant demeanour in college Later on active on social media Girls in Afghanistan May remain safe & happy under the New Rule Prayers for all the girls but for loving Sehar Tear rolled down Very touching and beautifully portrayed present scenario of Afghanistan and the questionable fate of girls

    1. Thank Mrs Chopra. With the fundamental extremist forces taking over Afghanistan, freedom and rights of women , even their security is at stake.We all empathise not just with our student but all the women of Afghanistan and pray for their well-being.

  3. Heartfelt prayers for Sahar and all the women of Afghanistan. Wish and pray they are not deprived of their hard earned freedom and rights !
    A touching and soulstirring article indeed

    1. Yes Mrs Dhawan , our prayers for all the girls and women of Afghanistan.
      The images and stories from Afghanistan are disturbing and hence the article …

  4. Hope for the safety and betterment of situation in Afghanistan !! May all the females of Afghanistan also enjoy freedom and sense of independence like us forever !! Rama ma’am Sahar is your student so I’m sure she must have learnt how to be a strong women from you hoping for her to be safe and sound !!

    1. Siddaq, always a pleasure to hear from my students… revives that beautiful bond.
      When I wrote the piece , there was threat of Taliban and now it is a reality…We all pray for our Sahar and all the Sahars of Afghanistan whose freedom and rights are at stake.

  5. Thank you so much .Feel humbled and honoured at the same time. Wish I knew whom I was responding to.
    Actually, one shudders at the plight of people in Afghanistan… All we can do is to pray for peace in Afghanistan and well-being of the people .

  6. Ohh,it’s very touching,ma’m.
    Various videos from Afghanistan are available on internet.Horrible! Your student Sehar is very intelligent, hardworking and honest girl. I forwarded this article to my family members also.
    I pray to God for situation to be normal .

    1. yes Garima , heart wrenching stories and images from Afghanistan tell a horrible story of the situation. I don’t have the heart to see those harrowing videos.All our prayers for the people of Afghanistan.
      Thanks for sharing the article.

  7. Most beautifully expressed prayer for women of Afganistan Rama your article leaves a deep impression on is just unforgettable. We feel we are sharing your experience. words come right fro your heart and touch redaer’s heart.We look foreard to your next article

  8. I was pained to read your article. There are fanatics and fundamentalists in all the religions which push us back. They are especially harsh on women. My sincere sympathy for Sehar and her family and many others who have been through this gory experience.

    1. Absolutely, there are fanatics in every religion who are out to spread terror among people . These fundamentalists are very harsh on women. One can’t help feeling sad with the turn of events in Afghanistan.

  9. You are so kind & vicarious. A teacher-student bond is eternal. Recently, I read a book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ that showed a teacher sharing life lessons with his student & I imagined you playing the role of teacher all the time. Along with routine lectures, you also taught several life lessons during your classes.

    Some highlights that stuck with me till date:
    1. Making real connections: Apart from the class performance, you also cared about student’s personal problems. Always empathetic & compassionate.
    2. Appreciation: I loved how you used to reward students for their good work with toffees/chocolates.
    3. I admire how punctual & responsible you were & always try to imbibe that.
    4. You were always cheerful & delivered every lecture with a smile on your face.

    You are my idol. ❤️

    1. Ananta ,there are tears in my eyes .. I am speechless .All I can say is it is all your love…
      OMG ! it is so interesting, highlights, the analysis with points …true of an economics student .
      You know Ananta , I didn’t do anything unusual , I guess when you are passionate abut your work and love your students , it comes naturally to you.It feels great that I have been able to pass on whatever values that I imbibed from my teachers and parents.All love and blessings.

  10. True, it is a distributing scenario in Afghanistan.The plight of common people especially of women is miserable. The Taliban control is likely to have serious ramifications for India.

    Thanks Aastha . It is a beautiful feeling, difficult to describe , to be complimented by your own student . In fact, Aastha I am indeed proud of you and your achievements as a young professional at NITI Aayog . Wish all your dreams come true.

  11. Brings out the poignancy and dread of a harsh reality beautifully and realistically.
    One feels so sad and helpless.

    1. Yes ma’am ,a harsh reality! Never thought it could happen in twenty-first century. nothing but helplessness !

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