Location: A little town in the Eastern part of Afghanistan…
Time: 10.00 pm on a cold Wednesday night, in the latter half of 2003
Precise details- Unnecessary…
Six American soldiers armed heavily and protected from head to toe with expensive gears and armors barged in to an old, modest house, in the silence of the night, in the hopes of nagging down, whom they believed, was one of the most wanted terrorists and a prominent member of the Al Qaeda, having links with some members of the Afghan Taliban. Expecting to find heavily armed terrorists within the house, ready to strike at them, all that the soldiers managed to find was a helpless family of five…the soldiers having missed the presence of a sixth under a blanket.
A man in his early thirties, a pudgy woman in her fifties, an old man in his sixties, with just one leg, lying in a cot in a corner, a girl in her mid-twenties and a five year old girl were the ones to be seen residing in the room. A couple of soldiers pounced at the younger man, sensing that if anybody in that room was to commit any acts of terror and present any danger to the soldiers there, it was him.
The man, as expected, tried to resist the soldiers, as any sane human would when threatened and attacked by another. The older woman, who was the mother to the struggling man, tried to stop the soldiers from hurting her son, but she was pushed aside. She was made to sit down in a corner where she kept yelling something angrily in Pashto. The soldiers were quite annoyed by her cries, but tried best to ignore her.
The younger woman in the room also let out a cry, but it wasn’t of anger or of plea, but one of panic and fear. She was literally trembling at the sudden appearance of the soldiers out of nowhere and the unwarranted attack on her husband. One soldier moved closer to the bed where she was lying on, on the floor and she hurriedly pushed him, a little further away, with all her strength. The offended soldier raised his gun with the assumption that the woman was trying to use some weapon of hers on him, but was quick to lower his own weapon, when he saw the wailing woman, moving aside a blanket and picking up a three month old baby in her arms.
Once she picked up the baby, the young woman crawled to the foot of the cot, where her mother in law had already been made to sit, still continuing with her curses and demands for her son to be let go. Along with the baby, the young woman also dragged with her a five year old girl, who was as puzzled and confused as the other members of her family and petrified beyond explanation. She too sat beside her mother, hugging her.
The old man in the cot was also letting out cries, but it seemed more threatening and authoritative than the ladies in the house. He threw a jug of water, which was next to him on a small table, onto one of the soldiers, who came towards the man with the intention to smash him with the butt of his gun, but slowed down on noticing the missing leg. He walked back knowing that the old man presented no real threat to them.
The younger man was manhandled by two soldiers, as he protested hard to protect his family, while two other soldiers moved into the other two rooms of the tiny house to investigate if any more people were hiding anywhere and if there were any weapons. They returned back with the confirmation that there was no one else in the house or any object of danger. The man kept shoving the soldiers, who were trying to hold him down and he even came close to punching one of the soldiers. But the men in armor were quick to thrust him towards the ground, drag him onto the other side of the same room and hold him against the floor with a gun pointed at his head.
One soldier came close to the man and began his enquiry mentioning the name of the terrorist they’ve come looking for. This enquiry shouldn’t have lasted long, as the man being questioned did not know English and the soldier asking the questions did not know Pashto, but it did last longer than it should have. The wailing of the older woman from the corner, the curses and swears of the one legged old man on the cot and the confused replies of the man being questioned, along with questioning western soldier chased the silence of the night from the room. Added to that was the crying of the baby, who seemed to have been woken up by all the chaos in the room. If anyone in that room was said to have remained silent, it was the five year old girl, but her silence was not one to be admired, as it was not a silence born out of calmness, but of terror.
Ten minutes later, a couple more soldiers entered the house and along with them came another heavily armored man, but with no uniform or weapons. He was the translator, a local man, fluent in both English and Pashto, ’made’ to ‘aid’ the American army. His enquiry was much shorter and he confirmed that the man being questioned wasn’t the one they were looking for. But his words did not give enough confidence to the other soldiers there. They let go of the man, only when one of the newly arrived soldiers picked a photograph from his backpack for identification and also spoke over a satellite phone to his senior, several miles away, to make sure that they weren’t dealing with anyone dangerous there. They understood that the house did not house any terrorists and the people there were ordinary civilians. The soldiers then shook the hand of the man, who they had just overpowered a few minutes back, said a simple sorry and walked out of the house to their next target location, leaving the members of the innocent family, both relieved and stressed…
The one of beauty…
Jameel Rahimi was named so for the beautiful features he was born with, big round eyes, dense, curly black hair, lips pinker than the summer rose, skin softer than velvet and fairer than the morning sun. But the path laid to him by fate did not allow the beauty to last, except in his name. His only fault being born to a very ambitious father, whose fortunes did not cooperate with his ambitions. The failures in his various business ventures invited great deals of debts, which brought with it tremendous pressure and a greater need for him to try a bigger business venture to quickly earn large sums of money to clear off the debts, which inadvertently failed…the vicious cycle continuing. Beyond a certain point the old man gave up on his desires, decided to do a modest yet stable job and clear as many debts as possible, before he met with an accident and lost his leg. The entire burden of taking care of the family and the clearing of the debts fell on young Jameel, twenty one years old then. His mother had great ambitions for him even when he was a child and despite them not being supremely wealthy, she did believe that some business venture of her husband would succeed and they would have enough money to send Jameel abroad to study. Success never came and the mother’s wish never got fulfilled.
Jameel had been greatly inspired by his mother’s words of sending him to a world class university in a distant new land, to study and pave way for a better life for them all. For most of his teen years, Jameel had spent much of his time dreaming on visiting faraway lands, learning new things, understanding new cultures, interacting with people from different races and backgrounds, getting admitted to a world renowned university, studying hard, getting a degree, getting a high paying job, buying a house both in that exotic land and one in his home town, taking his family on a world tour and settling down once again back in his town with a whole lot of money. He did not even worry that he did not know English and could probably not survive even for a day in the countries that he wished to visit. But that did not matter for long as his dreams got crushed with the accident that had happened to his father. Despite his father having a lot of debts, both Jameel and his mother had great confidence that he would eventually clear them all off with one of his businesses succeeding, but the day his mini truck had crashed against a tanker lorry, their hopes had crashed as well.
Not only did the family already have a lot of debts to deal with, but the accident caused them to get more loans to treat the critically injured father. The loss of their mini truck did not help their cause as well and before Jameel could even realise what his family was going through, they had debts worth eight hundred thousand Afghan Afghanis. Jameel, a twenty one year old man with no knowledge or experience in any of his father’s businesses, no influence in the society, no contacts to bank on, no rich friends for support and no clue on how to survive in the outside world, was thrust into the eye of the storm. He did not falter however…He took all the challenges in his stride and was willing to learn from it all. He wasn’t ashamed anywhere to say that he did not know anything and he never pretended to know everything either. He was a twenty one year old youngster but his parents hadn’t allowed him to do any house hold chores or hadn’ left him a lot outside either before. So Jameel wasn’t in anyway street-smart and did not really know how to survive on his own. Even common things that people his age were expected to know, weren’t known by him.
He learnt everything without any hesitation and he did not care for anyone who said that they were surprised to see such an ignorant ‘grown-up’. He knew he was still a child on the inside, but tried his best to turn into an adult. He joined as a normal clerk in one of his father’s friend’s textile shop, where he learnt not just the clerical job, but also everything about the textile industry. Towards the evenings he worked in a restaurant as an accountant. One thing that Jameel was good at was Math and he used it everywhere he could. Two jobs each day and in less than a year and a half he had enough money to pay off the loans received for his father’s treatment. His father was saved, but he had lost a leg and couldn’t move around as freely as he used to because of some severe injury to his spine. So he became, in a way, useless. Jameel did not mind having him and felt that his sheer presence provided him a great deal of moral strength. Three more years later, he had managed to earn enough money to clear off most of his father’s other debts. His family was much more relaxed and his mother was then aiming to get Jameel married.
Jameel however was not really happy with his life. This wasn’t the sort of life he had envisioned himself to be in and he wasn’t pleased about it. But he did not complain about anything on the outside. He had a lot of complexes as well. He had not gone to a college and he did not have a degree. This was a major complex he had. His parents had asked him to remain patient and at home, right after his school, so that they could arrange some money and send him abroad for studies, instead of making him join a local college. What was expected to happen in four months, did not happen even after three years till the old man’s accident had occurred and Jameel’s life took a completely unexpected turn. Whichever job he went to, he was asked for a degree and he did not have one. He still got the job, but he wasn’t paid as much as he should have been paid, just because he did not hold a degree. People with degrees, who did a poorer job than him, received almost three times more salary just because they had a piece of paper in their hands. Jameel had been displeased about this and had always felt inferior before others with degrees. He did not feel any shame to admit he did not know anything and learn from the start, but he still did have an inferiority complex due to his lack of a degree and lack of English knowledge.
Adding to this was the loss of beauty he was renowned for. As a baby, as a young kid, even as a teenager, he was always thought to be handsome looking by his parents, relatives, his friends in school and even his teachers. He had gotten into many school plays just because he had looked good, even though he couldn’t even utter a single dialogue in his own native Pashto. His memory was poor or that’s what he thought about himself, but it was more of stage fright than poor memory. However as he had gotten older and more pressure situations had begun mounting on him, he began to lose all that his mother had been so proud of. Despite seeming to not be bothered too much by the people around him and the conditions he was pushed into, he was in no way stoic. Pressure did get to him, he was just good at pretending he wasn’t. His hair on his head began to recede but his hair on the face began to increase. He was working non-stop and was travelling from one place of work to another under the hot sun, making him lose his fairness as well. A poor mental state often was cited for loss of body weight, but in Jameel’s case, he was just getting thicker faster. He did not care to maintain his health, as he had no time for that. He did not in any way work out and food was his only real pleasure in life. Whenever his stomach seemed full, he felt his heart to be too, but that vacuum in his heart could never be filled.
Along with food, he also resorted to smoking to relax his mind. He believed that smoking could help him think better and help him calm down, just because his fellow workers, who were smokers themselves, had said so and soon he was addicted to it. Nicotine stains blackened his rosy lips. Jameel at twenty five was nothing like what he had looked at age twenty one.
The mother’s constant attempts to convince Jameel to marry, forced him to reluctantly agree and just within a month from his acceptance to the idea of marriage, his mother had found the ‘perfect’ girl for him, according to her. Jameel however wasn’t sure. He did not even see her photograph and was very hesitant to meet her in person. He thought to himself that he wouldn’t have been so hesitant a few years earlier as he wasn’t the same physically then. He was no longer what his name suggested…he was not beautiful…
He said this to his mother when she wanted to know the reason for his hesitancy to meet the girl. His mother had just one thing to say to him. Real beauty in a man was not in his physical self, but in his mental strength, his ability to accept responsibility and stand up against all challenges. His mother was confident that her son was still ‘Jameel’ in that sense. He knew his mother was right and he promised himself that day that he would continue to fight any opposition that might come by his way and he would cross all obstacles for his family, for the girl he was to marry and for the children they were to bear. He would defend them and protect them in whichever way he could…When he had said that, he hadn’t expected a night like that to ever arrive in his life.