just back from a most incredible four days in bamyan.

kabul, like washington, like many other political city is full of intrigue and stupidity and dishonesty and vacuous posturing and can make a cynic out of one. this is why it is important to get out of it every few weeks. but not the kind of getting out that many people here do, i.e. go off on r&rs out to some resort or to dubai. rather, get out to the field to recharge the waning batteries of optimism and idealism and a sense of purpose.

to see that amid all that goes wrong -which the media never misses on- so much is going right, and that it is to the credit of the people, the ordinary folks, who in most cases barely have enough to get by but at the same time put up to 70% of the costs of development projects and invest in their and their children’s future. people who have a humble rural folk wisdom that can touch you unlike anything you have heard or read or discussed.

people who -in the case of bamyan- have no idea why a government that they accept and back and support ignores them while they inhabit a province so secure you could backpack through it and hitch rides from the locals and stay in their homes for the night, while they are so deeply mired in poverty that by barney rubin’s reasoning they should cultivate the highest harvest of afghanistan’s opium -but still don’t; these people have not the slightest idea why they are being neglected in development and are relegated to carving a living for themselves out of the forbidding cliffs and the rocky valleys to which geography and history have conspired together to imprison them in, and why after so many years and so many billions of development dollars, they have yet to experience a paved road, or a hospital birth.

still they persevere and salute the government cars and un vehicles driving through and covering them up all in dust, and they share the cream and quroot and sheep milk that they have. and on occasion, when it gets really frustrating, they take up not arms and ammunitions, but working tools and in what is an unprecedented example of civic action and silent protest in this country, mud-asphalt their roads to try to call attention to their miserable lot. which of course this action in itself gets ignored by all involved, including the kabul-bound western media which is developing an unhealthy fetishism of sorts with security and the shia law.

also, the wow moment was when our car descended that last hill and started climbing down into the band-e-amir lake. it was earth day, and the lake had been just pronounced a national park. without design, we happened to be the first people to visit it after this honorific, and one of the first people this year after the snows have melted and the lake has opened up.

another memorable moment was when i stood at the foot of the large buddha and looked up at the blasted cliff, where the buddha once stood in all majesty and serenity that two centuries of careful craftsmanship could conjure up, and my heart ached with a deep sorrow and an intense anger.

i saw ibrahim by the lake and asked him a few questions. he and his family go into a torpor of sorts during the winter and have to stock up on everything, because for a good 4 months they cannot get out to either bamyan or yakawlang. he is a returned refugee who has had to settle by the lake, landless, jobless, and very thin. i have no idea how he feeds his family. i hope that with the tourists coming in, he can sell some milk and cheese and perhaps a lamb or two. he was thankful for the national park status and thought it would bring good changes. he also offered our convoy bread and shelter for the night as it was getting dark and cold in the afternoon, but we had to leave for an important meeting back in the city. he was intimidated by those words -important and meeting- and wished us well, and waved until we could not see him and his children and their tiny flock of sheep from the rear window, and all that was visible was the warmth of the sitting sun’s glow on the tall cliffs of the lakeside.

~ by safrang on April 25, 2009.

5 Responses to “bamyan”

  1. This is so moving.. you brought tears to my eyes.. Yeah, ordinary and forgotten people do most of the job and they have so much to teach to us in their simple lifes and through the wisdom that we can never offer as much to them…
    Government’s neglect of Bamyan makes me really really angry.. I wonder what can be done to change this.

  2. Confession: I was once part of a bunch that only caused more dust on their dust-chopped hands and faces. SUVs and often useless speed. It was a while ago.One would have thought things have changed.
    Back then some prided themselves on how they were about to asphalt two mile of a road. I left wondering how many miles these people would get if they were also into IEDs and shit.
    As for band-e-amir, for some reason I came back thinking we over-rate it. Or maybe it was that I was with a bunch who couldn’t stop making absurd claims on Afghanistan’s relative ‘beauty’-and so mine was probably a reaction to their exaggerations.

  3. “I left wondering how many miles these people would get if they were also into IEDs and shit.”

    Oh the irony. Just goes to show how much development work really is based on a security calculus, rather than human need. Sad indeed.

  4. […] development, injustice and inequality Jump to Comments Hamesha  just wrote about his recent trip to Bamyan. to see that amid all that goes wrong -which the media never misses on- so much is going right, and […]

  5. Depressing stuff aside, oohhh, this looks lovely.

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