My Father’s Story

By knowing our parents, we can better know ourselves. For this reason, I went to my father and asked him to tell me about his life and parents. I learned many things from what my father said about his life and I hope you also learn something. I write this in my father’s own words:

During my childhood, there were no vaccines for diseases such as small-pox, chicken-pox and measles. These diseases killed lots of children. For example from eight or ten children in a family, only three or four remained. In order to be safe, my family chose my name, which means victory, from the holy Quran, but my family and friends called me Nassro. Now everyone calls me Hajj Baba because I went to Makah, and I am old.

I was born in a green, beautiful village in 1944. My father was the village’s landlord, so we were almost rich and had lots of lands and gardens, most of which came from my grandparents.

My father had a very sad death, because in that time we did not have doctors. There were some people who did not study at all yet treated the patients. When one of these “doctors” was injecting medicine into my father, he died, even though he was not very sick.

I do not know if I did something very special during my life time. But as a good teacher, I educated lots of students who have become doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers and so on.

The world is completely different from when I was a child. During my time, we did not have electricity. Instead, we used very simple lamps that we called “mouse lights.” These were cups full of mando oil and they had a hole with a cotton wick, which was unhealthy because it was very smoky. It is very interesting to know how we got mando and sesame oil. It was not easy; we used strong camels or oxen to make the oil, and we chose a very dark place with little air, a big smooth round stone at the middle and a strong rope. When the animals went around the stone, the force made the oil. We used the leftovers to feed our animals during the winter.

We did not have cars; instead we used animals for transportation. We made fires to cook food because we did not have gas. Most of the time, we exchanged things for goods. If we wanted to buy one kilo of sugar instead of paying money, we paid two kilos of wheat.

As a child, my favorite games were marbles and flying kites. Sometimes we went swimming. My school was good. Most of my teachers were women and my English teacher was from England. I was a good student, especially in mathematics. I remember a geometry exam which was very difficult; only one student passed and that was me! During the examinations, I went to our garden and studied there. Once villagers told my father not to let me to study a lot, otherwise I would become crazy. After graduating from high school, I wanted to leave the country and go to college, but unfortunately my father’s death damaged my dreams and goals. My eldest brother left the family and went to the city to get married. His first wife was chosen by my mother and she was older than him. He did not love his wife and wanted to remarry.

My mother told me: “If you leave home, who will take care of your brother, sister and sister-in-law?” In that moment it was very difficult for me to decide. College was ready for me and my dream was to become a doctor. But I sacrificed my dreams for my family.

I started to teach in the country and opened a shop during the afternoon. After a while my mother decided I should get married. She told me she would find the most beautiful girl and she was right. The first time that I met your mother, she was only fourteen years old; very beautiful, but skinny. We were engaged for four months. Even though she was living at the city, I tried to see her two or three times per week. I will never forget when I met your mom for the first time. When I went to the room, I saw that she had one leg. I became surprised that she had only one leg. Suddenly I remembered that people say “when you meet your wife or husband for the first time and tread on her or his foot, you will be the head and master of the family.” Then I went and pushed her and tread on her foot.

Weddings in my time were very interesting. Three days before the wedding, we invited all our relatives and neighbors; we had several parties such as henna bandan. One day before our wedding, the bridegroom’s family went to the bride’s home with country music and a horse which was covered with a green shawl and a woman as bridesmaid. The bridegroom was on another horse. They moved through the country’s alleys with dancers and country musicians in front of them. After that, they went to the bridegroom’s house, where they prepared a lunch of meat soup, salad and homemade bread. All the people sat in straight lines and every three persons ate from one big bowl. They slid the bread into the bowl and started to eat with their hands. At the end they divided the meat between them. Women and men did not celebrate together.

When I look back, I see that many things happened to my life and I become surprised that I am alive. After the coup d’état in 1979, people started to hate the government. Some uneducated people started to kill teachers. One day I was at school when two persons came and took me with them. I knew they would kill me. I had two children and your mother was pregnant at that time. Those people closed my eyes and hands, and then they took me to a garden and put me in a hole. I was feeling that I would be killed.

There were some people in that garden and one of them knew me. That person left the others and went to the village and told the villagers I was in danger. The village’s old and young people came and told the killers: “We want our teacher.” They saved my life. After they uncovered my eyes, for a while I could not see anything. We had to leave our village when the war started in 1979. In the city, we lived with my father- in-law until I could buy a piece of land and build a house which we are still living in.

Another time during the Taliban regime, I was working as a clerk because the Taliban wanted the teachers to teach only religious subjects. They did not let me teach mathematics, so I lost my job. Another time, I came home from work, and my son, who is a mechanic, told me that maybe that night the Taliban would come and arrest him. When I asked him the reason, he said that when he was fixing his friend’s car, they were listening to music and suddenly one Talib came. “I cut the line of the tape. The Talib tried to turn on the tape, and when he could not, he got angry and said something bad to us and wanted to take us to the jail. We got mad and hit him.”

He was right; it was night when the Taliban came. I told my son he should run away. When the Taliban came, I said that he was at his aunt’s home. They did not trust me and checked the home. When they could not find Ali, they told me: “We will take you with us until your son comes.” There was another man in the jail who had tried to stop their fight, but the Taliban arrested him and by morning they were betting that he would tell where my son’s friend was. The Taliban did not hit me because they respected old people.

That was a very bad night for me, I could not sleep till morning because the Taliban are very wild people. If they killed my son, no one would question them. They killed people who did not obey them. After a day, Ali came, and when I saw him, I became more worried. The Taliban asked my son about his friend’s address, but he refused to say, because he was his friend. Finally the Taliban found my son’s friend. After a week, because of my effort, Taliban forgave my son and his friend had to pay lots of money to save his life. It was the same year when the Taliban started to put headmasters in jail for a long time without any reason. My nephew was a leader. No one wanted to help him, but I brought him home and hid him. If the Taliban knew that, they would have killed both of us.

The most important thing that ever happened in my life was when the president of Afghanistan, Dr. Najibullah, selected the best six teachers in Herat city and they chose me. I got the scholarship to go to Rashia, but your mother did not let me go.

Now I am so happy. I am so proud of my children. I will not be worried when I die, because I am sure that all my children can take care of themselves.

By Marzia


8 responses to “My Father’s Story

  1. I think the most impressive thing about this story is the dedication you have to your family. It’s simply amazing.

  2. Very good writing. Thank you very much.

  3. I love that you have interviewed your father and then written his biography, his story. He is a very brave man and a good man. I have been knitting for the people in Afghanistan and I feel very close to them, to those who receive my gifts, when I read about their lives, their struggles. Thank you for your well-written message.

  4. Thank you for sharing your father’s story. What amazing details you included. He sounds like a very strong man, and you must be strong to be able to interview him and write all this down.

  5. I like your description of your father. As a writer I am most intrigued by the idea the neighbor expressed–that if your father studied too hard, he would go crazy. I am also intrigued with the story of his being put in the hole, and wondered if that could be developed a bit more.
    It seems to be an important moment.
    You are writing well; thanks for sharing these words.

  6. What a wonderful job you’ve done of writing about your father’s life! Even though he has had many bad things happen to him he still finds the positive in the world — through his wife, his children and his job. He is an inspiration!

  7. What a powerful exercise — to hear your own father tell his story. Thank you for sharing it. You and he both seem like courageous people.

  8. This is amazing. You write beautifully, and it was so interesting to read about the hardships your father has endured. One usually thinks of the plight of women in Afghanistan; men have struggled as well.

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