Moment of Patience

Every morning when I start my day, I pray for the soul of my father. I put red roses on his grave and I kiss his grave soil and I think: where I kiss is heaven.

God bless my father. His holy words were as if from messengers: they remain in my mind. The friends my father chose for me will never leave me. Once he told me: “These friends won’t forget you until you forget them.” Those friends were the books he gave me.

My father once took a trip to India and he asked everyone what he should bring back. My brother asked for ice cream and my other brother wanted a very big kite. I asked my father to bring me some nice books.

I kept the books my father gave me in my only box of clothes. They were like undiscovered land for me. Now I know that when I was a child, my father gave me the chance to feel grown up. When I was in seventh grade, my father bought me a nice brown cupboard with many shelves. His gift was so dear to me. I shifted my books from my box to the cupboard, which had locks. I locked the books and hid the keys under a floorboard in my room. Locking things up, I felt like I had the keys to the White House! Eventually, I started a friendship with books. I studied some books which were interesting to me.

During the Taliban government, we were required to stay at home. Staying at home was disaster! I felt bored, tired, depressed. It was like tolerating a headache all the time. I was a bird in a golden cage. Our next door neighbor’s daughter spoke with me every day at four o’clock in the afternoon. She stood by the window and I put the ladder on the wall of the yard to see her and talk with her. Her name was Helaha. She told me that she was studying books and asked me if I studied books also. But Helaha talked about detective books and romantic novels. When we talked about becoming adults, Helaha said she wanted to marry a policeman: all the time she was talking about police worlds! Years passed, and she married a man but he was not a policeman.

On those black days, when I had to tolerate life like a broken hand, I can’t forget the kindness
of my father. At the beginning of every year when it was time for school to start, he would buy school supplies for my brothers, and he bought for me too. After five years of Taliban government, my room was like a bookstore. I kept all of my school supplies and I named my room “Knowledge House.” My father loved my room and he called me his “scholar daughter.” He said: “You won’t stay at home. You will study. Be hopeful.” But although I trusted my father, looking at my unused school supplies hurt me. It was like visiting an apple garden and the gardener forbids you to eat an apple.

Have you ever counted the seconds for your desires? You, my dear, I ask you, the reader of these lines? Have you ever counted seconds and moments? I honestly did.

One day I decided to go to the bazaar and go window shopping. I wore my burqa, a special hejab worn during Taliban time. It was called chadariy in Farsi. I went to my favorite place, a stationary store. It was not like a store; it was a very small, dusty shop and on the walls there were shelves for pens, pencils and similar items. The shopkeeper was very young man, but with a beard and a tired face. He looked like very old man. I was searching the shelves for something and suddenly I found it. I told myself, Roya! It is here, but why should I buy it? I will stay at home and who will ever know that I loved to study? Who will know, who will know?

I was talking to myself. The shopkeeper asked what I wanted. I asked about the price of some dusty old books on the shelf. He told me those books were not for sale. I was surprised. “What! For rent?” I asked him.

He replied: “Yes, each book rents for 1 Afghani (Afghanistan’s currency) for 24 hours.”

I felt very happy and asked: “Can I rent these books too? Do you want money in advance?” I was worried because I didn’t have the money for I went only to window shop!

“No, just don’t try to come every day, and don’t come alone. Taliban will hit you,” he replied.

I took a book from him and, with a world of desires, I went home. It was the first day I began to read novels. That book was named The Night Without End. After that, my mood changed. I read books like men use drugs, nonstop, paying rent to the shopkeeper. I wished I could meet these writers, I thought. I would love to share stories with them. But all the writers of the books I was reading had died long years ago!

Finally that dark history came to an end. I had been blind, and now I was released from that golden cage with a certificate of patience and tolerance. My father’s words came true and I began going to school. I began to buy books of all kinds, poems, novels, Islamic books, English books, psychology books and many others.

I loved classic poems like Rumi. I read books from Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Alphonse de Lamartine, Nietzsche. But now I love to read modern poem books because these writers talks about the present time, what we feel, touch, smell and taste. I wonder how they can so deeply discover our souls. I love Sohrab Sepehri’s poems in Farsi, and Forugh Farrokhzad, a poet from Tehran.

I also enjoy reading young poets. I have a classmate at university, Zobair, who is a poet. He always encourages me to write and he tolerates my writings and listens to what I write. He says “All great poems were first works like yours, Roya!”

Now I have a small library at home. I am the queen sitting in my room and studying my books. I have all kinds of books. I have to tell you a secret! All my saved money is spent to buy books. Don’t repeat this to my mom or she will get angry! I really love books but I love readers too, do you know?

Especially I love the reader of these lines. Trust me, if you weren’t reading my writings, I would only be Roya staying at home and cooking lunch and dinner. You read my writings and I breathe with you, I breathe with words and I breathe with my writings. I love you, love you, love you. Because of that, I translated my favorite poem and now dedicate it for your eyes:

Apple’s Garden

You were laughing at me
You didn’t know
I was afraid in
Our neighbor’s garden.
I stole an apple
The gardener followed me
With anger
He ran fast after me
He saw the apple in your hands
He looked black at me
The apple you bit
Fell from your hand
You went …
But still years passed
Your footsteps
Remain with me
And it hurts
I wonder why?

By Roya


12 responses to “Moment of Patience

  1. Thanks for posting this! I really enjoyed it. Best wishes from a fellow booklover in Italy.

  2. I am moved by the parallel drawn between books and undiscovered land. Both are places to be explored, discovered, seen, and only to a degree understood. But isn’t it also the case that both books and undiscovered land teach us about ourselves? How do we react to new ideas, new places and people? Thank you for helping me think about these things.

  3. Christina Pacosz

    Books were very important to me as a child and now, too, that I am older. I shudder to think what exactly is meant by the recent statements of the U.S. general in charge of the military troops in Afghanistan that the Taliban must be engaged and involved in the process in Afghanistan. What is to become of women then like Roya and others who long to learn and be in the world without fear of reprisals?

  4. Suzanne Scarfone

    Thank you, Roya. The first paragraph of this essay may be the most transcendent beauty I have encountered in quite a while. You meld morning, the self, the soil, death, life,roses, and your kiss, like heaven, merges the lines together into a rapturous bliss.

  5. A reminder of the preciousness of things we take for granted. Keep up your writing, Roya, and your curiosity and enthusiasm for life! Sending best wishes.

  6. What a powerful essay–and I love your graceful translation at the end. I’m glad you too now are a part of the long conversation that happens in literature. Keep writing.

  7. Reading your work I traveled too, from your home where I could picture you to Anne Frank hiding and reading and waiting for school, to my own brief glimpse of feeling caged. Your father was a miracle man who valued the mind and the soul. My grandfather was like this. You are a powerful voice — thank you. On the subject of apples and poetry maybe you are familiar with Yvteshenko? (I hope I spelled it correctly.)

  8. Dear Roya…………thankyou so much for the poens and the brief History of your life.
    Lately I have read quite a few books by Afghani writers and am interested in reading some poetry.
    Maybe you could point me in the right direction?
    Since I was very young I wanted to visit your country and STILL hope to do so.
    PLEASE carry on writing because I liked your
    poems very much.
    I LOVE poetry too and am at present putting together a childrens book written in verse.

  9. As usual, I loved reading your work, Roya, especially where you write about the importance of the reader to the writer. That was powerful and moving — and as a writer, something I understand completely. I’m sorry that your father isn’t alive but his wisdom and encouragement will be with you always. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your poetry.

  10. So hard, so many of your experiences, but what great gifts you have received: a father who cared for you so much that he led you to a world of endless gifts – the world of words! Read on, O Pilgrim.

  11. Keep reading and writing dear – this is lovely.

    A fellow book-lover in Columbia, MD, USA

  12. Roya –

    I am deeply moved by your words. What a miracle that I, and American man living in California, can read this and see a glimpse of your mind and your world.

    You have an amazing spirit.

    I am happy that you are able to go to school now. I hope that your country can become peaceful and flourish again.

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