It’s 9:00pm in Kabul and the sun is down. I hear a cat mewing from my bedroom window which faces the garden at the front of the house. It’s hot and very dry in Kabul today. As we drove to the house, sheets of fine sand drape over me, like the thin cotton scarf gently covering my head and shoulders. The dust seemed to have a life of its own, here – angry kicking up sudden clouds and surprising the passersby who were caught in the momentary tumult; there – calm, gentle trails caressing the buildings.
Dressed in my long, Indian block-printed cotton tunic and long linen pants, with a thin beige scarf wrapped round my head, everyone spoke to me in Dari (the predominant language in Kabul). I went with the flow, shook my head, demurred, smiled, and sometimes betrayed that I was a foreigner. How my identity is perceived as I travel is very interesting. People give me the identity they want to, and then go from there. Sometimes I shatter their little dream, other times I enjoy the ride, learning more about the person and their perspective.
In London, I was driven to the airport by an Iranian-Lebanese driver who, because of my name, thought me to be Iranian. He spoke with an urgency about the problems that the Iranian government is causing in Lebanon and the unpleasant sentiments of the Lebanese people. He was sad, confused, but felt he had a kindred spirit in the car to share his pain with – I listened and learned.
At Heathrow airport, I was questioned by a South Asian looking guard. He saw how I was dressed, that I was born in India, and then asked me where I was headed to. I told him Kabul and he was immediately taken aback, momentarily speechless! He stuttered out the next question, or comment, that he thought I was Indian! I hated to burst his bubble, but I did have to tell the truth to a security officer at the airport. I said “I am Indian but I am going to Kabul for work”. That gave the poor man an out and he handed me my passport back and told me to have a nice trip!
So, I look forward to learning more about people, myself, and experiencing the many relationships people will have with the mirror that I seem to hold up for them!
Lots of Love ~ Kayhan