The internal family life of an Afghan family is one rarely seen – but, in most ways, it is the same as that seen in less war-torn places in the world. Though, with few resources, families here have to care for their own with little outside support.
By: Marina Coblentz
The family had invited us over to see their house. We entered as guests. I have visited Farid’s family home many times now. It is relatively modest – a simple, partially-plastered mud house, no luxury.
But I never refuse an invitation –his home and family are a refuge from mindless and harsher relations – an oasis of family love. The grandma, a heavy woman, who moves only with difficulty with the help of a walker, spends most of her time on her bed. She requires the help of her sons, daughters and in-laws.
Her room is the main gathering place and she is well respected for having brought up her children on her own and for her kindliness. Frishta, a six-year-old is often on her bed, and she manages to handle her regardless of her physical limitations.
Frishta’s crib is next to her grandma’s.Frishta is deeply mentally and physically handicapped.It is not clear whether she recognizes the people around her.If you spend enough time with her, she will smile when gently played with and will start waving her little, fragile arms.Toys seem not to interest her.
When at their home, I have many times seen Frishta in her father’s arms or on his lap. He is actively engaged in caring for her, caressing her, talking to her or playing with her.He loves her with the innate love of a father – that nothing moves.
Her uncle, older brothers and cousins show the same care for her.She is always around, never put aside. No one complains nor even mentions that it is hard to look after her.Caring for her seems no trouble at all, no burden, no hardship.
There seems to be no regret at the way she was born.I’m told she is cared for because God sent her.Frishta has regular epilepsy attacks requiring immediate medical care.She will probably die in the near future.She will have had a short life, but she will have been loved –fully loved.I’ve witnessed similar care in other families toward children born disabled.
But there is joy, too.
In another home, Ali shows me how, with the help of his sister-in-law, how he has arranged the tiny bedroom that he and his wife-to-be will share. The bed is covered with a blue satin-like cover. The word “love” is written out with candy. The canopy is adorned with ribbons and flowers. A small table has perfume and makeup on it.
“What do you think?” he asks. In his voice there is an eagerness to please the woman who will, for the first time, walk into his home to be his life companion.
Then there is Naeem. As I walk in, he introduces me to his mother, an old, thin, completely wrinkled and illiterate woman.
“This is my marvelous, marvelous wonderful mother.” He hugs her frail body and smiles warmly. She smiles too.
He is not the only man who has recognized his mother’s merit and knows to value it.
Masood and Zafir refer to theirs in the same way. With their faces lighting up in her presence, they describeher as their light and their life.
This is the other side of Afghanistan, not the one that needs guiding. This is the Afghanistan we can only learn from. This Afghanistan can enrich our lives. If we see it – this intrinsic, sturdy love – we can learn from it.