July 11, 2019
Thanks to the lack of security, travel in Afghanistan has been frustrating. I could not traipse around in my usual fashion and had to avail myself of a guide and transport in certain areas. Being violently allergic to tours, this was no easy feat for me.
Kabul was one of the places where I got a chance to see the city as locals know it. In the random manner that often happens, I had met someone in Pakistan who is affiliated with a medical NGO, which funds clinics in Afghanistan. From a modest beginning, it has over the years expanded into several clinics spread over the country. And like all others, this too is funded by foreign donors. In yet another random act of kindness, the sort that happens so often, I was invited to stay at their secured office in Kabul and did. I met a couple of young women who work at this office. Not only were they happy to answer my myriad questions, they showed me the Kabul they know. Exploring areas of the city, eating in popular cafes and meeting locals was a refreshing change.
A visit to a park created exclusively for women, led to conversations with the voluble workers of Promote, a program offered via USAID designed to promote women’s independence. Energetic and bubbling with passion, they provide hope for a new Afghanistan. I heard the phrase that I heard before from young people: We are the new generation and we do not think like the older generation.
I visited Kabul University in the company of another young woman, a student at the university. Security is tight as it needs to be, and the visit had to coordinated via invitation from Deans. A large green campus where each department has been rebuilt with the help of foreign donors, it is vibrant and not at all different from campuses around the world. In fact, few campuses can boast such gardens of roses! Like elsewhere, crowds of students, both men and women, walk along the leafy boulevards, chat in groups and study in libraries.
Visiting the Physics department, I found groups of students but no classes in session. Chats with students reflected the same hope and ardent wish for a new future, far removed from the Afghanistan of today. A tour of the labs and library elicited laments from one of the faculty about the lack of equipment and personnel; a problem certainly not unique to Afghanistan. Invited to sit and chat with the Dean of Journalism, my questions flowed in a never-ending stream. She answered many, evoking yet more questions. It is a complex issue with no easy solutions, but she too hopes that change is around the corner.
War-torn and rent with violence as it is now, the passion for a new Afghanistan is alive in this new generation and who knows? Maybe they will wreak the change that has been a long time coming.