The Afghan girl

The Afghan girl photographed by Steve Mc Curry, the cover of national geographic magazine 1985

A young girl, sifting through a heap of magazines at a doctor’s chamber comes across an old issue of the national geographic magazine that has a cover picture of a dirty, bedraggled, war-ravaged girl not much older than she is. She stares at the picture for a long time, flips to the story and then puts it aside, disturbed by the vicissitudes of thoughts and emotions creeping upon her. She sits quietly for sometime and then unable to control herself, picks up the magazine again and with wide doleful eyes asks her mother “Maa, why do people fight wars?”

It has taken me a long time to pen down those thoughts, a really long time in fact, but all the details are freshly etched in my mind as if it was only yesterday that I was jolted out of my reverie and all the harsh realities of life were thrust upon me all at once. It was then that I had realized how blessed my existence was, a roof over my head, a father to buy all the pretty things in the world, a mother to console me to sleep if I had nightmares and friends to share petty secrets with. She had no one, a lone poor girl, orphaned due to the spoils of the war, left alone in a refugee camp to fend for herself. No one to take care of her if she fell sick, no one to sit beside her on a school bench to discuss sums with nor anyone to tell her stories of heroes who could demolish all evil with a wave of their arm.

It was also the time when I fully comprehended what my father actually did for a living. He is an army man. He protects our country. My country is perennially at loggerheads with its neighbors and is seldom at peace, everyday I get to read news articles of bomb blasts and open firings, they never stop. And then there was the kargill war when I was about 11-12 years old, a time when father was away and mom was constantly on tenterhooks, it took me some time to realize what was going on. I am proud of my father, I really am, whenever anyone asks me what my father does, I can proudly tell them he risks his neck everyday for his countrymen. What I hate is the fact that his profession exists because there are war threats, ‘border’ breaches and million other what-not’s. An army should only exist to provide relief work and protect poor innocent people, according to me of course.

A single war can cause so much devastation, families ripped asunder, lives lost, souls destroyed and the physical and mental agonies that are too much to bear. Why is there so much of hatred in this world? Why fight over a boundary demarcation, river waters, ethnic differences or for control over others?  Is violence really the only solution? Thousands of lives sacrificed just to prove a point, a mere bigotry.

That afghan girl, with her bright green eyes, showed me how terrible the world we live in is. The despair, irritation at being photographed, sadness and the thirst to fight it all, clearly reflected in those wide eyes. I really wish and pray for the day when wars and boundaries cease to matter and all 12 year old girls can dress up in pretty white dresses, chatter nine to the dozen while braiding the hairs of other girls and fill their walls with pictures of flowers and their prince charmings.


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