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Mother’s Day or Waves of Mixed Emotions

Translated from Pashto by Assad Sharifi

Assad and Adi in Monterey, California January 2018

I understand that Mother’s Day is replete with myriads of emotions. Some people’s mothers are not in this world any longer. Others are away, thus separated from their mothers. Some are distant from their mothers due to various reasons and even excuses. Nonetheless, this glorious day is celebrated by a significant majority of the world population. On this day, some people are happy, while others are sad. Some are joyful, yet others are mournful. On this earth, human beings are like journey-men and -women; here today and gone tomorrow. Today, I want to write about my own mother. I know, this story is the story of millions of mothers of my homeland, Afghanistan.

My mother’s name is BiBi Amina. In our home, we call her Adi (mom). She was born into a very poor household, and at the tender age of 14 was married to my late father, also from a very poor household. My mother is a village woman. She is a skilled rancher and farmer. In our poor village, goats, sheep, cows and other animals are life’s most fundamental necessity. My mother is illiterate, but is deeply acquainted with animal behaviour and habits. She also gave birth to her eight children in our house. Five of us are living, while three passed away in infancy due to childhood illnesses such as measles.

My mother was only 28 years old, when my father, was shot with 60 bullets, in the darkness of the night, by unknown assailants. Besides my feeble, elderly grandfather, there was no other adult male in our household. At the time of my father’s assassination, I was the eldest male child and only 12 years old. My brother after me was seven years old, the brother after him was five, our sister was three and the youngest sister was one year of age. Like countless other Pashtun widows, the night our father was assassinated, our young mother was faced with unfathomable challenges. All villagers were questioning and waiting for her to either marry my father’s cousin or someone else. (It should be noted that it is customary in Pashtun culture for a widow to marry her brother-in-law, or someone else within her husband’s family.) Our mother refused to budge to the pressure of the society. She declared loud and clear that she would not remarry, and would raise her children alone and faithfully. Rolling her sleeves up, she started her new life without our father.

In the summer months, Adi would lose most of her nails, due to cutting vegetation for animals. She would raise animals, and grow our farmland. Due to her hard labour, in the winter months, we had abundance of milk, ghee, dried fruits, and mulberries. She always kept two milk cows, so we could have enough dairy products. Despite all these hardships, our mother persistently encouraged us to get educated. She always lit the candle of literacy in our minds. “In order for you to escape the fate of your uncle and father, you must study. Don’t be blind like me”, she would constantly remind us. To her, illiteracy equalled blindness. In the village, she lived as a proud and brave woman. The villagers respected her, and still admire her courage and determination.

Although Pashtuns do not want to mention their women by name or praise them in articles, I do not want my mother’s hardships, struggles and sacrifices to remain hidden. Our illiterate mother, provided us with the light of literacy and knowledge. She taught us courage by her own courageous deeds. She taught us patience, sacrifice and gratefulness through her own destitute and impoverish life. Even to this day, she is standing behind each one of us as a steal wall and unwaveringly encourages us to be just and fair. She constantly reminds us of the days when we were poor, down and helpless. Even now, for some minor transgressions, she beats us with her shoes. She still teaches us the basics of human decency, such as love, compassion and respect for all creatures of the earth.

At the end, I wish all the mothers of the world, including Adi, a Happy Mother’s Day.

To those individuals whose mothers are no longer living a physical life, I remind you that your mother is still watching over you. Today, you must pray for your mother more than any other days. Remember that your mother’s blood flows through your veins and her soul is intertwined with yours.

Happy Mother’s Day

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