The dusk is electric this Holy day evening of Ramadan. To the south the horizon dances with light as a dry storm flashes its skirts with light but makes no noise. Two hours after the fast is broken and the air is full of voices. The voices of mullahs chanting the broadcasts. A legion of them filling the air above the city extolling the faithful and the unfaithful alike, to come to the path of enlightenment. God is, after all the only one god and Mohammed is his prophet. Over and over. Carried gently from the far horizon, soft and malleable, the sound of silver. Carried from and echoing off the nearby hills, clearer and more distinct, tinging in the air like crystal. Crackling from the speakers half a block away, hard as steel and as inviting as a witches bosom. The moon, a week into this celebration, or rather five days, lifts over my right shoulder (which means I am facing south, right?!). It is checking in on what it started last Sunday. The moon, bright yellow and completely deaf was the harbinger of all this observance and celebration. Yet it knows nothing of what it has done. Across the way a family sits on its porch, cross legged and enjoying the warm air and the evening meal. For a moment or two the pulsing beat of helicopters threaten to drown everything out but they circle back to the airport and are quickly lost to the chanting, the families discussions, the children’s voices and the murmuring afterworld, martyrs arisen from our nearby cemetery that hang like so many spectres in the night air. It is an unusual sound, this orchestra of voices, quite unlike anything I have ever heard.
Our neighbours have a squadron of kids. Cousins and siblings and all boiled together in a small compound into a mass of life and noise and colour. This is how tribes and clans are forged. But once the dead calm (and blessed silence) of dinner is past (7.15) the yard erupts into squeals of play and delight. Which would be something to revel in except one preteen female has the voice of an aged harpy who has smoked Camels all her life, a shrieking crone mistress of shrieking crones. Her voice cuts through all other noise and even the voices in the air fall silent before her. Perhaps those choppers could help drown her out. Sometimes I wish for the Blackhawk beat just for some relief from this child. Even those hard as steel mullahs sound angelic in comparison.
But who am I to deny life and living? Here in this modern Kabul she is the raucous voice of a family practising the religion without, for the most part, any oppression. And living as they wish without fear of violence (mostly). That has not been the case here in the past and this city groaned under an interpretation of God’s will that came only from the devil. So I choose to let myself enjoy the sound of her outrageous voice as she bosses her siblings about. Then the Blackhawks throb and pulse on the dark horizon and I fervently pray them towards this suburb. Please.
Diary 4 July 2014, Kabul