Kabul – Arrival

The whole journey from Delhi to Kabul was filled with excitement… filled with many firsts. My first sight of the Himalayas, my first sight of snow-clad mountains, my first visit to a war-torn country. I knew not what to expect. We were literally going in blind. With no information whatsoever on JP (our host) or anything else. If JP didn’t come to the airport, we might as well be dead.

Aj couldn’t have been a better travel companion. I was meeting him just a second time, the first time was in Paris, where we hadn’t interacted much. A travel veteran (which I only discovered later), he patiently listened and tolerated my incessant chatter… oh look at this ! oh look at that! Please please click this photograph!… and so on. It never occurred to me that he must have been very much amused at my childish excitement… but then Aj being Aj, he could be nothing if not sweet.

The first sight of Kabul was amazing. It was nestled in a ring of high mountains. Couldn’t quite ‘see’ the city… no high rises… no smoke… no ‘signs’ of a metropolis. Before we knew it, we landed, and through the window we saw lined, aircraft upon aircraft, of every shape and size – fighters, bombers, helicopters, rescue-planes. We were quite stunned at the reality of what it meant to be at war.

 

The airport itself was impossibly small – not even bigger than the airport in my city. Felt as ancient too. The general aura of the place was frightening, tense.

We breathed a sigh of relief as we sighted T. (He was the French-end projects guy). With him was JP. And what a guy! He fit to ‘T’ every description of a M&B hero. Tall, dark and ruggedly handsome… and a guy who worked in difficult conditions! I was totally smitten, of course. We piled into his rickety car … while T recounted his week at Kabul. The sights, sounds and smell felt so much like home, yet so alien. Billboards advertising cellphones, televisions… armoured cars… armoured car? hello was that an armoured car??? Oh gosh!

Men wearing pathanis, a completely different dress-code. Not many women around, though.
We came to the road that was passing by the American Embassy. And that was my another first – an encounter with sand-bag walls, electrified gates, tortuous, lethal looking somethings embedded on the road that would tear the tyres apart in a jiffy, if one tried to ‘run’… no running away here… and massively built, grim faced commandoes with the military specification machine-guns. We were searched. Papers examined. Clipped questions. Stuccato answers. JP looked like an Afghan. He did not look like the normal white man. Hence the questioning. We were passed through … My respect for the ‘rebels’ grew… these guys, with their out-of-date technologies, and lack of ‘resources’ could circumvent such organization?! Wow. What was brought home then was that clearly the hares were much smarter than the hounds, in any situation… that a bunch of underfed, ill-equipped, in-hiding, on-the-run brigands could bring down and keep an organized, well-equipped, well-funded, well-fed, healthy, and strong ‘structure’ running in circles… something to be said for them after all. Sides and politics not withstanding.
 

That journey from the airport to JP’s place was a journey through lifetimes, a journey in education. Crumbling walls. Shell-shocked buildings. We were completely bug-eyed and as shell-shocked as the buildings! What are those pock-marks on the walls, I wondered… “bullets..”, said JP with a sideways look. Oh! (JP was also the strong and silent type, I forgot to mention!). But more shocking than the war-torn buildings was the ‘normal’ life that seemed to thrum and thrive around. People went about their daily business. As if nothing had happened. Children played around on the footpaths. People shopped on the streets. Life like anywhere else. 

We reached JP’s place. A ‘regular’ RCC structure. Big. Empty. Cold. We will light the heater, said JP… and for the next half-hour we gathered around the ‘heater’ and watched while JP tinkered and coaxed an ancient, time-warped, grey monolith …and brought it to life, to the collective sigh of relief !

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One thought on “Kabul – Arrival

  1. Wow, an interesting journey indeed! I envy you the sight of the Himalayas…….I dream about them! Amazing that people have to somehow try to manage their day to day lives in the middle of a war zone – this has been going on forever………..I wish it could just Stop. What happened after this?

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