It was 2006, the month was March, I was briskly walking on the main University road,Peshawar, when a boy aged 12 stopped me and asked if I would buy the newspaper from him. I read the newspaper early that morning and watched the news on TV as well, so felt no need to buy,but looking at his grim face, wearing innocent smile, I gave him 10 rupees, which he refused to take.
“Why not?”, I asked.
“I am a man and not like to feed on easy money that people give me for nothing”, he replied.
I asked his name, “Bacha” , he replied.
“How nice,do you know the meaning of your name?”.
“Yes, It means the King in Pashto language. My father gave me this name, who died when I was seven years old. He liked King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan so much. I am not a king, nor I have a kingdom, though” , he smiled.
“But Bacha, You don’t need to be the king of a kingdom, one’s heart is a kingdom in itself”.Poor Bacha didn’t understand what I said.
“So Bacha why are you selling newspapers?” , I inquired.
“I have a mother and two sisters, who stay at home and look at me …… if I may earn something to give them meal. Sir ji, The meal we eat together at home in the evening tastes better than the meal of a rich person Wedding’s Waleema. …….’Qurango’, (I swear).I had been few times to attend those Waleemas, but too heavy for my stomach , I feel bad after eating those nice meals”. “O’ kaka” ( uncle), when is your wedding? , did you propose a pretty girl or your mother will look around for you?”, he continued.
“Bacha yaar, this is mum’s job”, his comments made me laugh.
”I know!”, he pretended as if he knew marital things better than me.
”you know what", he continued, "one of my my friends' brother recently got married to a nice girl, they live in Kacha Gari, ( Afghan Refugee area) she was as beautiful as the moon of 14th day of lunar month“.
” Was she really that pretty?”, I asked to notice his reflection.
“Wallah, wallah, she was! When I saw her, I gave her 5 Rupees as a compliment of showing her face to me and she was shy to take that, ‘kaka’ ( uncle) do you give money to the newly wed bride?” he asked with such a passion as to give the money is obligatory and he does it.
“We do ” , I replied. “Will you come to my wedding, and how much will you give to your brother wife?”, I laughed.
“Ji (yes)kaka, I will come for sure. But where you live?, will you give me your address?. I may visit you before your wedding so that I may serve your guests in Waleema”.
“No“,I smiled, “you are like my brother , you will celebrate with us, you are too young to serve guests”. He smiled at that, “and kaka don’t wed late, it is no good. My father did that mistake, he married late. Had he married earlier”, he continued, “I would have been of yours age now, ‘Wallah’( I swear God)”.
My mobile phone rang up, the number was new but the voice was familiar. It was Hamid, my university fellow, better known as 'Fauji'(an army man) not for his fighting guts but for his spot on punctuality and tidiness. I remeber, he used to be the first one in my classfeloows, who you see first to appear in the class, sit right in front of the lecturer and first to submit his course works. Dead punctual, I must say.
In his soon to be getting louder voice he showed his anger as to what made me late that day.It wasn't unusual either, for during my academic career, I hardly turned up on time when scheduled to see someone or to take part in discussions. No good credentials, but Hamid was a completely different charracter.I only responded with a laugh, it meant most to them - a simple excuse to express how deeply I honour their time.
My friends were waiting for me outside a caffe at Gardena,best known for its strong tea and'Qabuli Pulao'.I assured them of my presence the sooner I get free from my new friend' Bacha'. I left him there, seling newspapers at the standpoint and promised that I would see him once more.
A day before coming back to London, I saw him at the same standpoint selling newspapers. When he noticed me across the road, he ran up towards me. He was as happy to see me as I was.
" Lala, lala,( brother, brother), where were you all those days?" he hugged me like brothers reunite after a long seperation. His hair was greasy with Mustard oil,his clothes dirty with the daily traffic pollution ,even his dark brown local made cap had lost its coulour.
" Bacha, I was busy in family matters, so could't see you,look! what I have for you, chochlates", I gave him a small box of chochlates which I shopped at Heathrow Airport.
He smiled, “this is from a lala( a brother), so I will happily accept this“, I nodded, “yes”.
I didn't say that I would leave for London next day, and rather requested him that he would start studying if he thinks that he is my brother.
"You are already my brother", replied Bacha
“Yes, I am like your brother Bacha “, I gently rubbed his curly hair and pat him on his shoulder, like a father in affection does it to his child , like a modern man does it to his cat or dog. He saw few tears rolling in my eyes, which he didn’t realise that those were the tears of his new brother who met him and will rarely see him again. Thanks God, he didn’t realise.
“Lala, I will re-start my study but remember that you better not get marry to an a blue eyed girl”, I laughed at that. He continued “my mum says, blue eyed people don’t have feelings for us, they are not loyal. My father had black eyes, that is why he was faithful to us but unfortunately God take him away from us sooner than his age while fighting against the faithless Russians", his voice was deep but down and I knew what he meant.
”You can go then, I am happy with your happiness” he smiled, though he didn’t know if we may meet up once more or not.
Few days ago, on the day of my University graduation, I was missing the presence of my parents who couldn’t come around and him....my new young brother and a proud friend. I requsted my brother if I could speak to Bacha as well, which he did. It was 5 pm in Peshawar and and 1 pm in London, I dialled the number and a familiar voice responded.
“Did you get marry with a white girl in England, you didn’t tell us’, will you be so selfish!!I never thought of that. why don’t you bring her over here?” , he was unhappy.
“Bacha, my brother I didn’t” , I replied with a laughter to calm him down.
But he continued,“One of my relatives who went to Germany after the war in Afghanistan started ……..never came back, he married with a German girl. Did you do the same?“.
He asked me so many questions in one go that I got confused….. which one to answer first. He went on saying, “my relative who went to Germany and married that German didn’t become even a court man of a king after leaving his family alone in miserable conditions, but I am still a king. I feel lucky, my father gave me this name. I feel like a "bacha" (king) in real. My heart is as big as the heart of a Bacha
(king) “,he made a fun of his relative.
“Bigger than that Bacha, the king of a country can not sleep like you, can’t eat more than you do. so,tell me now, who is the king“?, I assured him over the phone.
”Me”,he replied with a nuaghty giggle. The mobile phone disconnected , which halted the conversation of a young Afghan refugee king and his fellow Pashtun……Farid.
This morning, while talking to my brother over the phone, he asked me to talk to Bacha . He was very pleased to hear my voice once more. So was me. This time he didn’t asked me about wedding and Walima, but about a word…….’terrorism’. From an old white beard man from his street, he heard something about terrorism.
”Lala , what is the meaning of terrorism?“,he asked.
I said, it is the spread of terror among common people by terrorists.
“And who are terrorists?”, he inquired.
“Those who create terror among people and kill innocent people”. I replied.
He promptly asked, “are the American and all those foreign soldiers who came to my country and who killed thousands of innocent Afghans like me …..the terrorist……?” I was thinking about giving him a suitable answer when the mobile conversation ended up due to faulty telephone line, and I was left wondering how best to answer his innocent but intriguing quiestions.