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Border Diary

"If you fear loneliness, you cannot be a soldier or an honest man…" Suchitra Vijayan narrates stories from Afghan Border

Border Diary
Border Diary
outlookindia.com
2018-03-24T10:26:08+05:30

“If you fear loneliness, you cannot be a soldier or an honest man…” Masood said these words as he quickly smoked the small hand-rolled cigarette with a mix of hashish and tobacco. He was almost forty when I met him in the winter of 2012, in a remote town in Paktika province in Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan. By then he had been many things. An orphan, a refugee, a smuggler, a fixer, a translator, a fighter. Who he fought against, of course, changed, depending on who was listening. He now called himself a businessman. He worked with everyone, the Americans, the Afghans, the Iranians, the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Haqqanis, the Taliban. He was one of the many minor strongmen the decade-long war had produced. Men with muscle and money, greasing the wheels of a military occupation.

It was six in the evening, cold and already dark. About twelve of us sat huddled in the room made warm by the fire and a couple of cheap Chinese heaters that had seen better days. I was the only woman amongst these men. They laughed, sang, ate chicken stuffed with raisins, smoked hashish, complained about their wives, exchanged video clips, and retold stories of their childhood. The men in that room were meant to be on the opposite sides of this never-ending war on terror. But amongst men with murky pasts and even murkier alliances, such absolutes don’t exist.

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