Zemestan hay Kabul!

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Winters in Kabul were so cold. But more than the cold, winter was like the season of disaster and madness.

I remember one Sunday when I went out with my mom. She stepped outside our home wearing her white and black party shoes. Her clothes were not for winter. The only thing she wore that kept her warm was her thick veil that covered her neck like a snake. As we went forward, I remember how she started complaining: “Winter is nice, but I hate Kabul winters.”

That day the streets were full of cold mud—and I mean too much mud,  almost halfway to my knees. I didn’t answer my mother. My fingers and toes were frozen, my nose was red, and I couldn’t breathe. It was like being in a freezer.

Winter could be a season of fear because the price of wood and winter clothes doubled. We were lucky: we had a warm stove at home. Our neighbor, Sardaar, was a laborer. He had seven children. Poor them. They spent their winter days and nights in cold rooms with little food. His children didn’t have winter clothes. Mom criticized him for having so many children. But Sardaar believed that children are wealth and that the coldness of winter didn’t matter because God is great and gives us everything we need.

Winter was a season of excuses! When it rained or snowed, nobody wanted to go to their jobs. Offices were empty and employers stayed home. There was no reliable public transport and the cars could not drive in snowy streets. If you wanted a car ride, you’d have to pay a double price. Food became extremely expensive and the shopkeepers’ excuse was, “Look at the winter! It is so cold.”

Icy roads and snowy winds didn’t frighten me. But I didn’t like having guests in winter. We all had to sleep in one room and it was always me who had to leave the bed to make room for the guest. I didn’t like washing vegetables in the winter either. One night I had to wash so much spinach and coriander in the icy water it made my fingers and arms ache. And on Fridays in winter we had to wash the clothes outside in the cold water.  That always killed the smile on my lips.

I loved Kabul winters when it snowed. The beauty of the trees, the cleanness of the ground—it was nature’s wedding. You could see the bride wearing a white, shiny dress. And the warmth of the winter sun gave my dreams wings to fly. Making a snowman was the best. I would wear the warm coat that my father bought for me. It was the color and pattern of a tiger. My father would call: “My daughter! You look like a tiger.” I was very thin, but when I wore that coat I looked very big and felt pretty.

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