When I met an Afghan guy on a dance floor in Delhi I didn’t really think much of it. Well, I mean, that’s if you don’t count the mildly offensive suspicions I had about a Muslim being at a nightclub; a nightclub Muslim? Nonsensical, right? It goes against everything the stereotypes ever told us. Anyway, you can imagine the surprise I got the next day when he found me on Facebook and handed me an out-of-nowhere declaration of his undying love. From fear to fascination to the birth of a weird sort of cyber relationship thing, I learned that two people with a world of difference between them could still laugh at the same jokes.
READ PART ONE
READ PART TWO
Prior to this, the only time I’ve ever considered the workings of love and romance in Afghanistan was when I read a book called The Bookseller of Kabul. It’s a true recount by a Dutch journalist who lived with an Afghan family in 2002. Throughout the book it highlights the restricted interactions between males and females in Afghanistan, and towards the end of the book she shares an instance where a young man catches a quick glimpse of a young woman. This little peek at her face is enough to send him into the same flurry of emotions you’d expect from a big night out on ecstasy. It was something about ‘the round, pale face, the beautiful skin, her eyes’, that made him realise she was the one he wanted to keep warm at night. And that was all he needed to drop anchor. He spent weeks sending her secret love letters and gifts – and trying to squirrel his way into the good books of the decision-making men in her family. Sadly it was all in vain because her brother intentionally interfered and stopped it from happening. What a chump.
With this diminutive representation of courting and romance in Afghanistan, combined with insidious information fed to me by Western media, I was fully set up to misunderstand the situation.
However, I like to think my mamma didn’t raise no fool.
I decided to seek console in the only other Muslim I knew personally, my mate Joy, a first-gen Brit I met on Tinder (I’m quite partial to dark-skinned men in chef uniforms). Nothing romantic ever sparked between us but we debated about politics and bonded over compassion. He’s a Londoner through and through, innit. And also actively religious, so I thought he might be able to help me form some conclusions on the matter – like is it a religious thing? And should I be concerned?
‘I don’t know, man. I’m from London!’ he laughed. “I grew up in London, like, I went to school with girls and have regular contact with them. I have more in common with you than him. It’s not a Muslim thing. I dunno, you should probably delete him. Guys in those countries have minimal contact with girls outside their families. They have an unrealistic view of women. And they probably watch loads of porn.”
We all watch loads of porn, don’t we?
With that being less helpful than I’d hoped, I decided to try my former US marine friend, Richard, who I met backpacking in Lithuania. He is a retiree at 30-years-old due to irreparable injury sustained during combat in Iraq. Now he receives an annual retirement salary so he roams the earth, visiting places like Afghanistan looking for adventure. He’s the most egotistic know-it-all I know, but he is by no means ignorant and he has a good heart and good banter and I like him.
“Firstly, a 21-year-old Afghan is not a kid,’ he corrected me after my extensive description of the situation. ‘He’s a man. It seems like this guy’s family has a bit of money, which means they probably own land in Kabul, which they lease out to my government. Chances are he’s looking for a visa to get out of Afghanistan and wants to marry you… he’s harmless,’ he concludes.
Richard’s a patriotic fella and a mongrel to get in a debate with, so I didn’t bother telling him that the family isn’t from Kabul and the father owns a soup and sauce factory, which he doesn’t lease to the American government. But I did appreciate his perspective on the visa, and I was kind of surprised it hadn’t crossed my mind.
READ PART FOUR
Stay tuned, the story is still evolving.