A Flight Into Bamiyan
After spending rough four days traversing the interiors of rugged rural Daykundi Province in Afghanistan, checking up on and auditing CAI’s five medical clinics, we are ready to travel to Bamiyan. The day in Nilli begins benign enough, but chilly, 38F. This might not be the end of the world for some except the CAI field office where we are holed up is without heat. Ali Nejad, the field coordinator for the medical clinics in this badbakht province fires up a gas canister and the open blue / red flame warm up the room some, especially Sohail’s blood pressure; he does not like it; it is one dangerous way to keep warm. Undetectable escaping toxic fumes can put us all to sleep permanently painlessly and Sohail does not fancy a burial in Afghanistan.
We are to fly to Bamiyan today, to the province where CAI has its 6th medical clinic in Sacheck. We’ll inspect the clinic and 25 homes under construction for homeless single mothers and widows. Since the chartered 5-seater Kodiak aircraft coming from Kabul to pick us up can toss around the windy mountainside like a toy and churn up our stomachs, we keep the breakfast very light. Unapparelled fresh and wholesome almonds and walnuts, crisp and delicious. And nan. And the omnipotent Afghan green chai.
The weather in Bamiyan however, is acting up, with low visibility, wind, and drifting snow; a chilly 28F. We get a call from Pactec just as we clear symbolic and apathetic security at Nilli’s tiny paved dirt-runway airport. We are advised to hold for further developments and if see the pilot was willing to brave the elements. We return to the field office and drink some more green tea, an Afghan passion, and a pastime; Sohail sticks to stale Afghan made potato chips.
The weather clears up a bit and the pilot decides he wants adventure; he is on his way to pick us up from Nilli, so we trek back to the airport and take to the skies, almost two hours behind schedule. The air around Bamiyan however, is not benevolent and it’s still cloudy, with the dangerous raggedy mountains of the Hindu Kush, some almost 23,000 feet tall lurking in the shadows. This is a tiny aircraft and once strapped in, movement is severely restrained. So the feeling of being tossed around like a toy when I cannot see the earth or anything around me is pretty intimidating. The pilot makes a go-around, prolonging our pain and miraculously lands effortlessly. What an absolute gift is the aviation engineering mind that Allah has gifted mankind! Shaken, we woozily alight from the aircraft and Sohail promptly gifts the airport with wholesome barf.
Since Sohail is ailing, we let him rest on a dubious, smelly, overused mattress that has accommodated an innumerable number of unwashed bodies at the housing site and go visit some of the homes under construction. These 25 homes are scattered within a 14-mile radius of Bamiyan town, the beneficiaries carefully selected so that only the most deserving get the home. Going up a steep mountain to inspect one such home, we pass a home that has had its latrine-pit cleaned up recently. The smell as we step around it is gagging and although I don’t want to, my eyes take in the still moist feces that is laid bare from such tasks I take for granted at home. Considering the remoteness of the area, the extreme elements and constant risk from violence, it is amazing that the CAI team on the ground can deliver such finishing products.
After inspecting CAI’s first and oldest medical clinic in Sacheck 3 hour’s drive from Bamiyan, we rest at Jamshed’s welcoming but freezing house. Jamshed has a surprise for breakfast the next morning; fresh fried fish from Band-e-Amir, a lake some believe Imam (a) visited and left curing properties. Since Sohail is feeling better, even he partakes the fish. Jamshed is Allah sent for the CAI team, always offering his home, amazing food and hospitality whenever we visit Bamiyan. I can’t imagine what we’d do without this man and his larger than life heart. May Allah bless him and his family.
We return to Bamiyan and the Pactec pilot from Kabul is already waiting. The sky is clear and crisp, the flight is flawless and we land in much warmer Kabul thirty minutes later. It is hard to imagine I used to travel this same distance in a car. Then, seven years ago, it took me 18 hours because of the roads and the fear of Taliban violence.
There is another 12-home project scattered around Kabul that we visit, meeting the widowed beneficiaries. All of them have a story of unimaginable pain to tell, all heartbreaking. Here is one from Maimoona. She is pretty, all of 27 years old and a mother of 5 already. Her husband was killed by the Taliban in Ghor province. Her two daughters, Farhana and Zulaikha are with the mother today, full of energy and beautiful smiles, unaware that luck has favored them with a home under construction, gifted by CAI donors. Maimoona works as a domestic cleaner for US$25 a month. She has to pay US$13 for rent. Two of her kids, a girl, and a boy are being taken care of at the CAI orphanages. So Maimoona is left with US$12 to feed, clothe and take care of the four of them. Had it not been for some food aid provided by Maimoona’s parents, she would have been doomed to begging in the streets or already made a prey that pretty women are forced onto sooner than later. This home is a lifesaver.
This is my 42nd visit to Afghanistan concluded. Always tough, always heartbreaking, always humbling and always heartening that CAI donors do make a difference, however small.
Vivid Imaginations – A Memoir
Captivating, candid and blunt autobiography worth reading to understand the cultures of our past. The author’s experience and perspective draws many lessons through the vicissitudes of life as a successful philanthropist – Hasanain Rajabali, Philanthropist & Motivational Speaker
About $70,000 raised. This will be a limited print issue, no reprints. All proceeds, 100%, benefit CAI’s circa 600 orphans worldwide. Please purchase a copy or more for $50 each? For legal and administrative purposes, the donation is not tax-deductible and must be purchased online bit.ly/VividImaginations.
Please get your copy now, very few pieces remain. Allah bless.
Please note this book will be published end of the year 2019 or the first quarter of 2020 and mailed immediately thereafter, insha’Allah.