Friday, August 31, 2012

‘The Taliban Cricket Club’ by Timeri N. Murari

Clandestine classes
"Over three years ago, Mother and I had started clandestine classes for girls in and around Karte Seh. They came once or twice a week, or sometimes not at all, depending on whether or not they were free of their chores. Only a few came these days – Raishma, a cheeky girl with an impish laugh and lovely green eyes was the oldest at eight; the youngest, Sooryia, was only four, a shy, thin girl.'
"They broke the monotony of our restricted lives with their eagerness to learn and their gossip. It was Raishma who had told me about the woman whose fingertip, with the nail varnish, was chopped off. And a girl named Louena told me about her brother, who was given an electronic game the size of a playing card, a magical gift for his eight birthday that he took to show off to his friends on the street. The religious police caught him. They first smashed the toy, then beat him and broke his right arm. I wrote that story too after talking to the depressed and frightened boy, his arm in a sling.'
"When Mother could no longer teach the classes, I continued alone. I taught them to read and write and then some geography, science, and arithmetic. We used small slates that they brought with them, hidden under their shalwar-kameezes. Because they were that young, they could go out alone, as they didn't have far to travel. They were so proud of their skills. I thought of the priceless value of the written word. Without reading, how would they find where they were in a country, how could they read signs on a bus, read the instructions on a packet? To read a language, any language, is a wonderful gift that I had taken so much for granted. I remembered my own excitement at discovering the alphabet – first the letters formed words and then sentences, paragraphs, and pages, and ultimately they provided the pleasure of reading a whole book, even a child's story.'
"On two occasions women banged on our gate and told us they wanted their little girls to join the classes. As I suspected they were informers, I would blandly deny teaching any girls."
(pp. 185-6, 'The Taliban Cricket Club' by Timeri N. Murari - Landmark)

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