My First Book
Enjeela is seven when her mother leaves Afghanistan to obtain heart surgery in India. She chooses her youngest child Vida and the oldest daughter, Shapairi, as companions, leaving Enjeela, a distraught seven-year-old alone with her older siblings. When the Communist Parchami overthrows the Western-leaning government of President Daud, Afghanistan is plunged into chaos as the new regime introduces socialist reforms in a highly conservative and tribal nation. Enjeela and her four siblings live under the care of her poet-engineer father, who is a highly placed Afghan employee of the American embassy in Kabul. Abdullah Ahmadi designed, built, and oversaw the operation of the embassy’s communication equipment and operations. Under constant pressure to maintain his properties and wealth, Abdullah falls deeper into his alcoholism, leaving the children to fend for themselves.
Enjeela’s mother refuses to return to Afghanistan, and in a series of phone calls implores Abdullah to obtain passports for the children, gather what he can of his family’s wealth, and flee to her in New Delhi where she’s set up a household. Her father is under pressure from the Parchami to join their cause, but he is steadfast and refuses to join the socialist revolution. The children attend school and live securely in their compound while Abdullah struggles to hold together his land holdings as the socialist revolution institutes land reform.
War tears apart Kabul and the new government steadily loses control. Everything changes when the Soviets invaded on Christmas Eve 1979.
Abdullah falls deeper into his drinking, and Soviet intelligence regularly works to convince him to join their cause.
First, he sends his oldest son, Ahmad, out of the country to escape conscription into the Afghani army now run by the Soviets. Then he sends his four remaining children, with a guide, Masood, who takes them on a nearly year-long journey by foot to escape into Pakistan. But they must leave without their passports, as her father is not allowed to possess any travel document.
In Pakistan, they wait for six months for Abdullah to arrive. With no passports, birth certificates, or identity documents, they are stateless and homeless. The rest of their journey to rejoin her mother in India takes three years, through Bangladesh, by donkey into Nepal, and then sneaking across the Indian border. All throughout the journey, Enjeela questions if her mother is waiting for her, expecting her, or has she frozen her out of her heart and life. Only at last when they meet, does her mother reassure her that she has waited for this moment of reunion with Enjeela. The circle of her life is complete. She is at home with her mother’s love.
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