Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
The three short stories in this collection present a reverse chronology of Afghanistan’s recent past: the decade of democracy, the Taliban era, and the civil war period. On the surface each piece portrays the experiences of everyday Afghan men and women and their hopes and dreams at times of war and relative peace. At a deeper level, the stories attempt to unpack Afghan politics, traditions, ethnic tensions, and the diverse bonds that unite the nation and allow its citizens to live together. My first chapter, “Namak Haram,” is set against the backdrop of the Taliban regime. Mohsen, an ethnic Hazara, and his assistant Jabbar, a Pashtun, travel to a remote village in central Afghanistan on an assignment to make a documentary film on a demographic survey. The presence of Jabbar in the Hazara mainland causes ethnic tensions that lead to Mohsen’s inevitable predicament. Using third-person-omniscient narration, distinct setting, and round characters, this story analyzes social issues such as forced marriage, patriarchy, honor, betrayal, and moral dilemmas that—alongside the historical animosity between the Hazaras and the Pashtuns—form the main themes of the tale. Chapter two, “The Boy and The Dog,” depicts an ordinary afternoon during the Afghan civil war. It is told from the perspective of a small boy who is sent by his mother on a quotidian errand. The boy finds himself in the middle of a full-fledged war between the Hazara militias and the Panjshiris who fight over a guard dog—the same dog that bit the boy not long ago. As he waits for the gun fight to end, he witnesses the vicissitudes of life in a war zone. The story focuses on poverty, disrupted childhoods, and war, but it is also about something even more terrifying: the capacity for men, women, and children to adapt to the realities of war as well as the ability to become indifferent to menacing terror. My third and final chapter, “The Children Who Became Men Overnight,” is an unconventional love story unfolding during the months leading up to the civil war. It is a tale of unimaginable beauty meeting incredible violence in which an upper-class family moves into an impoverished Kabul neighborhood that operates on nothing but relentless gossip and intense anarchy. No one understands why the Amins moved to Char Qala, but soon the whole city knows that Fatima Amin, the family’s daughter, is unearthly beautiful. All the men, old and young, fall in love with her. The three main protagonists, who are ten years Fatima Amin’s junior, have to fight their much older rivals, one of whom is a notorious gangster. To overcome the impossible, they make a decision that overnight pushes them to the precipice of manhood. This is a story about the clash of social classes, the beauty and terror of life in a country on the brink of political turmoil, and the unattainable dreams that men and women hold their entire lives and that they sometimes take with them to their graves.
Aram, Jamaluddin, "The Children Who Became Men Overnight: Memories of Love and Violence in Afghanistan" (2017). Honors Theses and Student Projects. 4.