Indian Decade

Kabul’s Mixed Reality

At least in the capital city, an ‘authentic’ experience is hard to define.

(This is the second in a series of dispatches from India Decade blogger Sanjay Kumar, who is currently on assignment in Afghanistan.)

Yesterday I talked about my experience heading out to a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul at 10pm in the evening. I’ll start today with my account of what happened upon entering the venue.

When I looked around there were some young and affluent Afghan families also who were enjoying their dinners and drinks—something they can’t do anywhere in Afghanistan with that openness.

Once we settled down, my friends ordered beer and I asked for Scotch whisky. Until 12:30 am we hung around in the restaurant, and for more than two hours I forgot that I was in Kabul. The simulated normalcy inside the eatery, under heavy security, is a solace for many foreigners and rich Afghans who live in constant fear of uncertainty.

But the reality strikes you hard the moment you come out of the joint. There’s a building, just 50 meters away from the restaurant, which is still in a devastated condition 2 months after a suicide bomber attempted to blow it up. The house belonged to an influential Afghani politician and the incident claimed nine innocent lives of private security guards and some passersby.

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You face varied kinds of realities in Afghanistan. Simulated nightlife in Kabul is an imagined and dreamed reality of the majority but there are dark forces in the country which are afraid of light and brightness of life. It is these medieval forces which are keeping under check the current of modernity and progress.

W.B. Yeats in his ‘Second Coming’ said:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.