Into the last week of March 2010, I got a surprising call from Mr Bian How Tay (Colombo Plan Consultant) from Colombo. What he told me over the phone was bitterly sweet.
‘Dichen, we are conducting another Youth Congress. I want you to come.’ The next word he said was ‘Afghanistan’.
I said yes without taking time to think. I couldn’t refuse because I have committed myself to Colombo Plan as a recourse person/ youth leader in their youth programmes and i had committed to working for youth. I was to land in Kabul on the 2nd of April. I had a week to process my air ticket, Afghan visa in Delhi, and talk to my parents.
I called my father right away and told him. He was supportive as always and told me to go if I wanted to. ‘Phuuuu…’ That was cleared. I confirmed my tickets with KTBT, Thimphu and corresponded with someone in Kabul regarding my visa.
When it was about time to leave for Delhi, my father told me to change my mind if possible because some people in his office told him it was still risky as it was a war torn country with suicide bombings. I told him there was no turning back and I had already given my word to Mr Tay that I would come and I would never withdraw after two Resource persons already withdrew. I assured him I would be safe because I was working with an International organization. My father, knowing me well, knew I would never change my mind. I would be blown off with a bomb in Afghanistan or I would grow old in Bhutan, I would still die.
I decided not to tell many friends about my plan. So I chose few friends I wanted to tell about my trip. I and my friend were talking about my trip and a man near us over heard me.
‘We don’t want to see you in BBS or BBC or CNN,’ he butted in.
‘Why is that?’ I asked. ‘Why would you see me on television in the first place?’
‘That you are kidnapped or blown off by a suicide bomber.’
Some people tried to discourage me but I was adamant. I had to go to Afghanistan. I kept thinking if Bhutan was war torn and everyone would be scared to come to help our young people, what kind of life we would have. I had dedicated to work for youth and it didn’t matter if they were in Thimphu or in Afghanistan or on Mars.
Khalid Hosseini first showed me the Afghanistan the media didn’t show or the world didn’t talk about, in his book ‘The Kite Runner’. I had been surprised at the beautiful Afghanistan, the glorious past he showed me with turn of every page slowing narrowing down to the war and the Talibans. I had fallen in love with it since then.
I spent a whole day at the Afghanistan Embassy in Delhi waiting for my visa. Mr Thomas (CP employee) was with me and we were getting restless as it was Thursday and the Embassy would traditionally close on Friday and after that it was Eid. It was that day or I was packing my bags for trip back home. After numerous phone calls to Kabul, we were granted our visa.
When I decided I was going to Kabul, I mailed my friend, Dr Jawed Badakshan, inquiring the clothes I should bring and he replied, ‘You can bring any clothes that you wear.’ ‘Any clothes’ for me meant the clothes I wear in hot Phuentsholing and having been shown that Afghanistan was a desert I packed my clothes for a hot climate, and shawls if I had to cover myself.
To be continued…