07 Jan

Chapter 3. Survival’s path to a fresh start.

Earlier, I posted Chapter 1 and Chapter 2  of my new series of blogs, which will collectively form an online book. You can find chapter 1 by clicking here.
With additional time on hand and a keen desire to share more, I chose to release Chapter 3 earlier than initially planned. See below for Chapter 3.

Chapter 3. Survival’s path to a fresh start.

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: Since this is primarily a fictional story, please do not take everything I write too seriously.

After eating pizza, cola, and enjoying cappuccino, which we both loved a lot, we decided to go upstairs to the 28th floor, to a room where we have a huge whiteboard, a broad table, and some computers. This room is officially used for our meetings with clients.

The room had a soft, moonlit glow as we settled into our seats, feeling the anticipation in the air. Elara pulled her laptop from a well-worn leather bag and placed it gently on the table. As she opened it, the screen illuminated, ready to capture and convey the thoughts she was about to share.

Gazing up to Elara, I couldn’t help but admire the exquisite details that defined her presence. Despite life’s trials, she exuded undying beauty, her lustrous black hair cascading down, a testament to both resilience and personal style. Her azure blue eyes, deep as seas, narrated tales of perseverance and enduring love. In a poignant moment, Elara gracefully unbuttoned her charcoal grey jacket, each movement seemingly a deliberate dance. This act served as a metaphor, seamlessly bridging the darkness of trials past with the radiant hope for the future. What unfolded beneath was equally captivating – a silk blouse with a luminescent glow, a testament to her refined taste. Paired with impeccably tailored black trousers, every detail seemed to embody a harmonious blend of grace and determination.

I was captivated by the dance of her fingers on the keyboard as she prepared for our discussion. Honestly, I’ve been missing someone like Elara in my life for the past few years. I wished for a friend who shares my ambition and is ready to give their all for the greater good. A companion, a confidante, someone as ambitious and devoted to a greater cause as I am. Someone reliable for those lonely nights when I’m working alone. It makes me wonder why I was so focused on building my business that I missed out on those simple talks with a friend during the lonely nights. Despite having thousands of employees now, there’s still a big emptiness in me.

Looking back, it’s strange that even with all the success and the growth of the business, I feel this emptiness inside. It’s like a puzzle – why did I not notice the absence of those meaningful talks, especially as I dealt with the challenges of running a big company? I failed to recognize the absence of those quiet, yet meaningful, girl-night talks that could have provided solace. Maybe it’s because success, no matter how big, can’t fill the gap left by the lack of genuine connections. I long for someone like Elara, not just for their ambition, but for the real friendship and understanding that goes beyond work. A woman with whom I could share the hardships and victories of the road, especially on those lonely evenings spent in isolation throughout my missions.

As the business does well and the number of employees increases, I take a moment to think. I realize the importance of finding a balance between work and personal fulfillment. I understand the need for connections that go beyond the business world.

I’m thrilled that Elara is back now, allowing us to revisit all those conversations we missed out on in the past years. I’m also grateful that I can finally share everything that’s been on my mind with her, releasing the thoughts I’ve kept within, unable to discuss with anyone else.

Shaking myself from my trance, I turned to my own computer, a reliable companion of mine. It started humming, ready to document our conversation. With purpose, I grabbed the beamer, not just to project images but to shed light on the complex topics we were about to explore.

The whiteboard in the corner stood ready, waiting to capture our words and ideas. The markers, neatly arranged, seemed eager to turn our conversation into a visual record. Elara and I both knew that the subjects we were diving into were challenging, filled with intricate logic and theory. Yet, there was excitement in the challenge, beauty in the complexity, and satisfaction in the pursuit of knowledge that united us in this academic journey.

As we settled into our chairs, the room buzzed with the energy of two minds ready to engage in an intellectual dance. The tools of our trade—the laptop, beamer, and whiteboard—were instruments in the grand orchestra of our collaboration. With a shared nod, we began our journey through the vast landscape of ideas, confident that our preparations would guide us through the intellectual storm ahead.

Elara asked: “Besides all those questions I asked two hours ago, tell me something more, in the first place, about yourself. I know we’ve known each other for many years, and still, we haven’t talked much; I mean, we didn’t talk since we knew you and how you became so successful in life. Can you tell me in detail what made you walk such an extraordinary road and how it feels to be so successful? What was your motivation? And where did it all start? Comes your success because of this building and someone you met a long time ago, as you mentioned earlier?”

“Well, pinpointing where it all began is a difficult question. To be honest, I believe we’ll need at least four weeks together to properly craft my story for the book you’re writing.”

Elara said, “Well, I took six months off from my work to dedicate myself fully to this book, so we have plenty of time. Let’s get started!”

“That’s fine to hear. Let’s start with my roots and biography first,” I suggested. “Honestly, I’ve never shared this information with anyone before. I believe it’s time for me to open up about it. I have two older brothers who are older than me,” I added. “My parents are originally from Herat, Afghanistan. However, due to challenging circumstances in their hometown, my parents were compelled to relocate to Kabul. Before my birth, my family enjoyed a prosperous life in Herat. Fascinating stories revolve around my great-grandfather, who was reputed to be one of the wealthiest individuals in Asia. My great-grandfather, a prominent figure in his time, held namely a pivotal role in the economic landscape of Afghanistan. With a workforce exceeding 10,000 individuals, he was not only a leading entrepreneur but also the key authority overseeing the country’s import and export activities. His influence extended significantly to the management and operation of the crucial Silk Road, a responsibility that showcased his strategic importance in facilitating trade and commerce in the region. The precise extent of my great-grandfather’s fortune remains veiled in uncertainty.

So yeah, during the early days in Herat, before I was born, life was very comfortable for my parents, as I mentioned.

Known to many as the ‘Pearl of Khorasan,’ the city Herat dates back into antiquity and was ripe with prosperity up until 1979 [source]. This city was a beacon, shimmering with wealth and opportunity, owing much of its affluence to its strategic position along the routes of the ancient Silk Road [source]. This Silk Road in Herat, played a significant role in trade and cultural exchange between West, Central, and South Asia [source]. Herat is mentioned in the Achaemenid records as Haraiva [source], and later, Alexander the Great conquered it and built a fortress [source].  Because of the Silk Road, Herat was at the crossroads of numerous civilizations and fostered the exchange of not only goods but also ideas, languages, and cultures [source].

Teeming with merchants from distant lands, Herat was well-famed for its production of exquisite silks and intricate carpets. Its bazaars were lively spaces, brimming over with the hum of trade and the rich scent of diverse merchandise that provided a tantalizing hint of its wealth.

Herat wasn’t wealthy merely in its prosperous trade and commerce; it also harbored great wealth of intellect, culture, and spirituality. During the rule of the Timurids in the 15th century, the city went through its very own Renaissance  [source]. It was a time when art, literature, and architecture thrived and blossomed. The city became a haven for scholars and artisans who brought creativity and enlightenment to this flourishing metropolis.

Remnants of such prosperous times are evident still, maintained in the very fabric of the city. The imposing Friday Mosque and the Musalla Complex, architectural marvels from the era, were testament to the Timurid aesthetic vision [source]. They were not merely buildings, but symbols of Herat’s prosperous past, echoing tales of a time when the city was a pulsating hub of learning, culture, and faith [source]. The city drew seekers of knowledge and spiritual mystics, a sync of intellectual and spiritual pursuit, making Herat a nucleus of scholarly richness [source]. It was a common perception among the local people that Herat was one of the wealthiest and most liberal regions in the country. Poetry, trade along the Silk Road, and economic growth played significant roles in maintaining Herat’s prominence in the country.

Today, Herat remains a valuable historical and cultural hub, with experts concerned about the preservation of its many historical sites and monuments [source].

And yes, the family of the famous writer Khaled Hosseini, a prominent Afghan author renowned for his books, “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” also originated from Herat, greatly influencing his literary works.  In his famous first book, Khaled Hosseini humorously highlighted Herat’s literary riches by stating that one always had to be very careful not to trample over a prominent writer when walking in Herat. This playful observation adds a delightful touch to the cultural atmosphere of the city, emphasizing the deep-rooted appreciation for literature in Herat. The city was home to many writers and artists, as I mentioned before,” I remarked with a smile.

“The most amusing part is that in Herat, everyone knows each other; it’s like a small village where everyone shares some bloodline, forming a huge family. So, if you have roots in Herat and plan to visit or live there, staying anonymous is impossible since everyone is acquainted with each other in the city.

Unfortunately, everything took a tragic turn in 1979 with the onset of war that wreaked havoc on the city. My parents vividly recall the harrowing experience of almost the entire city being bombarded within a few hours [source], resulting in the immediate loss of approximately 20,000 lives, including many of our neighbors, family members, and friends of my parents.  The once vibrant streets, filled with the laughter of children and the chatter of families, transformed in view hours into scenes of unimaginable tragedy. The deafening echoes of destruction resonated through the air, leaving behind a city plunged into sorrow and despair.

Miraculously, my parents, my little brothers, and some family members found refuge underground, and the following day, they made the difficult choice to abandon everything and start a journey to Kabul for a fresh start. It was during this tumultuous period that due to circumstances, political disagreements, and the ravages of war, all the wealth of my family disappeared as if it never existed. The upheavals of history had wiped away the financial legacy, leaving my family to face a new reality with empty hands, no money, and rebuild their lives in Kabul.

So, here they were, my parents in Kabul with empty hands. Having lost all their wealth, my father took on a job at the university as a professor where he used to study earlier. However, since professors didn’t receive substantial pay in Kabul, my father decided to take on a second job at a small family-owned pharmacy. Even with two jobs, it was very expensive to live in Kabul, that’s why my mother went to work as a teacher at a school nearby too. Despite I was a baby, my mother had to leave me in the hands of my brothers who were both under 10. The challenges of starting anew in the capital city meant adapting to a different lifestyle.

To be honest, I grew up in a way that shielded me from understanding my roots or my true origin. My parents raised me in such a manner that I never felt like a refugee or someone hailing from a seemingly forgotten country. It wasn’t until my 13th birthday that I became aware of the experiences my parents had endured during the war in Afghanistan. Prior to that, I was oblivious to the hardships they had faced. Even on my 30th birthday, I remained largely unaware of my family’s history. It was only after meeting certain individuals that I began to grasp the importance of understanding my identity and heritage. These encounters served as poignant reminders, prompting me to delve into my past and acknowledge the struggles my parents went through. I will share more about these experiences later on, shedding light on the journey of self-discovery that unfolded after my 30th birthday.

Firstly, let’s go back to my youth and explore the moment of my birth. On a cold winter night in Kabul, I came into this world. The crisp air outside and the winter chill set the stage for the beginning of my life’s journey. Kabul, with its rich history and cultural tapestry, became the birthplace that shaped the earliest moments of my existence.

My name—you know what it is—is Marya. I am named after the mother of Jesus, and I am not kidding. The reason behind it is that when I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, I was premature. I arrived two months early into the world, and because of this, I was very tiny. I had no hair, no nails, and my eyes were almost closed. The doctors told my parents that the probability of my survival was less than 10%. However, for the first time in Afghanistan’s history, two incubators in Kabul were available for premature babies. On those cold night during the winter, the first one was claimed by the grandchild of the king of Afghanistan. And yes, the other incubator, thanks to my family connections, I could use for some days and receive the treatment I needed afterward.

Indeed, considering the circumstances, I stand as a wonder child in my family. The advancements in technology and science, coupled with the intricate web of connections, have played pivotal roles in ensuring my existence. Without the aid of technological equipment, the wealth of knowledge, and the intricate network of connections, my presence today would not have been possible.

Because the chance of my survival was very little, my parents decided not to give me a name in the first place. After 40 days of my birth, in Afghan culture, it is customary to throw a party for family members with the newborn child. This tradition has its roots in celebrations inspired by Judaism. In Jewish tradition, it is also common to host gatherings and festivities after the birth of a child. Following this tradition, my grandma decided during this party, which took place after 40 days of my birth, to give me my name, Marya. She said that the mother of Jesus was doing miraculous work too; that’s why it was good to name me after her. And since it was also a miracle that I was alive, that’s why everyone agreed to name me Marya.

“Why 40 days?” Elara asked. I answered, “The number 40 often represents transition, transformation, and a period of trial in Judaism [source]”. ”For example, there are the biblical accounts of Noah’s 40 days and nights of rain, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments after 40 days on Mount Sinai, and the purification process for women after childbirth mentioned in Leviticus 12:1-5 [source]. In various interpretations of the purification period in Leviticus within the Jewish tradition, it is mentioned that after giving birth, a woman undergoes a 40-day period of purification for the birth of a boy, and 80 days for a girl [source].

So, the 40-day celebration in Afghan culture aligns with this symbolic significance, having its roots in Judaism. I know many will not agree with this, but history doesn’t lie. In the end, everything is connected on earth, what I will discuss later on.

That’s the story behind my name. Marya means “Mystery” in literature, probably having to do with things I have been doing for years that remain a huge mystery for many”.

Elara relaxed on the leather chair, drawing patterns on the paper next to her. Her mind and peaceful thoughts examined the linked history of our time. The late afternoon moon cast a gentle glow, illuminating her features and auburn highlights. “Interesting,” she said with a smile, “I did not know that Afghan culture is so similar to Judaism.”

I leaned forward, my elbows resting on the mahogany table that bore the scars of countless conversations and spilled secrets. “Well, history has already written who we are and where we come from, hasn’t it?” I asked an idealistic question heavy with the baggage of our shared history. “There are many people who destroy evidence of our history, like some did in Afghanistan, but the truth and the history cannot be taken away, no matter how hard some people try,” I added.

She calmly agreed with me, her nod a gentle punctuation to the unspoken agreement that had formed between us. As the evening waned into night, our conversation lingered in the air, a testament to the power of shared knowledge and the courage to speak one’s truth. And in that moment, I knew that the stories we tell, no matter how outlandish they may seem, hold the potential to change the destinies of those who dare to listen.

Click here for chapter 4.


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