Taliban’s fall does little for Zarghona
The Sydney Morning Herald
Chief Herald Correspondent in Kabul
November 22, 2008
THE sadness of the widow Zarghona’s Afghan story is its utter ordinariness. At the age of 30, she spends her days in a tiny, smoke-blackened shed, sitting cross-legged by a deep hole in which she bakes bread.
The smoke makes her eyes stream but Zarghona does not move. Swivelling from the hips, she leans to her left to grasp a ball of dough. Flattening and stretching it, she damps it with a splash of water before she drops forward to slap it to the side of the clay oven.
She wears a scarf, tied tight on her head. Two other women sit beneath their burkas – one black, the other blue – enjoying the warmth of the fire as they chat with the baker.
Zarghona knows exactly when the bread is cooked, hooking it from the oven with a length of wire. With the same expertise she keeps the fire just right, feeding it from a pile of kindling. When customers poke their heads into her smoke-filled space, she swivels to the right, swapping a loaf for the princely sum of four Afghanis – about 14 cents.
As a widow she has to work to survive – but it is lean pickings.
After paying rent for the shed and buying wood and ingredients, her little bakery clears about 1000 Afghanis, $34, a month. On a good day she sells 30 to 40 loaves.
Zarghona raises a smile but, given her circumstances, it seems almost rude to ask if her life in the new Afghanistan has improved. “Nothing has changed for me since the fall of the Taliban,” she says. “Except that my husband died of an illness two years ago.
“My children are still hungry and now that the nights are cold, I have to borrow quilts from neighbours for my girls.”
But at least in the new Afghanistan her girls can go to school to prepare them for a better life?
“No. They are aged eight and three. The eight-year-old must stay home to look after the three-year-old while I bake bread.”