A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistanby Nelofer Pazira
"The picnic of the red flower" is a traditional time of celebration for Afghans. One of Nelofer Pazira's earliest memories is of people gathering in the/b>/i>
- Editorial Reviews
- Product Details
- Related Subjects
- Read an Excerpt
- What People Are Saying
- Meet the author
Written with compassion, intelligence and insight, A Bed of Red Flowers is a profoundly moving portrait of life under occupation and the unforgettable story of a family, a people and a country.
"The picnic of the red flower" is a traditional time of celebration for Afghans. One of Nelofer Pazira's earliest memories is of people gathering in the countryside to admire the tulips and poppies carpeting the landscape. It is the mid-1970s, and her parents are building a future for themselves and their young children in the city of Kabul.
But when Nelofer is just five the Communists take power and her father, a respected doctor, is imprisoned along with thousands of other Afghans. The following year, the Russians invade Afghanistan, which becomes a police state and the center of a bloody conflict between the Soviet army and American-backed mujahidin fighters. A climate of violence and fear reigns.
For Nelofer, there is no choice but to grow up fast. At eleven, she and her friends throw stones at the Russian tanks that stir up dust and animosity in the streets of Kabul. As a teenager she joins a resistance group, hiding her gun from her parents. Her emotional refuge is her friendship with her classmate Dyana, with whom she shares a passion for poetry, dreams and a better life.
After a decade of war, Nelofer's family escapes across the mountains to Pakistan and later to Canada, where she continues to write to Dyana. When her friend suddenly stops writing, Nelofer fears for Dyana's life. With lyrical, narrative prose, A Bed of Red Flowers movingly tells Pazira's haunting story, as well as Afghanistan's story as a nation.
-- Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner
- Free Press
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- SIMON & SCHUSTER
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 813 KB
Read an Excerpt
On one late afternoon in September 1978, our family driver took me to the detention centre in Baghlan, where my father was imprisoned. My purple velvety trousers were brushing the dust from the unpaved road as we walked to the compound. I was holding the driver's hand, forcing him to go faster. I wanted to see my father. For a child, whose world consisted of family - parents, a younger brother and a baby sister - not seeing my father for three days was a great deal of missing. I was three months short of being five years old.
At the prison, all I could see of my father was his face - striped with the lines from the shadow of the metal bars. He looked desolate. I wanted to hug and kiss him. But he was boxed in a small room. A thick wall, iron bars and several policemen stood between us. I was sitting on the ground, pushing my feet against the soil and crying, my trousers disappearing into a cloud of dry dust and hardly looking purple or velvety any more.
I shall never forget the angry voice of my father. "I didn't raise you to cry on such a day," he shouted at me. His words shook the compound. I stopped crying. Holding the driver's hand, I stood embarrassed, head down, listening to my father. At times his voice grew thicker, as if he himself was going to cry, but he paused and continued. "You mustn't cry," he said. "You have to be strong and help your mother." He told me to tell her that he was fine and that they had no reason to keep him imprisoned. He'd be home soon.
"Your ten minutes is up," a voice announced coldly. There was a silent goodbye as my father shook his head. I had no tears, and my father faded from view.
I walked back to our car with the driver. There was a revolution inside me. I wanted to be strong, to break all those walls and bars and set my father free. I kept fighting the desperate need to burst into tears. My eyes were burning, much like my father's. But his were inflamed with anger, mine with helplessness. I wanted to arrive home without tears, even though I knew my mother wouldn't mind. She had shed many of her own tears in the last few days. I heard her cry at night, quietly in her bed.
That night I hated my mother's sobbing. I wanted to scream at her "Stop it!" But I felt sorry for her. I knew she was crying from the pain of missing my father, and it was not the only thing. I also heard her talking to a friend in the living room as she described how men were verbally abusing her. She spent her days going to various government offices to see if she could obtain my father's release. The governor of the city had told her she was "too young and beautiful to waste her life with a criminal" who was against the "rightful government." A police officer had told her "there were plenty of men who would be happy to please" her. The principal of the school where she was teaching said he was going to report my mother to the "higher authorities" if she missed another day of work to follow up on my father's case. But if she reciprocated his "keen affection," she would be nominated that year's best teacher.
* * *
My mother was not nominated any year's best teacher, and my father was released after nearly five months in prison. "He had a brave lawyer and lots of luck," as one of his best friends put it. It took me a while to grasp the gravity of my father's crime in refusing to support the communist government. The full extent of its meaning did not become clear until later in my life. In some ways, to this day, the child in me still asks "Why?" Why was my father, who in his daughter's view was a kind man and a good medical doctor, locked up away from us? Children see everything through the injustices they've suffered. In the perfect world that every child expects, this episode left a crack in the wall of my innocence.
Orders come from abroad, like death itself;
The guns are free,
So are the bullets,
And this year is the year of dying young,
The year of departures,
The year of refugees.
Qahar Ausi, 1989
At dusk, the downtown Kabul district of Dehe Afghanan is cloaked with grey clouds and grey smoke. The early spring rain has left dirt and water across the paved roads. For over a decade now the highways have not been maintained, and the potholes have become deeper, the city's drainage system more derelict each year. It's not cold, but we all hug our arms around our bodies as if shivering from fear. We all walk fast, very fast - hoping to get away from everything and everyone. It's been ten years since the beginning of the war. Who started it? Who will end it? These days, we are so tired that we wish to forget. But is it possible to forget about war when minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day we feel that something bloody and terrible is about to happen?
The curfew starts at 10:00 every night. But there is another unspoken curfew that is imposed not by the communist government but by fear, a curfew that sets in much earlier. Which is why, at this hour, a cocktail of bicycles, motorbikes, pickup trucks, white-and-blue buses, red-and-orange minibuses and yellow taxis, all overcrowded, are merging into a river of traffic. People flood along the main road between the vehicles to reach the two bus stations. Vendors scream their hearts out in a desperate attempt to sell their apples and beans, spinach and meat. Fabrics are measured and cut at speed, four customers at a time. Even the clouds are racing over my head.
From the Hardcover edition.
What People are Saying About This
Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner
Meet the Author
Nelofer Pazira is a journalist and filmmaker based in Toronto. She starred in the movie Kandahar and was featured in Return to Kandahar, which she also coproduced and codirected. She currently works for the Canadian Broadcasting Company's nightly newscast, The National. She has also recently set up a charity -- Dyana Afghan Women's Fund -- to provide education and skills training for women in the city of Kandahar.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews