„Believe it or not: I still remember when these trees were just planted in this park!“
Habib smiles onto the sunlight filtering branches that waver from the trees which are lining the pathways in the park. He walks slowly, testing the steps cautiously. He has to, cause his knees sometimes bend off and his feet have carried him over sixty years on windy pathways trough his life.
„The first time I came to Europe was on a motorbike! I rode with a young british man from Kabul to London where I wanted to stay. Since then I have made this travel so many times…I exported busses to Kabul. I put an annonce into the newspaper, asking who wanted to drive the busses down with me. 20 young people came with me on that track! These were other times, my dear! All these roads were safe, you could travel and it was cheap! Just imagine, I stayed in a hotel in London for 5 pounds, including breakfast! These days you wouldn’t even get a decent breakfast for that anymore!“
His smile encompasses his whole face which reminds more of a gentle Santa Claus than an old Kabuli (inhabitant of Kabul). Maybe some of the years in the Bay Area in the US have had an impact on his appearance. And if not that, then definitely on his accent.
„Sweetheart, can you believe it?“ he asks me „all these young boys driving around and around like crazy. It’s a park! It’s for walking! They should stop that!“
He points at the young under age afghan boys circling around the parks on motorbikes and scooters after bribing the police so that they keep quiet. He screams at them and tries to stop them to talk with them.
„It doesn’t make a difference“, Noor says who walks to my other side. „Even if you talk with one of them, there are a hundred other boys who will do exactly the same. It won’t chane anything!“
Noor and Habib have kind of adopted me since I started staying at the guesthouse. They are both original Afghans, though migrated to the States at some point in their lives. Both were drawn back here and met in the guesthouse just like we did some weeks after. Astonished about the fact that they both lived in San Francisco, they started talking more and when I joined in, the three musketeers were complete. Drinking chai sabs (green tea) in the evening after dinner together, enjoying pomegranade seeds en masse, talking about good old times in Kabul and sighing about the state it is now in.
„When I came back to Kabul in summer“, Habib remembered „I sat all night on the roof of my empty house. I drank tea or a beer. I watched Kabul by night, sometimes until the sun came out again. Trying to make sense of all that has changed.“
And it must have been a lot that changed in the past fourty years since he was young. Not only the wars with different occupiers, the influx of thousands of people from different provinces who are trying to find a better life here and who are filling now with more than 3 Million people a city that was originally designed for one million. „The hill over there used to be all forest.“ Habib says, pointing on the rocky plateau rising up to exhibit the shrapnel-hole-covered Fort that is now a military post . „Boys and girls used to meet there secretly. We went for walks and we had time to talk one another. Good times they were.“
And when he talks I don’t feel that it’s just an old men talking in the dreamy world of the ever-better-past, but that he really wished this city would blossom again like he has seen it before. With sometimes sad eyes but always a twinkle he talks, taking me on my first walks in the city. As I ask him if and how I can walk on my own alone in the streets, he cracks up laughing and grinns: „Not naked!“