13 May, 2021

Border Diary

"If you fear loneliness, you cannot be a soldier or an honest man…" Suchitra Vijayan narrates stories from Afghan Border

Border Diary
Soldier of Ill Fortune

“If you fear loneliness, you cannot be a soldier or an honest man…” Masood said these words as he quickly smoked the small hand-rolled cigarette with a mix of hashish and tobacco. He was almost forty when I met him in the winter of 2012, in a remote town in Paktika province in Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan. By then he had been many things. An orphan, a refugee, a smuggler, a fixer, a translator, a fighter. Who he fought against, of course, changed, depending on who was listening. He now called himself a businessman. He worked with everyone, the Americans, the Afghans, the Iranians, the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Haqqanis, the Taliban. He was one of the many minor strongmen the decade-long war had produced. Men with muscle and money, greasing the wheels of a military occupation.

It was six in the evening, cold and already dark. About twelve of us sat huddled in the room made warm by the fire and a couple of...

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