The Power of Story: In the Land of Blue Burqas
Here at River North, we talk a lot about the power of story. Usually, that “story” refers to fiction, but occasionally we reach beyond the bounds of fiction back into reality.
In the Land of Blue Burqas is the story of a western woman’s life in Afghanistan that has all the makings of great fiction—vivid settings, fascinating dialogue, and conflict—but this story is true. Kate McCord lived in Afghanistan for five years, where she learned all the rules, because she had to.
Today we give you a bit of Kate’s story. Tell us below: what is your favorite non-fiction story?
The gray-beard and black-beard in the back of the rickshaw eyed me. The gray-beard had asked me, “Are you a Muslim?” For him, the word Muslim had a very clear definition. He did not just mean, “Are you submitted to God?” To which I could have just said, “Yes, of course.” He meant something much more precise: “Do you submit to the laws of the Prophet Mohammed as recorded in the Holy Quran and Hadith and as taught by the mullahs?”
Whatever true response I could give would not be welcome. Still, I could only give a true response. I answered the gray-bearded man’s question softly and again without arrogance or apology. “No, I am not a Muslim. I am a follower of the Honorable Jesus Messiah.”
I didn’t look directly at either man. That would be rude. I kept my eyes down on the gray-beard’s gnarled hands resting loosely on his knees. They didn’t flinch, and I relaxed. He had accepted my answer.
I flicked my eyes across him and then looked down again. He was wearing a light-brown wool blanket called a pathu that wrapped around his shoulders and hung down to just above his knees. Beneath it, he had khaki Shalwar kameez, the knee-length, cotton blend, long-sleeved shirt and matching oversized pajama bottoms. He wore rubber boots like English wellies but cheaper. He had a light gray, fairly small turban wrapped around his head. The color of his turban indicated that he was not a mullah. In our area, most mullahs wore white turbans. Some wore black, but that’s the Taliban style. The size of his turban indicated he was probably Tajik. Most Pashto men wear larger turbans if they wear turbans at all. I took this all in with the slightest glance but kept my eyes downward.