Monday, November 06, 2006

Afgani Poet, Nadja Anjoman Memorial

Which plunderer’s hand ransacked the pure gold statute of your dreams/In this horrendous storm?
--Nadia Anjuman, "Strands of Steel"
Dear writers, poets, and friends of literature around the world!
You receive this e-mail on 5th November 06:30 pm CET 2006.
On 5th November 06:30 pm CET 2005, exactly one year ago, we lost last life signsofourfriend and colleague Nadja Anjoman, the Grande Dame of Modern Afghan Poetry.

Few hours later she left us forever…We remind her with a minute of silence and ask you to join us by doing the same, when you receive this mail and read through her biography attached below.
We kindly ask you to forward this message to other poets and writers, and friends of literature, and friends of Afghanistan and ask them to forward this message to other poets and writers...

All of you and those who will receive this mail may send us all your comments and notes in response to this mail, we will collect them and publish on a memorial site and forward it also to her family in Herat.

In remembrance to Nadja Anjoman our friend and companion

Sincerely Yours,Dr. Sam Vaseghi

Audio link:

Poets Biography by Shafie Noorzaei and Ren Powell


The Poet’s Biography

Sub: The biography of Nadia Anjoman, the respected poet of Herat-Afghanistan
and a victim of family violence on 5th Nov., 2005

By:M. Shafie Noorzaei, her brother, lecturer at Herat University
(edited by Ren Powell) Date: Jan 23, 2006

On the 27th of December, 1980 my parents’ sixth child was born. They named her Nadia. As far back as I can remember my parents talked about how the birth of this baby girl enriched our lives. They said she was a harbinger of fortune for my father and his family.

Even as a child, Nadia was clever and intelligent. I remember how, when we were young, she would jump on the stairs at our house. She used to ask me to join her, but being two years her senior, I didn’t understand why she enjoyed it so much. Then again, maybe it wasn’t my age that was the problem—perhaps I didn’t share her unique sensitivity.

When we began elementary school, Nadia and I were in the same class. At that time Nadia was only five years old, but we were both good students. The two of us were classmates until we reached the fourth grade—when the boys and girls were separated for their continued studies. Our parents were very supportive when it came to our education; they were our most important teachers.

Once when she was in the fifth grade Nadia came home from school in tears. When my mother asked her what the matter was Nadia said, “It’s not fair. My history teacher lowered my grade because I’m younger than the rest of the students, even though I answered all the questions correctly! And then he raised the grade of one of the lazy boys in the class—the one who is his nephew.”

Until that day, I’d never seen Nadia’s serious side. My mother tried to cheer her up and promised to go to the school the next day to ask about the matter, but that night Nadia was filled with anxiety. That night marked the blossoming of her poetic nature.

At school the next day, in front the Headmaster, Nadia read aloud the first poem she’d ever written. The poem was about the grading incident of the day before. The Headmaster immediately recognized Nadia’s talent, and he also confronted her history teacher about the grading incident. This was all the motivation Nadia needed to write more poems. From then on Nadia read her poetry at all of the school’s ceremonies. Her classmates were proud of her, and her teachers were supportive and encouraging.

Nadia’s parents were also respectful and supportive of her talent. She was adored by her brothers and sisters—her mild temperament made her a beloved friend and companion. Our family was close and we solved our problems by always working together.

Nadia was in the 10th grade when the Taliban began governing the city of Herat. The officials sent her home and the gates of the girls’ schools were closed. Nadia, however, did not stop writing poetry. She studied independently. I remember her in the kitchen, cooking, but with an open book in front of her. The small radio my father bought for her was also always nearby. During the dark times of the Taliban, while all of the youth were caught up in Indian films and music, there being nothing else by way of entertainment or recreation, Nadia was listening to the BBC. She especially liked the midday and cultural programs. And at midnight, when we were all
sleeping, she would perform a private ceremony with paper and pen: composing her thoughts and ideas within the new and old frameworks of Dari poetry.

And yet, even during this time of hopelessness and isolation for the girls, Nadia’s greatest wish had been fulfilled when she was introduced to the head of the literature faculty at Herat University Mr. M. Naser Rahyab. At that time, women and girls were not allowed to leave their homes and Nadia had been very brave to go to Mr. Rahyab’s house for his tutelage. His mentoring helped her to give her poems more meaning, color and strength. Even during the six years of the Taliban state, Nadia had never been far from sources of knowledge and art.

When I speak of art, I am referring the Nadia’s ability to sew. She was an excellent seamstress and sewed clothing for herself, our mother, her sisters and other relatives, too. She did this while studying Hafiz Shirazi, Saadi, Mehdi Sohaily, Parvin Eitasami, Forough Faokhzad, Bidil Dehlawi, Mowlana e Balkhi and other traditional and contemporary writers of Dari literature, the poet and the novelists. Nadia also wrote criticism and helped students revise their work through the Herat Authors Association. I should also mention that, during those years, Nadia had also traveled once to Pakistan with my father and brother.

When the Taliban rule ended in 2001, the doors of the girls’ schools were opened once again and Nadia was found a new life. At that time she was registered for the entrance examination for the university, thanks to an order from the Ministry of Education. After passing the examination she was admitted as a student of her preferred subject—she was admitted to the Literature Department of Herat University, in Dari. This accomplishment empowered Nadia. I remember that time as being the happiest of Nadia’s life; it seemed as though she’d been handed the whole world.

Although Nadia was too young to marry, many families came to our house with proposals. Through my mother, Nadia refused them all. She said that she never wanted to marry, that marriage would be a barrier to her career and to her development as a writer.
In Nadia’s first year of university studies, Mr. Farid Ahmad Maiid Neia, one of the administrators in the department of Literature sent our mother a branch of flowers to announce his intentions as Nadia’s suitor. As was her pattern, she refused his proposal, too.More flowers were sent, but Nadia had made her decision.

During the last seven semesters of her university studies, Nadia was top of her class—just as it had been in the girls’ school. Although I was already teaching at the university and Nadia was only a student, I was very proud of her. She steadily accumulated successes and honors like university scholarships and fellowships.

During her third year as an undergraduate Nadia traveled with ten teachers and other female students to visit the cultural centers, historic sites and universities in Iran. There Nadia met many Iranian poets, writers and authors, and she exchanged ideas and experiences with them. In Iran, Nadia had been able to visit the world renown professor and philosopher Dr. Hosain Elahi Qomshaei, who praised and encouraged her. Nadia brought back many good memories from the trip.

Nadia’s manners and temperament were outstanding, and her smile, always on her lips, was irresistible. Nadia got along well with everyone; she was a child with children, youthful with teenagers, and mature with her elders. She respected her elders and they appreciated her humility and selflessness, her lack of envy—all traits they found lacking in Nadia’s contemporaries. If Nadia called attention to a person’s faults, she did so with good intentions and she did so kindly. Nadia was not a woman to wear expensive clothes or jewelry. She was a true advocate for children and was always kind. When the children would bombard her at the markets and bazaars, she would always buy something from them, not out of need, but out of a desire to make the children happy. Although there were no children in our home, the neighbor
children came to the house every day to visit Nadia. These visits were a testimony to her loving nature.

It was during Nadia’s third year of university study that Mr. Majid Neia began a second round of proposals. He had been suppressing his feelings for Nadia for three years and would no longer keep them to himself. He refused to give up this time. Though Nadia tried to avoid an obligation to him, when sent the Holy Quran to her she could not refuse. He’d used the Holy Quran to place a barrier before her.

Nadia had no choice to but to give in and accept the marriage proposal. I will never forget the day we gave them their answer: Yes. Tears never left her innocent eyes and Nadia kept repeating, “It’s a pity. I will waste away for his sake. I do not deserve this.” But we tried to help her keep up her courage.

From that day on, Nadia often appeared to be happy, but it was only an appearance. The engagement lasted six months, after which they were married in a simple wedding ceremony. After that Nadia found herself looking at life from a completely different position. She smiled, but whether we knew it or not, her smile was false.

Nadia had always been a girl with an enormous amount of patience and a great heart. She was always optimistic woman who would not let her husband or her mother-in-law’s faults discourage her. Sometimes Nadia would confide in our mother, telling her about the name-calling and ill treatment she received from her mother-in-law. But Nadia didn’t tell our father; our father was old and ill and Nadia didn’t want to distress him.

Nadia’s mother-in-law was a selfish, old woman who told her, just two days after the wedding, “I will never love you”. Nadia was never allowed to make decision in the household. “This house is my property. Farid is the one who has brought you here and he’s the one who will have to find a different place for you.” But Farid refused to intercede on Nadia’s behalf. He thought, “This is my mother and she will only be around for a few more days.”

My mother advised Nadia to be patient, “Every marriage has problems at the beginning. They will pass soon. Your mother-in-law only has one son, you understand.” Nadia had no choice but to be patient. There were only three people in that house: Farid, his mother and Nadia. Then Nadia gave birth to the innocent child Bahram Saeid. Nadia was in the middle of her finale year of studies when he was born. Bahram Saeid was good natured and naughty—a noisy, wonderful boy who was very much loved by his mother.

Bahram Saeid’s paternal grandmother never touched him, nor would she allow Farid to pick him up. Although the woman never showed any kindness or love toward Nadia’s child, Nadia tried not to let it bother her. She often left her son in our mother’s care during the days when she went to the university. When I talked to her about the seriousness of the situation with her mother-in-law, she would silence me by saying things like, “It’s not a problem.”; “It’s nothing to worry about.”; “I am used to it.”; or “Life is a struggle.” Nadia was afraid of causing sorrow or grief for our parents. She didn’t want to worry the family. Whenever Nadia would visit our home she
showered everyone with praise, sharing her vivacity and happiness with us.

It wasn’t long ago that Nadia spent a great deal of time talking to me about my own marriage. She had selected several young women from among the university students, our relatives, our neighbors and her friends as possible wives. The last time I saw her was the 5th of November, the third day of Eid; it was the day of her death.

I surprised her at her house at 2:05 p.m. I rarely went to her house and she was very happy to see me. She was alone, waiting for her husband to arrive. Farid was going to take her to a relative’s house and then to the house of a close friend who had recently lost her father. It is a custom in Afghanistan, when someone dies, for people to gather at his or her house on the third day of Eid following the death.

Nadia served me a piece of the cake she had made for the Eid celebration. It was delicious. We talked for an hour—one of the most pleasant talks I think we ever had. And we watched part of an Iranian documentary on Iran TV. While we were talking she told me about two of the young women she wanted me to consider marrying. She showed me their pictures from her album. Then we watched the film of her own wedding so she could point them out. We talked a lot about her friends.

During the entire visit Bahram Saeid was by my side. He was five months old and had just learned to sit up. As I was leaving, he reached for me as I stood in the doorway. Nadia told me that her son understood that I was his family, his uncle, and that he was reaching out to me so I’d take him with me on the motorcycle. I said goodbye and was leaving for my friend’s house to celebrate Eid when I saw Farid heading home.

At 00:05 that night, when we were sleeping, the phone rang. Someone was calling from the hospital’s emergency room: “Do you know Nadia? She has died. Please come to the hospital as soon as possible.”

It was the bitterest news we had ever received. No one could believe it. That night was a hundred times darker than other nights. The moon had been veiled and Nadia’s life had been extinguished! We rushed the hospital. We were crying. We saw Nadia lying dead on a bed in the emergency room! Farid was restless and weeping. When we asked him how Nadia had died, he said, “We argued while on the way to Nadia’s friend’s house and, finally, I slapped her.”

By the next day, the sixth of December, everyone in the city of Herat had heard the terrible news. People came to our house in tears, offering their condolences—there were university professors, teachers, students, colleagues, prominent people in the arts milieu, scholars, authors, journalists, relatives and friends.

Nadia was buried amidst an aura of tragedy; the light rain fell like tears in the holy cemetery in north-east Herat. In the days that followed tributes appeared in all the publications. Nadia’s poetry, talent, character and personality were praised. Interviews appeared in the media, round table discussions and scholarly dissections of her tragic fate. Many people still come to our house to bless Nadia, but to what end? Nadia has left this horrible world forever.