The Faked Flag

In the first chapter of the autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India, Vasant Moon describes the neighborhood, a slum area, he grew up in. Among the people he points at, there is a woman, Ragho’s wife, who took advantage of uneducated women’s faith in gods by taking them to the temple in the time of epidemic of diseases like cholera, diarrhea, or smallpox.  The women would go to temple, where Ragho’s wife pretended she is hosting the goddess’s sprit and demanded women for sacrifices such as goats and chickens.

When I read this part of the book, I was reminded of a similar situation in Afghanistan.  Last year, when I was in Kabul, I heard everyday many Shea residents of Kabul rushed to visit a holly flag installed near a mosque in Barchi district of Kabul.  There was rumor a man has brought this flag from holly shrine of Imam Husain located in Karbala, Iraq. Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, has a very high place and value in Shea people’s heart. They all love him so deeply for the way he has sacrificed his family and his own life for the sake of God. Shea people celebrate his birthday every year and moan for his death in a special ceremony on Ashura Day, when all Shea people were black and cry for his loss. So you can imagine how passionately people welcome a flag from his grave and rush to visit it. I heard many people, most of whom were women, offered nazri, money or jewelry given in order to receive blessing from God or a holly character, to the boxes that were placed beside the flag by the man who claim he had brought it from Karbala. They also brought sick people with the hope Imam Husain’s love and spiritual power would cure them.  Among the sick people, I heard there has been a girl who was told her disease couldn’t be cured in Afghanistan and she needed to go immediately to a neighboring country for treatment. The girl’s father had booked a fight to Pakistan to take his daughter there for treatment. However, he had changed his mind and had brought her daughter beside this flag to be cured. Two days later the girl had died.

I remember how indignant I felt about the owner of the flag and how cruelly he had taken advantage of the innocent love and faith of some naïve and uneducated people when I heard the news about the death of the girl. I imagined in my mind how he collected the moneys and jewelries from the box every night and laughed, a sinister laughter, at the people he had cheated.

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One Response to The Faked Flag

  1. auwpriyanka says:

    Dear Masooma,
    Your blog was interesting to read. I liked the way you chose one character of the novel and related it with your own country’s context. From ancient times, many people are following conservative beliefs and superstitions. They believe in holy and sacred tangible things, but there are some malicious people in our societies who take unfair advantage of these beliefs.

    I too felt really bad when you mentioned about the girl who died because of delay on treatment. There are many similar cases in Nepal also where people are cheated in the name of god’s blessings and people are so innocent that they easily fall victim in the trap of these cruel people. Now I came to know that it is a universal problem and it must be eradicated. Hope, the coming generation would be more perceptive and shrewd enough to deal with such miserable situations.

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