Translator’s (Fateh Sami) Comment
‘I drank My Tears’ is the topic of a short story written in Farsi- Dari by Mr. Partaw Naderi, a well-known and outspoken contemporary Afghan writer and poet. It is the story of children exploring their surroundings through their instinctive curiosity and relationship with nature. The story highlights various aspects of children’s life in a war ravaged country such as Afghanistan. The writer has attempted to portray children in a situation where they constantly struggle for survival and subsequently face a cryptic future. However, despite these struggles, the children remain curious in discovering the mysteries of nature. The struggles they face include poverty, deprivation, violence and social injustice. They are further deprived of basic facilities which are needed for sound cognitive, social and emotional development, including pleasant and focused interaction. Moreover, economic struggles and poor nutrition in association with depressive symptoms of insecure environment, have badly affected their early childhood and any hopes of a normal mental, emotional and physical development. This is further exacerbated by a lack of affection felt by children during difficult times such as the loss of their parents and being left in an ocean full of ‘whales’ which exposes them to further heartbreaking and appalling conditions.
The writer primarily focuses on children’s curiosity, discovering things through interacting with the environment for example, by speaking about the sparkling narcissus, daffodils and dandelions decorating the sky and floating into the waves of the sea. They speak of them with such strength, such lightness that you can visualize them before your eyes. They speak in a tongue you understand but have never heard before. The only thing which can save them is their purity and innocence and not being tainted by wickedness.
This story time does not run in the usual way, in a war stricken country the times clash, and the war is over. The guns are not used as means of suppression and bloodshed; but are used as walking stick by elderly men and are being used as means for living. The children try to travel and surrender the mountain peak. The mountain talks to them and the sea looks a mysterious place to them and marks the annihilation of whales. Whales stand as a symbol of atrocity, aggression and war. The whales are the wicked people, eating the fish. Fish symbolize the innocent children and people in a sea, a lawless place.
The children are making every endeavor to reach the head spring and see the Venus, swimming with narcissus, shining with light upon light. Getting to such a place and achieving this aspiration for the children seems unlikely, as if an eagle after reaching the mountain high will never be willing to return. While their friends are still at home witnessing a dark muddy rain coming down from the sky. The dark rain is indicative of a social catastrophe looming over the nation, where children do not have any hope for their future life. The rapid gush flow of the dark rain is the wail and lamentation of women. The hero of the story feels that the sorrow and grief of women is coming from his voice box, licking his tears which smell of the sorrow being one thousand years old.
In the story some words such as gun, whale, the sea, fish, the sky and the flower have been used symbolically as mentioned earlier. In short, our children and people are being exposed to a terrible situation in which democracy and human rights are used as a theme. But in reality, barbarism and savagery are dominantly ruling over the nation. The deprived poor children of Afghanistan send a message to the children in civilized society to be aware of their condition, feel sympathetic and show them how to achieve their long cherished aspiration of security and freedom.
Written by: Partaw Naderi
Translated into English by: Fateh Sami
I Drank My Tears
Everything was hazy. Gazing at the sky, a narcissus was sprouting in place of each sparkling star. For years this kind of shadows were fleeing from me in darkness. In the remote past, I became a village boy playing with rusty guns with a group of other boys on the hillside of imagination. Bullets were corroded, sticking to the cartridge holders of guns, no one was frightened. Guns were modified to walking sticks for elderly men in the village.
The trees were dancing and singing in a choir, like lovers, with the symphony of breezes which were arising from the green foot of mountains. The cages were all smashed. The sky was transformed to a sole green bird nest and the birds were being all deeply in love. Birds were chirping assorted songs, however, all the diversities were synchronising in the vast horizon of affection and beauty.
The song of the river mingled with the adoring chatter of birds, stimulating a delicate sensation running through our nerves. Sometimes we felt as if we were also birds, hovering with the wings of love.
I said, ‘Boys, River!’ The river attracted us to itself. The boys shouted merrily and we all rushed into the river. Approaching the river we sighted a world of wonders upon wonders, full of amaryllis. We drank water and splashed our faces. It was cold and soft as a baby smiles on the arms of a young mother. The water in the river smelled the fragrance of a narcissus.
We took off clothes and floated our little bodies to the drift of waves. We spotted fish, breathing love with narcissus flourishing on their glossy scale. Numerous large schools of many kinds of glittering fish were passing by our sides, singing different songs, attracting our childlike attentions. Trying to give way we saw that a large school of fish had already circled us. ‘Do not be alarmed! The one who is sitting with such a glory on the mobile throne is the great princess of the river.’ the fish said.
We asked with surprise, ‘Do you know our language?’
The fish answered, ‘yes, we do understand the language of children because it is pure and we love purity. We love you because of your innocence. Your hands have not touched a hook and a net and your tongue has not got familiar with lies.’
We looked at the great princess of the river. She had a sweet smile on her face. We winked at her with a smile. She did also respond with a smile. She threw a bunch of narcissuses, holding in her right hand at us. Its petals scattered on our heads and faces. While the fish smilingly wanted to take distance from us, one of the boys yelled, ‘Hi fish! You did not tell us, where is the great princess of the river going today?’
A fish from among all those which had surrounded us approached and said, ‘so you are not aware! today is the day of extinction of whales’ generation. That is why, the princess and all fish families are heading toward the big river to delight in marking the victory jubilation of life to death.’
Up to that moment, we had not heard anything about the big river. Staring at each other we asked with surprise, ‘but how has the whales’ generation vanished? ’ the fish replied, ‘we destroyed them.’
‘But how did you do?’ We asked.
‘It’s a long story’, the fish responded. ‘We have to go now, the jubilation will start. The princesses of other rivers are also coming to the big river. We should get there soon. The great princess gives a speech at the jubilation in the language of love and then she will chant and dance with other princesses.’
The fish left us behind. The great princess sitting on the mobile throne was passing by from our side. We were watching her using our palms as an umbrella over our eyes; cherishing aspiration in our heart and wishing if we could go with the princess to listen to her speech and to watch her luminous dance.
We were frustrated from our inability. We hopped out of the river to the beach. We lied down on back on the soft sands of the beach, staring at the sky. The sky was laughing. We were staring at Taksar Mountain; it was also looking at us and laughing. We stood up and saluted the Taksar Mountain. We heard the heavy roar of Taksar saying: ‘My children! What has happened that you are sleeping on the beach sands so distressful?’
‘Tasker, O great Taksar! We are stressful of our inability!’ we replied.
Taksar said, ‘O my children, tell me about your stress, to Mountain! Jump on my shoulders to refresh your memory’
I said, ‘boys! Let’s go, let’s go! On the peak of Taksar we can touch the sky and we can pick up bunches of narcissuses. With a blink of eye we were on the rugged and soaring shoulders of Taksar. We found out how huge the world was there and how high was the sky that our hands will never reach. We realized that the world and life will not be only the ones we were breathing in our small village. We knew how far away our village from the high shoulders of Taksar was.
We were still looking at the world when Taksar asked, my children! You did not say why you were so quiet and stressful while you got out from the river? We said, ‘because the river is luckier than us. The fish of the river are also luckier than us because they are going to long trips and they love each other.’ The great princes of the river threw narcissus to us. We did not have flower to throw to her too. Today in the great river is the jubilation on the whale’s annihilation. The great princes is singing and dancing. We do not know how this river is so lucky which has princes with such a beauty and benevolence. It also has fish wearing narcissus which has destroyed the whales’ family.
Taksar said kindly, ‘My children climb up higher and higher.’
We hopped like sparrows on the peak of Tasker, top of its head. Our views caught far away behind the long boundaries; and at remote distance we noticed a fountainhead full of light.
‘Do you see the headspring of the river?’ Taksar asked.
‘Certainly, we can see a fountainhead as big as the size of love where the great princes of the river was swimming in ’, we answered.
Taksar Said, ‘the spring is the same as you can see; but the one who is swimming is not the great princess of the river. It is Venus.’
‘Venus! We all shouted, O great Taksar! Take us to the headspring of the river to see the Venus!’ We reached the headspring and visited the Venus. No depression will shade our heart. ‘Taksar! Taskar the Great! We would like to fly to the fountainhead to visit the Venus.’
Taskar shrugged its shoulders and shook such as we all nearly had to fall down from the apex to the boulders surface. An unknown fear engulfed us. We closed our eyes of trepidation, feeling as if we were hovering like white swans in the blue sky. I do not remember for how long we did fly. Just while opened our eyes, we had already arrived at the territory of Venus, the headspring of the river.
We lied down flat on our tummy, on the grasses next to each other. Our elbows were pinned on the ground, our hands propped up under our jaws, and our eyes gazing at the spring, viewing the Venus.
Our eyes were full of beauty and our ears were filled with melody, arising from the spring. Venus was singing. The song was similar to the lost aspiration of all baffled lovers in the world. The song of Venus was wonderful like herself.
Venus was chanting and pouring luminous water with full hands on her shoulders. The water drops were rolling down her shoulders, filling with love the whole spring as the crystal of a loving lyric.
We felt it was raining clear and scented water. We looked up the sky, watching that narcissus was coming down instead of rain. One by one falling petals of narcissus were kissing Venus’s shoulders gently and lovingly and then spreading on the water like shining stars. The spring was changed to the sky full of stars as if the sky came down by itself to hug the Venus.
We got speechless; our eyes were focussed on the spring, gazing at Venus. We suddenly noticed a fountain of coloured lights was rising up from the spring. Venus looked at the sky. We did look too, observing a coloured silk, knitted from the fragrance of narcissus are slowly descending from the sky. The silk cloth landed on Venus’s Shoulders. Venus wrapped it up around its stunning and mysterious body, and steadily stepped out of the spring. While walking on the grass, narcissus were growing on its steps, smelling the fragrance of love. While the water was dripping from its tresses drop by drop, the grasses were producing pearls. Venus was going down to its home and it looked like the temple of love. While was stretching her hand to open the door, she turned her face to have a glance at us. We felt as if we had forgotten our existence and percolated like droplets of rain into the layers of grasses.
I do not remember how long it took until we heard the voice of the boys, telling us: ‘Let‘s go we have got a long way to go.’ I noticed my hands had fallen down from under my jaws to the ground. Without raising my head I said, ‘let‘s go!’
The boys asked, ‘and you?’
My journey has ended.’ I said. “Whenever a caravan reaches the destination, it encamps. You go!’
The boys took distance from me and with the distance of each one of them; I was looking at shadows which were coming towards me one after another. I was very frightened. But as the shows were coming closer I realised they are all look like me, similar to my juvenility and same like my young hood. They looked as if the shadows were living with me for a long time. Whilst they reached me, I stood up. The shadows were staring at me, but they were silent. They came near around me and began rotating in a circle. The shadows were whirling; they were continually whirling and spinning. In each turn their circle were getting smaller and tighter. I had placed my hands on the hands of shadows and I was spinning along with them. It was as if the shadows finally vanished in me.
In an instant, I felt everything was spinning around my head. It was not a shadow. It looked like I was changed to a shadow. The sound of the fall of a decayed aged poplar tree shook my whole body. I was feeling that spoiled blood was flowing gently in my veins. I was feeling that the spoiled blood was freezing in my veins. I picked up a mirror to look at myself. The mirror was murky and broken. But in that darkness I recognised myself because I was actually the darkness of the mirror.
I felt my breathing was interrupted. I opened the room window. It was showering outside, a black rain. Twigs of young trees were shaking by rain. It seemed as if the rain was whipping the young trees. Black rain was flowing through the down pipe of the house. The sound of rain in the down pipes sounded like mothers wailing for their dying son. The moan of mothers for their son’s death was echoing the whole sky of my house. I felt just for a second that the wail of all mothers around the world who had lost their children was coming out from my voice box. I felt for a second that I have a long connection with mothers in grief of their dead child.
I was sitting upset by the window silent like a stone, putting my hands on my eyes. My hands got hot. I removed them from my eyes. I noticed that a red rain was running from my enraged eyes and my hands were full of tears, same like the goblet of rain. I drank the full goblet of my tears to the last drip. My tears had the taste of sorrow of millennium.