Last October, I wrote about Pritpal Singh, a.k.a. The Dutch Sikh, and his travels to Afghanistan, in an effort to explore his roots and the land of his birth. The documentary, mentioned in my blog is now ready. It was aired on Sangat Television on January 20th, 2013. The production of this documentary was funded by the Guru Nanak Darbar, Southall.
If the images Pritpal brought back from Afghanistan and the teaser trailer of the documentary titled Mission Afghanistan were anything to go by, I knew this was going to be emotional. I've watched it several times now, initially in a rush to take it all in, and then subsequently with more care - looking for places I would recognise, listening to the sounds, looking at the faces and feeling the atmosphere of the country I once called home. Pritpal delivered. In spades.
Not that it made easy watching. It wasn't long before the nostalgia was sated and the grim realities on the ground began to hit home. Afghanistan is a mess. Mission Afghanistan paints a bleak picture of bullet-ridden buildings, particularly the gurudwaras and temples, widows and children surviving on charitable donations, fear and desolation in the eyes of a community on the verge of extinction in a process that can only be described as ethnic cleansing, the lack of education of any kind, unimaginable poverty, people living in houses with an acrylic sheet for a roof while there's knee-deep snow outside, the shattered Shorbazaar area where my mother grew up, the furtive and secretive cremations held by Hindus & Sikhs, the overt discrimination and racism, and entire townships where no Hindus and Sikhs remain.
Despite all this, as one resident explains, they are not seeking charity. "What," she says, "will happen when the money people send runs out? We need sustainable solutions. We need education for our children. We need to feel safe."
As I write this, in my centrally heated home, on a laptop that cost more than what some families in Afghanistan live on for a year, aggravated by the disruption to my life caused by 3 inches of snow, fuming over semantics on Twitter, I can't help thinking how shallow we can be. No misery in the UK comes even close to what they're experiencing. And it's set to get worse: the proposed withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014 fills me with dread.
Like most readers of this blog, I don't have Sangat TV, but fortunately the entire documentary is available online. Click the image below to view the film.