Monday, 20 September 2010

Taliban Dancer 4 (continued)

Scene 4. Peshawar Refugee Camp.
Karima is alone in their tent, humming to heself.

Sfx: Camp sounds. Shouting off, crying, cooking pans clanging, child running, approaching.

Tahmina : Mummy, Mummy! Letter from Red Crescent! Mummy!
Karima : Here, Tahmina, give it to me. Thank you. Go find Daddy!
Tahmina : Daddy! (running) Daddy! (fading)

Sfx. Camp sounds for a few seconds.

Waheed : (running) What is it? (puffing) What’s wrong Karima? What’s wrong?
Tahmina : (running on) I found him, Mummy!
Karima : Waheed! Calm down! It’s a letter from Mahdi in Asadabad.
Waheed : (still puffing) Well, open it for God’s sake! Open it!
Karima : All right, all right Waheed, I just wanted you to be here. (tears open envelope, unfolds paper) Oh! Here’s money. (Hands to Waheeed, who counts it. She reads aloud).
Dear Waheed and Karima.
Your passports were gone and things are worse here now. The army set up a school and opened the hospital but Jabar came back and blew up the police station with half the men inside. Now they are grabbing every bit of cash they can and nobody is safe here. I sold all the carpets I could but nobody had any money so it all went cheap.
Jabar came back again and demanded to know why I was selling all your stock and beat me up. I told him I had already sent the money so he locked me in and burnt the shop, I smashed a window and got out with singed hair and I'm OK but that is all I can do for you my friends.
I just hope and pray you are OK and that this little bit of money gets to you.
Waheed : There’s less than a hundred thousand here. That’s not even two thousand US! Nowhere near enough.
Karima : How much do we need?
Waheed : Best price I could get was ten thousand Australian… nine thousand US. That gets us onto a fishing boat out of Indonesia.
Karima : What about my jewellery? It’s no use to me here, I can’t wear any of it.
Waheed : I hate to do that, but I guess we can’t stay here the rest of our lives…
Tahmina : There’s more in the letter, Daddy.
Karima : (reads on) There is more bad news. Qasem has taken Lutfi. I warned him to stay with the other children and why, but he said Qasem was nice to him and he wanted to go. Goodness knows what he was promised.
Then a lot of money came by messenger, enough for the rest of us to get out. There was no message but it must be payment for Lutfi so I can’t use it. I am sure he will escape from Qasem and I must be here when he does.
Go in peace my friends

Tahmina : Why did Lutfi go with Qasem?
Waheed : He was lured away to be…
Karima : Darling, he wanted to be a dancer. That is what some boys do. It seems it was his choice.
Tahmina : Then why is Mahdi unhappy about it? Why don’t they leave and come here too?
Waheed : It’s complicated, Tahmina. One day you’ll understand. (stands) I will get Abdul Raheem to come over. Get out the jewellery. (leaves).
Tahmina : Mummy, I’d like to be a dancer like Lutfi and wear pretty clothes and learn music and…
Karima : Come here, my beautiful girl and help me with the jewellery so we can show it to Abdul Raheem when he comes
Tahmina : Can I have your jewellery when you die?
Karima : (laughing) Nothing would make me happier, my dear, but we must sell it now so we can leave here and go somewhere nice.
Tahmina : But I like it here. It’s better than Asadabad. Those men aren’t here and you don’t hide yourself in that silly burqua and I like my friends at school here, I…
Waheed : (off) Karima, can you make tea? Sit here Abdul Raheen.
Abdul Raheen : Thank you. Who is this charming young lady, Waheed?
Tahmina : I am Tahmina. Who are you?
Abdul : Such an outspoken young lady, aren’t you?
Waheed : Please excuse Tahmina, Abdul Raheen, she is very young and knows no better…
Abdul : No, Waheed, I am not offended. On the contrary, in this country women can be leaders and most of us like it that way. What do you want to do with your life, young lady?
Tahmina : I want to be a dancer like Lutfi.
Abdul : That is a nice thing to do. Who is Lutfi? Is he a great dancer?
Waheed : Ahem… She doesn’t know what she is talking about, Abdul Raheen. Karima! Is that tea ready?
Karima : Coming! Is Abdul Raheen here?
Abdul : Hello Karima, you have a very smart daughter here, she should do well where you’re going. I’ve been there and I know.

Sfx: Tea cup clatter, then tea is poured as dialogue continues.

Abdul : Thank you. So you need more money.
Waheed : Yes, we need at least ten thousand Australian to get us there and we have only two… and Karima’s jewellery.
Abdul : All right, I will give you the best price I can. Let me see it.

Sfx: Clinking of bangles and rings as Abdul handles each piece.

Abdul : I can take all this but I can’t give you more than two for it.
Waheed : But that’s not enough...
Abdul : I know, I know, I haven’t finished.
Tahmina : Do you pay a lot of money for a dancer like Lutfi? Qasem paid a lot for Lutfi!
Karima : Shhh! Tahmina, shut up!
Abdul : (laughing) How much do you think you are worth, young lady?
Waheed : (Angrily) Abdul Raheem! This is not what I brought you here for. There is no way…
Abdul : (laughing more) No no no! Waheed! You misunderstand. Your daughter is charming and I would like to see such a lovely young lady get her wish. So I have another proposition for you. Do you still own your shop?
Waheed : (still suspicious) Well yes, what’s left of it!
Abdul : OK, I’ll pay you six thousand US for the shop.
Karima : But there is no shop. Jabar burnt the shop. There’s nothing there!
Abdul : Waheed. You can’t burn land.
Waheed : But it’s worthless, you can’t be serious!
Abdul : My friends, Asadabad has many thousands of years of history and please God, one day the Taliban will be gone and it will be rich again. I can wait.
Waheed : (now calm) I was hoping to go back myself some day, but I’m happy to sell it to you, Abdul Raheem. More tea?





  1. I think this is amazing. It seems a very difficult thing to do? Thank you.

  2. You have captured such a sense of desperation. The anxiety that would follow you around in such a situation would be crushing. Having to sell the shop clutched at my heartstrings because in some ways it severs all links with the past and makes returning one day less likely. I have spoken to a few refugees with similar stories. Their lot is terribly difficult and oh so sad. Well done, Stafford.

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