Written By: Jalil Pouya
The man can’t see or hear and can’t move by himself. The woman has trouble hearing, can’t talk, and has nerve issues. Even though she’s not in great health, she manages the elderly couple’s affairs. She goes by “Ziajan” in her biography but her family calls her “Paiyish.”
Paiyish doesn’t accurately know her age but estimates that she is around forty years old. She complains of stomach pain and shortness of breath, and her walk is unsteady. She struggles to speak without running out of breath. She says, “I have shortness of breath and cannot breathe properly.”
Suffering and anxiety have etched deep lines on her forehead. Her face is drawn and lifeless. It seems that life’s hardships have robbed her of the ability to smile. Perhaps she had truly forgotten how to smile because, given her circumstances, there is little reason or excuse for smiling. I tried to bring a smile to her face with my words, but her smile was as bitter and sorrowful as her days.
Her family moved to Kabul twenty years ago when the Taliban first came to power in Afghanistan. Her father used to support the family as a carpenter, but he hasn’t been able to work for the last fifteen years. Now, Paiyish carries all the family’s responsibilities.
Her father is now severely ill and unhappy. He has completely lost his sight and hearing and can only speak. Struggling to move, he fell during recent snowstorms and now finds it difficult to even turn over; hence his frail body aches and he has lost the ability to move. He is deeply unhappy. His face lacks colour, and his complexion resembles white plaster; as if no blood flows through his veins. It’s unclear how old he is, even his daughter doesn’t know.
In the moments I was there to document the report, the old man had every wish and called out to his daughter. He constantly complained and occasionally let out a soul-wrenching groan.
Paiyish’s mother cannot speak, her ears are heavy, and she also has neurological problems. However, she has good eyesight. Occasionally, she leaves the house and gets lost on her way back. Paiyish says she even spent a night in one of the police stations because once she leaves the house, she can’t find her way back.
Due to illness, Paiyish is unable to work outside the home and can barely manage the most essential household tasks. She says even if she could work outside the home, she wouldn’t be able to, as her father needs help every moment and her mother may also need to leave the house at any time.
Paiyish says her father also had a son. A young man who went to Iran to work and returned home after two years with a sick body. A sickness that eventually took her brother’s life. Paiyish still doesn’t know what her brother’s illness was.
He also has experience of a three-year marriage. However, after three years, she separates from her husband. She says her husband was addicted to drugs.
Paiyish’s family has had no income (even minimal) for years and is entirely reliant on the help of others. She says that poverty has increased in the neighbourhood in recent years, and the trait of generosity has been taken away from the people. According to her, fewer people are willing to help them.
They moved to a new home five months ago. Before, their landlord let them stay without paying rent, but now, they’ve only managed to pay for one month out of the past five. Their new house is small and cold. Paiyish’s family only has one room, while the others are rented out. The place smells of old urine, which they’ve gotten used to but would be uncomfortable for someone new.
Paiyish dreams of a better life, where she has food to eat and a safe place to live. But with no income and no jobs available, they rely on the kindness of others for survival. Because they couldn’t pay rent on time, they faced eviction, and they’ve endured many nights without enough food.