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Rene and Her Curious Mind

Rene and Her Curious Mind

Papa telling Rene allabout Afghanisthan

Rene’s inquisitive mind delves into a conversation with her father about Afghanistan. They discuss the linkage of its name with the Sanskrit language, the evolution of different continents from one supercontinent, the Indian independence movement and the freedom fighters

By Somashis Gupta

“Papa – Rene Series”

Starring: Triparni Das as Rene and Chayanchit Das as Papa

“Papa, where is Afghanistan?” Rene began innocently enough, and I now anticipated a series of questions to follow.

“It is a country in Asia,” I replied, hoping that it would satisfy her curiosity.

“But,” she persisted, “Why is it called Afghanistan?”.

I stopped reading my newspaper and said, “The word Afghanistan is a blend of three words. Ashva, which means horse, maan, which means riders and sthan, which means land. Hence Asvamaan Sthan or Afghanistan – meaning land of the people who ride horses.”

“Oh! but Papa, these are Sanskrit words, no?”

“Yes, they are.”

“So, that means they speak Sanskrit?” Rene was now fully attentive.

“No Afghanistan has around 50 languages, but Pashto is the most common language”.

“Papa, I am confused; why Sanskrit then?” Rene’s scepticism was eminent in her voice.

“Well, during ancient times, Sanskrit was the link language just as English is today, so perhaps that is how Sanskrit words led to the name of Afghanistan.” I stood up to make some tea as I said this.“But Papa, I read that at one point of time Afghanistan was a part of India,” An inquisitive Rene followed me to the kitchen.

“Yes, true, it was sometimes only in 1893 that they got separated from British India.” I continued giving her some more information. “Actually, you know Rene, the earth was formed much before life originated in our planet. There were no countries like today. It was all together. In fact, all the continents as we know today were a part of a supercontinent called Gondwana”.

“So all of the continents were together?” Rene looked surprised.

“Yes, darling, all the continents were together as one landmass. Our earth is changing every day. As a matter of fact, India was a part of Madagascar and drifted to join Asia only a 100 million years back.”

“Huh?” Rene was flabbergasted.

“You were talking about Afghanistan. Do you know that we used to have very close ties with that country for ages?” I broke her mental bolt from the blue.

“Hmm. I remember reading Tagore’s Kabuliwala,” she said.

“Yes, that is a good example,” I appreciated her. “That story was an inspiration from the various merchants who travelled to our country from Kabul to sell Hing (asafoetida) and dry fruits during the British rule.”

I brewed my Makaibari and continued, “But Afghans had been coming to India for trade much earlier to the colonial era, through the Khybar Pass.” “Khybar Pass? You mean that restaurant in Gariahat?” She was surprised again.

I laughed and said, “Well, there are things beyond food Rene, Khybar Pass is a mountain route in Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, on the border with Afghanistan through which many people travelled to India for ages.”

“Oh! I see,” she continued, “Papa, I read somewhere that the first cry of Independence of India was declared in Kabul. Is it true?” “Excellent, Rene” I appreciated that she knew this. “It was called Hukumat-i-Moktar-i-Hind – the first provisional government of India in exile, declared by Raja Mahendra Pratap and Maulana Barkatullah on the 1st December 1915 in Kabul.”

“So 15th August is the 2nd Independence day of India?” she asked.“ It is the third,” I saw the look on her face and realised she needed more information. “The second was on 21st of October 1943 in Singapore declared by the man who drove the British out.”

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“Gandhi?” Rene took a guess. “Gandhi… well, he was more responsible for bringing the  Indians together to fight against the British in a non-violent movement. It did have a marginal effect on the British Government. But Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Azad Hind Fauj became a concern for the Brits the most, eventually leading to their retreat to England. “As I said this, Rene started singing, “Kadam Kadam barhay ja…”

“Do you know how Netaji escaped from house arrest in 1941?” I asked Rene while sipping my tea. “Yes, Papa, I read that he managed to dodge the British intelligence by disguising as Mohammad Ziauddinand and escaped. I think it was 16th of January 1941.” I could see the pride on her face.

“Yes, my precious one, and guess where he went from Calcutta?” I asked.

“Where?”

“He went to Kabul in Afghanistan.”

“Really? interesting, Papa.” She was not only impressed but also intrigued. “But Papa, our school books do not inform us on all these things; why?”

Frankly, I had no answer to that question. There are so many things which our upcoming generations are unaware of. I promised myself to enlighten Rene with all of them and said, “You will come to know all of it eventually, sweetheart.”

“I know Papa, I know” she left the room jumping and dancing, soon to return with her next question, which happened precisely 7 minutes later. “Papa, where did the name of our country come from?”

To be continued.

 

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