An unlikely motivational force

Aman AnwariAbout the author: Sayed Aman Anwari is a Star alumnus and an active member of Afghan Peace Volunteers. He is a freshman at Kabul Polytechnic University studying computer engineering.

“Bajaw1 – I don’t give a damn!” exclaimed my mother when my father demanded that she wash his clothes after she had worked all day in the fields, cooked dinner, cared for the children and other chores around the house. “You don’t give a damn?!” my father asked incredulously when my mother rejected his command. My father was very sensitive about his authority in the family and didn’t tolerate anyone rejecting his demands. My mother was his third wife. His two previous wives had died. As long as I can remember, my mom was deprived of many privileges and treated harshly by my father.

We lived in a remote part of Bamyan Province, a small village in Panjab District. One cold winter night,my mom’s illness became very serious and my father called our village doctor . My sister and I were asleep and unaware of what was happening .It was the meddle of the night when the sound of my father’s crying work us up.

My mom had been sleeping in the other corner of the room and never woke up! I could not believe that my mom had passed away. Even one day later, I saw a woman wearing a scarf like hers and thought it was my mom.

In the time that followed, I experienced many ups and downs in my life. My father married for the fourth time. During the first days of living with our new stepmother, she was kind and sympathetic toward us and loved us very much. Gradually her behavior changed and she became angry and abusive. When I was in the fourth grade, there was a terrible fight between my father and stepmother. I was calm and tried to pay no attention to those kinds of things. I was focused on getting the highest position in my class and kept my attention on my studies. Our family disputes continued, which was not uncommon in working class families.

When we migrated to Kabul, I hoped that our family disputes would calm down or be forgotten. But all of my expectations were wrong and things worsened. When I entered ninth grade, the fights between my father and stepmother were very harsh. Every night at exactly 11: 30, they argued over the smallest things. I realized that I needed to be a hard worker, despite everything happening in my family, and chose to leave the house as much as possible to focus on my school work.

During my ninth-grade examinations, I could not find a place to study. I was just leaving my house and studying in mosques all day. I walked long distances and only returned to my house when my studying was done. I developed great strength and motivation under this pressure, even though I could not enter my house. I remember solving a very difficult math question one day in the mosque. I had to solve the value of X and Y in the following equations: 36x = 8 and 4y = 3. That day, in the mosque, I had no money to buy anything for my breakfast and lunch, but I solved this question and won an award in my Kankor prep class.

Although my father and stepmother fought regularly and my stepmother was not supportive, kind or nurturing, I realize that her behavior helped me in a way. It made me the person I am today. She empowered me indirectly and forced me to gain coping skills I would not have had otherwise. Her rigid and severe behavior pushed me to work harder and accomplish many great things. There is no doubt that she has been the most influential person in my life.


1 Bajaw is a word which literally means “to barley” but is used as an expression meaning “I don’t give a damn.” Since barley is considered inferior to wheat and other grains, using this expression shows that the words of the other person have no value.