By Malali Bashir

Pedestrians in Kabul 201
I order a Qabuli Palao, chicken and Afghan bread out of a menu which also has some Western foods on it like pizza and burger etc. in a café in the Shahre-Naw Kabul. While I am waiting for my food to arrive, I notice a young couple on the second next table to my right side. The girl is wearing a dark noticeable makeup with a black scarf on her half covered head and jeans with high heels. The boy is wearing yellow stripped sports shoes with yellow marks on his black hoodie. This is the famous appearance of the bad guy ‘Prem’, who finally proves to be the hero, of an Indian TV serial ‘Kasauti Zindagi ki’ broadcasted in one of the Afghan TV channels. In fact, many boys in Kabul can be seen copying Prem’s hairstyle and costume.
 On the table in my front, there are three women all covered in burqas seem quite interested, even though
they may not write about it, in all what’s going on around in the café with all the couples coming none of whom seemingly married to each other or engaged, apparent from their ring-less fingers. (Engaged or married couples wear gold jewel-less rings on their fingers). The women in burqas discuss the girls and disguise the low life of women around them in the café. A bearded man comes from the men’s portion to the family (where only couples and families are allowed) portion and asks them in Dari if they need anything else so that he could order it for them.
The girl gives a weird look, too smug about her jeans, to the women in burqa and sneers.  She drinks the last sip of her tea and shakes her hand with the boy and leaves without even bothering to offer anything about her part of the bill. (The custom in Kabul is that the girlfriend does not have to pay for anything. This apparently is the extension of Afghan generous and hospitable customs). The boy, apparently her boyfriend, calls someone from his cell phone and says that he is waiting in the café and gives a very flirtatious look to a girl, who is sitting on the table next to me, of almost the same appearance as of the before mentioned one.
I start eating and notice that another boy in his early twenties arrives and joins the girl on the table next to me. This boy is wearing jeans with a blue hoodie and black hikers. Weary of the corny Afghan food, probably to them, they seem to prefer burger over chicken curry and naan. Assuming all Westerners use fork and knife instead of using their hands, just like Afghans do, for eating any kind of food, the young Afghan couple starts cutting their burger with a knife and uses forks on the smashed pieces.
Meanwhile, I hear some chattering behind me and a woman asks a man in Dari about how he got her phone number and later they happen to study in the same university. Their flirtatious voices disappear for some moments, transfer into whispers and reappear again.
Prem’s copycat receives another girl seemingly another girlfriend. He might have received a big pocket money from his probably NGO owner or high rank government official dad or might have received his salary from a job that, before interviewing such youngsters, only checked his recommendation sources and not his credentials and aptitude and preferred him over a hundred more qualified ones. These youngsters usually learn English and computer on part time basis in some private centers most of which give a sense of a platform for the copycats of fashion icons basically from Bollywood.
As I finish my food, a woman with a child of almost a year in her arms and a boy of nine or ten on her side enter the café. They start gazing at different tables and reach for the leftover pieces of the burger from the couple next to my table. The woman let the boy eat first and she stands guard of the fear of blue collard waiter who may arrive soon and knock them out.

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