The Mirror Seller

"Oh Bacha!" I called out as I hurried towards the young boy with the carpeted mirrors hanging off his shoulder.

He was darting in and out of the crowd on Mandai Market, as though the cartography of the street was embedded into his feet and he was simply scurrying through the street absentmindedly, unbothered by the rush.

I walked faster, waving my camera into the air, trying to get his attention as he got closer. I could see glimpses of the red carpets as he weaved his way through the crowded street and finally, he was close enough for me to stop him.

"Oh bacha", I panted as I grabbed his shoulder to stop him "where are you going in such a rush?"

He looked up at me, his eyes darting impatiently. "I'm going to meet Ali and Farhad," he responded curtly, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"What are you doing meeting with your friends" I scolded him teasingly, "don't you have mirrors to sell? I should find your parents and tell them how you're spending your time".

He grinned at me mischievously. "There's a khareji (foreigner) on koch-e- murghaa (chicken street)", he explained. "We're going to go and talk to him and sell him our products. Ali has gum and Farhad has bolani."

I knew they were talking about the American journalist who had come from a news organization to cover a story in Kabul. All the Afghan journalists knew about the incoming foreign journalists. They took the stories we would want to tell and twist it in various way to tell strange tales to the world about us. I wondered what story the American had come to distort this time.

"Why don't you sell your stuff to me?" I exclaimed, pretending to be offended. He grinned and he looked down, kicking the dirt with his sand covered chaplaqs (slippers), as though he felt guilty for what he was about to say.

"The Americans are so gullible," he responded. "I tell them my mirror will reflect the most beautiful or handsome version of them, because it is a magic mirror. Then they laugh and look at the mirror closely and admire their reflections and features and I keep telling them about the magic. They end up buying it for twice the price and they don't even Jagra (negotiate)!"

"Kho I want this magic mirror too," I exclaimed dramatically, widening my eyes. "I'm so badrang (ugly), I want to see myself look handsome!"

He let out a loud laugh, holding his little belly as it shook. "Ney kaka (no uncle)," he responded, "our Afghans are not as stupid as these foreigners!"

I laughed along with him, our laughter carrying out through the crowd rushing past us.

"Kho boro khai (okay go then)," I said, patting his head. "But first let me take your picture with my camera, it'll make you handsome too, just like your mirrors".

He skipped excitedly to the dirt wall and hung his hands on his sides, giving me a nonchalant pose, as though he didn't think much of getting his photo taken. I grinned at his effortless pose, and found myself amused by the way he was hiding his excitement.

I bent down to level myself to his mirrors and saw my reflection on the mirror as I placed my eye over the camera's lens.

As I put the lens in focus, I couldn't help but think to myself 'I hope that American buys the mirror.' I knew it would make the boy very pleased with himself.


Story and illustration by @rasmorawaj ©



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