I am sure after a long hard day’s work blowing up convoys, kidnapping and killing aid workers, whipping women who show skin and behaving like a professional killjoy, a Talibani has to come home to his family in the night.
Maybe he has children who wait for him at the door and who run to him when he comes home and ask him if he got some cookies for them. Maybe he plays football with his boys and teaches them how to give a header or even how to keep the ball in the air for more than ten minutes. Maybe he has an old mother or grandmother who longs for his company so they can run their wrinkled fingers across his hardened face.
Maybe he has a younger brother or sister with marital problems and who wait for him to come home and mediate. Maybe his wife wants him to check the fusebox and buy stuff from the local supermarket. Maybe she is worried about the baby and wants him to buy more milk and cereals this time. Maybe he is concerned that his salary will not last, and he may have to borrow to make ends meet. Maybe he wants to just sit with his wife, run his fingers through her hair, hold her very close… and make love. Maybe she wants him to do just that. And maybe, just maybe, it is the memory of her sweet scent that gives him the strength to face each tiring day at work.
But I am aware that it requires an enormous stretch of imagination to think of the average Talibani as an average man with average desires and average wants. I know average is a loaded word and carries with it a sense of the ordinary and the boringly normal. Talibanis, on the other hand, exist on a different level altogether. Nothing ordinary and normal about them. Their lives, their ideology, their dress code and their track record all point towards something hideous. Almost as if we are dealing with a strange beast whose DNA bleats with a different drumbeat. Not ours. Anything but ours. We cannot be like that because we are, or so we like to call ourselves, more human.
I am not sure if the Taliban hold an exclusive right over matters of evil. Human history is full of bloodthirsty tyrants whose murderous spree brought havoc in the lives of common people. Most civilizations and countries have been founded on the blood of innocent lives who perished mainly because they shared a different ethnicity. No one can claim innocence because no one is truly innocent as long as the ‘flaw’ exists. But before that ‘flaw’ can go, we need to take a good, long and hard look at our fascination with pointing fingers at others.
All that is fine and sounds good as a dinner table conversation, but what does one do with a beast like the Taliban? Do we use the same civilisational arguments while dealing with those brutes? Do we have to treat them as ones deserving a fair hearing?
I think we have to because not doing so would make them winners in their terror campaign. And if they succeed in making us like them, then, we have lost it. We have given in to the dark side and become as inhuman as them.
But maybe – just maybe – if we try and scratch the surface of a Talibani and look for the human inside, there might be some hope. Some chance of rapprochement. Some meaningful breakthrough in relations. Some ray of sunlight, at least.
And a faint chance that, perhaps, this image would have had a happy ending. Maybe. But that's making an assumption, a far-fetched one, hoping that, perhaps, ‘Taliban Uncle’ would have listened to those small kids and released their daddy K. Suryanarayana. At least, they wouldn’t have been left orphans and their mother a widow.
A small possibility, yes, but filled with such promise and hope.
After all, even Talibanis have families, right.