Rise of the Phoenix – My Kabul Journey

I named the blog ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ not because of any affiliation to Harry Potter or the world of wizardry. But being a muggle (apparently it’s a word denoted to describe someone who doesn’t know magic and believe it or not it has already been included in the Oxford dictionary, however my word software fails to recognize it, what a sacrilege) one of the things that always fascinated me is Phoenix, a mythical bird that arises out of ashes. So why would I name a blog to narrate my travel to Kabul as rise of the phoenix, does it mean I am going to be burnt to ashes then rise, well some of my friends definitely think so, at least that is what I inferred judging by the farewell dinners I was invited to. However, to their disappointment it is not about me, rather it is about the nation of Afghanistan and my hope that one day it will arise out of its current miseries and shine bright like the feathers of Phoenix.

Although my exact date of travel to Kabul was only on 7th of October, but the real journey began almost 4 weeks back, when I chose the project. Ever since then, there were sympathy notes detailing that life is not so bad as to travel to Kabul, cynical comments asking me why do I want to commit suicide so young, suggestions that asked me to change my name and nationality and above all a sense of contentment for some hoping that I will not show up again (sorry to disappoint, I might actually show up again). However in all this one thing that was very evident for me was the love and care of my friends and well-wishers.

Every journey has a starting point and my journey started with a visit to Afghanistan Embassy and to my surprise there was no one to be seen anywhere. I was not checked as I walked in and no one came running to arrest me as I went searching from room to room to find someone (Maybe other embassies should take a cue from this, especially the US embassy, because who cares about them so maybe they should stop taking themselves seriously). After five minutes of search, I found someone in a room sitting behind a desk (what a relief). However he was totally surprised to see me there and his expression said it all. He gave me a look of disbelief, when I told him I needed a visa, he for a moment thought I was insane, but I can’t blame him because this is not the first time I got the expression. After reading through my document and seeing my dates of travel, he said he will issue the visa on October 11, now I thought he was insane. I explained to him, that I needed to travel on 7th and there was no way to postpone it. He now had the bargaining power and told me as the embassy had a lot of work to do they did not have time, but I knew it was his BATNA not to issue me the visa before 11th.

There are many problems with me but chief among them is my stubbornness (in MBA lingo you can call it persistence) and I was not returning back without a visa. So I just kept standing there (for one I did not understand what he spoke, because two languages he spoke are not the two languages I spoke), after seeing that I will not go away, he went away but only to return in five minutes with someone else. The new person walks in smoking a cigarette and asks me very cheerfully, whether I am from Pakistan, the moment I replied I am from Chennai his cheerfulness was gone and now he wanted to get a solution to get rid of me or so did I thought. After bargaining and good cop, bad cop strategy (in Negotiation this is called as dirty trick) finally I was told that I will be issued a visa on Friday October 7th. I thought it was some kind of prank as the embassy was officially closed on Friday. As I pointed it out he told me they will make an exception and asked me to come early on to get it. I still didn’t believe, but one thing I have learned is to trust people, even if I didn’t believe them because what choices do one has. Soon to follow my travel and my encounters in Kabul…..