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On Afghanistan's 100th Independence Day, Delhi's 'Mini Kabul' Mourns Deadly Suicide Attack Back Home

At Kabul Delhi Restaurant in Lajpat Nagar-II, otherwise brimming with guests and known for offering choicest Afghan delicacies, had a couple of patrons only in the afternoon who ate quietly in a corner.


Updated:August 19, 2019, 10:08 PM IST
On Afghanistan's 100th Independence Day, Delhi's 'Mini Kabul' Mourns Deadly Suicide Attack Back Home
New Delhi: Kabul native Kayhan Etemady, 23, poses for a photo outside Kabul Delhi restaurant in New Delhi, Monday, Aug 19, 2019. Etemady, visited a restaurant in Delhi's Lajpat Nagar on a day Afghanistan marked 100 years of its Independence on Monday. Etemady was not able to make it to his home town due to some contingency.

New Delhi: The Afghan community in Delhi was looking forward to celebrate 100 years of Afghanistan's independence on Monday, but the suicide bomb attack in Kabul two days ago has cast a shadow on the country's enclave with people in no mood for any celebration.

From restaurants to department stores, the mood is sombre in Lajpat Nagar -- dubbed as 'Little Kabul' of Delhi and Bhogal, neighbouring Hazrat Nizamuddin area.

At Kabul Delhi Restaurant in Lajpat Nagar-II, otherwise brimming with guests and known for offering choicest Afghan delicacies, had a couple of patrons only in the afternoon who ate quietly in a corner.

Aimal Qayumi, an employee of the restaurant, points to a framed picture of Jami Masjid of Herat on the wall, and Tolo Channel (of Afghanistan) playing a recorded event on a TV screen with low volume.

"We are missing our country and these images are our only window to Afghanistan, inside the restaurant. We are feeling proud that today marks the 100 years of our independence but the attack in Kabul is weighing heavy on our minds, we don't feel like celebrating," he said.

The 15-year-old restaurant, named after the capital cities of India and Afghanistan to signify the cultural connect of the two countries, is one of the preferred culinary destinations in Delhi to enjoy Afghan cuisine like Kabul Uzbeki, kofta chalao, qawrdagh (mutton fry), qorma kofta, and firni (desserts).

Kayhan Etemady, 23, an engineering student who came for a quiet lunch at the restaurant, was dejected at not being able to make it to his home in Kabul, saying his family was eagerly waiting for his arrival.

"But as fate would have it, despite having a flight ticket for Kabul all booked for August 16, I could not go home. I am missing my family and my beloved country. Today, I could have been with my family but here I am eating alone far away in Delhi," he told PTI.

Etemady said he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in engineering from a college in Pune and had lost his passport and other documents last month after booking his ticket.

"I had contacted the Afghan consulate in Mumbai and relevant Indian authorities, but since I did not get the exit permit I had to come back from the Delhi airport since I could not fly. Since then, I am trying to get my permit," he rued.

Both Lajpat Nagar and Bhogal have a sizeable population of Afghans, many of whom had migrated to India after the bloodshed and civil war in Afghanistan. The community was looking forward to commemorate the occasion.

Afghanistan became a free nation after the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, also known as the War of Independence in that country.

The Independence Day of Afghanistan falls on August 19, just four days after India's Independence Day. Both India and Afghanistan were ruled by the British before liberating themselves with hard-earned struggle.

The capital city of Kabul was decorated and a host of big events were planned for Monday, including the inauguration of the restored Darul Aman Palace, to commemorate the centenary of the independence but the Saturday's attack has cast a pall of gloom in that country.

An Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a packed wedding hall in the Afghan capital on Saturday night, leaving 63 people dead and 182 injured, according to officials there.

In Delhi's Lajpat Nagar enclave, many Afghans chose to remain mostly indoors, shops wore a quiet look, and a few women were seen hurriedly walking in the streets carrying 'bakarkhani' or other bakery items wrapped in newspapers.

Several restaurants, department stores and pharmacies like Chopan Kebab, Balkh Super Market, Pakeezah Bakery and Afghan Pharmacy also wore a subdued look, with shopkeepers choosing to keep it low-key and not displaying Afghan flags or any decorative items despite the day being a landmark occasion.

At Balkh Super Market, a 10-year-old store run by Mohammed Naseem Yusufi in Lajpat Nagar, two vintage portraits of King Amanullah Khan hang on the wall behind him as he sits in a sombre mood at the counter. Khan, who became the first sovereign ruler of free Afghanistan, is considered one of the main architects of the freedom struggle.

"How can we celebrate when so many people have been killed? Our prayers are with the family. We are hearing that celebrations in Kabul have been postponed too. Maybe we can do it later too," he said.

In Bhogal, Afghan native Mohammed Naiem Weqar, who runs Kabul Star Travels, is "feeling homesick", but he says " I am in no mood for celebration".

"I am not excited about the occasion as so many people were killed. We are mourning the loss of lives. On 100 years of our Independence Day, we are still seeing bloodshed...feels terrible," he said.

Etemady, when asked what he felt about his country on the centenary occasion, said, "I am terrified to go back to my country after my education. I can be blown away in a bomb blast too like my college senior was when he had gone back home a few years ago. But, it is my homeland. I love it and will go back, hoping we can bring back prosperity to war-torn Afghanistan".

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