It’s Not About Politics…


No matter where you live, there is a pretty good chance that at some point you have seen this image. It’s the face of a young girl with beautiful yet haunting eyes that captivated and challenged the world. Back in 1984 when the Afghans lived in constant fear of Soviet toys of death Steve McCurry found a pair of eyes as deep as the ocean. He captured thirteen-year old Sharbat Gula’s face with a red scarf draped over her head. Neither McCurry nor Gula knew that the photo of the then unidentified young girl would eventually become famous. This photograph later gave birth to what largely became known as “Afghan Girl.” Her piercing stare simply commanded attention when her face took the cover of National Geographic in 1985. Fame isn’t the sort of thing you can dwell on in a world with no peace so Gula pretty much forgot about it and went on with her life. Steve did too, and the rest of the world. Here’s a recap if your were around and a summary if you weren’t:

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Image Credit: National Geographic

1984
Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards.
Apple introduces the Macintosh personal computer with a graphical user interface.

1985
The wreckage from the Titanic is found.
Oxford University refused to award Margaret Thatcher an honorary degree.
Largest diamond in the world weighed 755.5c, cut down to 545.67c and found in South Africa.

1986
Nintendo introduces the hand-held Game Boy.
‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ is first broadcast nationally.

1987
The world’s population hits 5 billion.
DNA is used in a criminal court case for the first time.
The Simpsons are introduced on The Tracey Ullman Show.

1988
Table Tennis (Ping Pong) became an Olympic Sport.
CDs out-sold vinyl records for the first time.

1989
The fall of the Berlin Wall.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became an overnight sensation.

1990
Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years as a political prisoner in South Africa.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched.

1991
South African parliament overturns apartheid laws.

1992
Bill Clinton is elected president of the United States.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana separate. They divorce four years later.

1993
I was born.
Nokia sends text messages between mobile phones.

1994
South Africa holds first interracial, one-man-one-vote election, Mandela is elected president.
Football star O. J. Simpson is arrested for the killings of his wife and her friend Ronald Goldman.

1995
O. J. Simpson is found not guilty of murdering his wife and friend.
Sony demonstrates a flat screen TV.

1996
British consumers are frightened by an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease.

1998
Bill Clinton is accused of having sex with Monica Lewinsky.
Google introduces their search engine to the Web.
Anti-impotence drug Viagra is introduced to the market.

1999
World population reaches 6 billion.
Tobacco companies admit that their products harm smokers.

2000
The world celebrates the turn of the millennium.
Sydney hosts the Olympic Games.

2001
On September 11, terrorists attack the World Trade Center in New York.
Apple’s iPod becomes the best selling MP3 player in the world.
Wikipedia is launched.

2002
Apple introduces the iMac G4.
The dwarf planet Quaoar is discovered.

2003
Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is elected as Governor of California.
Dan Brown releases his best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code.
MySpace is launched.

2004
Facebook takes off.
Athens hosts the Olympic Games
Mars Exploration Rovers
Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami occurred off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

2005
Hurricane Katrina destroys much of the Gulf Coast, flooding New Orleans.
YouTube posts its first videos.
USB flash drives replace floppy disks.
Pope John Paul II dies at 84.

2006
Twitter is launched.
Pluto is demoted to “dwarf planet” status.

2007
Apple Computer released the “iPhone. In just over two months, 1 million iPhones were sold.
The seventh, and final, Harry Potter novel released.
Amazon releases the Kindle.

2008
Wall Street experienced the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression.
O.J Simpson found guilty. Sentenced to 9 years in prison.

2009
Barack Obama is sworn in as 44th president of the USA.
The tallest man-made structure in history is completed, Burj Khalifa, Dubai.

2010
Apple debuts the iPad.
First FIFA World Cup held in South Africa.
Luis Suarez bites Otman Bakkal in a soccer match.
2012
The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II
London hosts the Olympic Games
Nintendo launches the Wii U
The world did not end.

2013
Launch of the PS4 and Xbox One
Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95.
Paralympic Oscar Pistorius arrested over the fatal shooting of model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

2014
Brazil hosts the FIFA World Cup
The 100th anniversary of World War I
Malala Yousafzai co-received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.

2015
Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch in British history
Top Gear ends a long road of great car talk.

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Image Credit: National Geographic

It’s thirty years later and this timeline mentions very little of what has happened over the years. Everyone’s perceptions about life underwent a gradual, but solid, transformation. Even Gula’s. In 2002, 17 years later, McCurry met, in person, the same child of war, who is now a wife to Rahmat Gul and a mother to four daughters. The talented McCurry was sure to do a then and now of Gula. The young girl and her struggles and hardships in Afghanistan has become a symbol of strength and beauty. When I saw the second photograph it was difficult to see just how thirty years got lost somewhere between fighting for life and hoping for peace. The second photograph is evidence of the fact that Gula had succumbed to her life circumstances and proved that in the end life wins. But I truly believe that the tragedy that befalls people living in war-ravaged regions are the real winners of life. Every second for them is a gift, for others it’s a privilege

Recently I’ve been so overwhelmed at how time is flying. Some days faster than I’d ever thought possible. But the time I took writing this piece had me wondering about her, Gula. Where she is, what she’s doing, if she thinks about what her life could have been and if she even knew just how much the world has changed. I keep wondering strange things like if she’s ever seen or used a computer, eaten popcorn, watched the Titanic if she knew about the blockbuster, seen the iPhone 6 or an iPad, has she tried an oreo? Apparently, Gula hadn’t the slightest idea she made the cover of a magazine or the fact that her face is plastered all over the Internet.

With regard to time, the truth is we all are not living in the same world. Each and every single human being lives worlds apart from their neighbor. We all just flock on planet earth for the oxygen. The same sun that rises in South Africa rises in Afghanistan too yet, I feel time is moving ridiculously fast and Gula’s life of hardship seems to be taking forever. It’s the anticipation that slows down time. The sadness in those eyes no longer wait for something better. Time is undeniably reliable because time alone reveals all truth. There is an existence of another world in addition to the natural one. Time will take its course and no one can rush it along… Or slow it down.

 

– Naseeha Tayob

TWITTER: @naseehatayob