The place in between

SMS conversation:

F : “Like the inbetweenness of Kabul airport. I am chewing gum with uncovered head while men next to me are praying.”

T: “Bulletin material!”

So here comes a blog post – with a special dedication to Tyrell Mayfield.

For someone who has spent a significant part of her professional life reading, teaching and struggling with postcolonial studies, the idea of in-between-ness has been a constant part of the daily jargon, that kind of obscure insiders’ language that makes academics proud of their intelligence – as well as their capacity of being unintelligible.

So the in-between-ness has always been quite there: present and yet abstract.

Until the other day, when I passed the last security control before entering the waiting room of Kabul airport, when my headscarf slipped down and did not rush to put it back in place. Looked around, nobody seemed to be bothered. One after the other the scarves of many women fell on their shoulders.

I sat down in the only available chair, next to two contractors from New Zealand , I took out of the bag my book and a chewing gum. All of a sudden I have a strange realisation: I am chewing gum in a public place and my head is uncovered.

I instinctively look around a little weary, men in white starched shalwar kameez with elegant turbans and well-groomed beards pass by me without paying any attention. My head turns to the other side of the room, I check my watch, it is time for namaaz. Prayer mats unroll and two orderly lines of men face the direction of Mecca and the unanimous humming of their prayers fills the room.

And my head is still uncovered and I am still chewing a gum.

It does not take much to stop and think and smile. Neither here anymore nor yet elsewhere. The waiting room of the airport turns into a real as well as metaphorical space of transition, a place between worlds, habits and a place of possibilities.

A strange glimpse of tolerance and coexistence.

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