Red Lanterns, Chinese Food, and a Little More

Those beautiful red lanterns that hang invitingly outside so many establishments have come to signify a lot - in Kabul, of all the places. Kabul, embattled, bruised and bleeding is not quite broken. It's attracting Chinese restaurants by the dozens.

I can imagine the tough Pathans as they make their way out of the restaurants, smacking their lips in delight, thinking, "Chinese tastes delicious".

China Daily reports how many Chinese restaurants have sprung up in Kabul's upmarket areas. But the police are cracking down on them because a Chinese meal there signifies more than just chilly chicken and fried wantons. It signifies food of a higher (or lower) nature, depending on where you're coming from.

Scores of Chinese women have been arrested for allegedly feeding the lust of mostly expats and some Afghans too, thus unleashing moral corruption among its holy denizens. In China, women are often 'afraid' of getting too close to foreigners, though many do. There are size issues - how can the petite and tiny fit in what is large and 'monstrous'? There are social issues, too. How can Chinese men accept a woman who is seen with foreigners? Some of the whys and the wherefores have hilarious explanations that I am not going to delve upon here but might some other time, elsewhere. Yet, many Chinese women end up in Kabul. These Chinese are amazing!

What is the allure that these women possess for men from different parts of the world? Men are drawn to them like bees to honey! Don't ask me...I know! But, honey going to where the bees are?

Chinese women are very gentle and soft spoken. Men, too, are but less so! And very reticent. They don't show what's in their minds and hearts too easily. One needs to figure them out through little signs and indications. Life and everything in it is like a game of Mahjongg. You have your pieces and she has hers and the pieces are always moving as one throws some on the board and picks new ones. You must guess and outguess but never be outguessed or you're dead meat. Why? I don't know...perhaps, Confucius's legacy lives!

Chinese women rarely speak the L word, except to a husband or a boyfriend/lover. At best she can say 'she likes you'. And, that too is rare. Once, when I was quite new here, I repeated 'wo xihuan ni' (I like you) at the instigation of a colleague to a young lady teacher. She ran after me - to hit me with a badminton racquet! It was in jest...but could have been worse. Ever since, I have never uttered even the 'like' word. Who knows, what might come after me next?

I wonder, then, how they make do in Kabul. And, how those little Chinese meals match those monstrous appetites! Foreigners in China, and there are quite a few, often privately accuse Chinese women of being passport-hunters. Perhaps, there are a few. European and North American passports have their own allure for many Asians. But, there are also women who couldn't care a fig about the passports. They know 'their China' is on the way up. Yet, they land up in the ruins of a Kabul-under-reconstruction!

China is changing at a pace faster than appears to the eye. And, the Chinese are not losing the race. They will be wherever the action is - and if there is no action, they will create it, wherever that might be. It's quite common to see a couple embracing, or a woman riding piggyback (a sure sign of the oven on fire) and kissing on the street. Yet, when you meet them face-to-face they will use the tag of tradition to tell you they're in only for the long short-term measures for them. Dangle the carrot of marriage and you might be the proud partner of one of the creamiest-skinned creatures on earth. Sometimes, I guess, a hundred dollar bill works just as well...for the short-term. But, how can that satisfy a hunger that's more recurring than that for chilly chicken or fried wantons?

Kabul's calling! Wanna go? But, with the police there chasing all the honey and the honey chasing after money, it might be too much of an ask. I wonder if the crackdown there is because the police are jealous!