One of Laila’s
most treasured memories is the day trip she takes with Tariq
to the Bamiyan Valley, where they look up at the magnificent Buddha statues
carved into the cliffs, and climb up atop one of the statues to look over the valley at the Afghan landscape before them. Babi had wanted Laila and Tariq to understand their country’s living, breathing heritage—a heritage quite apart from the violence and turmoil of the national wars. The Buddhas, testimony to an ancient community of monks that lived in caves within the cliffs, symbolize the cultural richness of this national heritage. The Taliban’s destruction of these statues serves as only another testament to their disregard for the true Afghanistan. In addition, in remembering the day trip to the statues, Laila recalls a time when she was truly happy, surrounded by people she loved, and felt safe under the watchful eye of the statues. The Buddhas also come to stand for a sense of contentment and security for Laila, one that she will yearn for in the tumultuous years to come.