Ibulliance: How a Pomegranate Travels

The pomegranate! Rangina's face brightens in a flash. Kandahar is the world capital of pomegranates! We're discussing designs for the cooperative Rangina Hamidi began in her native Afghanistan, and with that proud connection, settled on a luscious velvet ornament with seeds, like jewels, spilling from it, for our holiday collection. Garnet comes from pomegranate, that dazzling red; but so does grenade, for the shrapnel that lets loose like the 600-800 seeds inside each fruit bursting.  

With some sketches and a color palette, the women of Kandahar months ago began to turn the sumptuous symbol of their city into soft, velvety segments. But here we are—some of us—with holiday trees all decorated in our homes—and where are the jeweled pomegranates? Rangina sat down to write the full story of how the fertile seeds traveled the globe—I want you to read her account.

The women in Kandahar are creating, despite all obstacles, she writes. But, the postal system has collapsed, and, unable to send products directly from Afghanistan, we reverted to an old method of driving our goods to neighboring Pakistan and shipping there to the US. Sometimes DHL security ripped open our stuffed goods like pillows but we did not complain—it allowed us ultimately to get them to the US.

In November the Pakistani government decided to expel all un-documented Afghan refugees; their slow return is on the road and through the border that we used to carry our goods. That chaos then led to the closure of the border going into Pakistan and the plan became impossible.

Determined to get these little red seeds to their destination, Rangina writes, I started reaching out to family and friends who might know anyone traveling between Kandahar and the US before the holidays. No luck. I was meanwhile preparing my notes for the Doha Forum where I was invited to speak, and I realized my friend from the US and Kabul would be also coming for the forum. If I could get these pomegranates to Kabul, would she then wing them back to the US? Of course! I called, I rushed, I did everything I could to get the bag of pomegranates transported to Kabul by 6:00 the following morning before her connection, but the little seeds did not make it.

Though crushed that I didn't succeed, my friend passed on the urgency of my request to the Director of Save the Children Afghanistan. The next morning, I woke early, made calls, and arranged for the pomegranate bag to reach him in Kabul, and through him, to me at our gathering in Doha.

After presenting at the forum and engaging in many conversations about the future of education for girls in Afghanistan, I handed over the bag to another friend to carry back to Virginia. She knew her luggage would be overweight but didn't hesitate, wanting only to honor the Afghan women who made these beautiful beaded ornaments. Arriving in Virginia, my sister, Stoorai, picked up the bag, rushed it to the post office, and sent it for final delivery to Ibu in Charleston to arrive just days before Christmas.

It isn't exactly a smooth supply chain. It is a web of hands and hearts that brought these orbs across the globe like lives depended on it, because each person in that web knows that lives do depend on it. The women in Kandahar, despite their grim circumstance, depend on needle and thread and beads to craft hope, and to do so with ripe, luscious creations, ancient symbols of fecundity, potency, abundance.  

The pomegranates arrived yesterday, bursting out of their skins. You can have one lucky piece of subversive hope over-nighted for your tree, or you can take the slow circuitous route and let it arrive as it will, an evergreen reminder of the power of persistence. 

But know that this ornament is more than a fertile fruit. It is the strength and hope of women in Kandahar scattering like seeds of light among us, connecting hands and hearts over and under and through these dark days. It is as beautiful as garnets glistening, or a face brightening. It is potent as a grenade exploding, illuminating even the darkest night.

All the Best,