A baby is sold in Herat. A man sold his family in Thomas Hardy’s fictional Wessex

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 26, 2021

Photo by nasim dadfar on Unsplash

Listening to the BBC’s Yogita Limaye report from Herat in western Afghanistan on the harrowing sale by two families of their babies, two images flashed across my mind.

First, Herat, the beautiful city I visited some years ago. It is grotesque that starving families in Herat are driven to sell one of their children in order to keep the rest of them alive.

Second, ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’, Thomas Hardy’s 1886 novel. Henchard, the main protagonist, memorably – and heartbreakingly – sold his wife and daughter at a country fair. The circumstances were not like for the Herat families – Henchard’s actions were under the influence of drink – but the novel does underline the reality and the fact that people could be sold by a family member. For various reasons.

What brings together the two images that came to mind when I heard that report from Afghanistan? Perhaps no more than the desperate actions by people laid low by circumstances in very different parts of the world?