Denpai Kyareng's Article on Lost Decency

Lost Decency: The Untold Afghan Story

By Atta Arghandiwal

A simple but very precise book for anyone who wants to know what happened in Afghanistan and what made it as one of the most dangerous regions on the earth today. After it attained independence from Great Britain in 1919, the country was ruled by liberal but weak Monarchs. Afghan people were proud of their culture and their sense of decency. Both men and women folks worked together without much discrimination to build the new Afghanistan. The girls could be seen wearing skirts and jeans, and going to school and colleges. Burqa system was not imposed harshly on the womenfolk as a law. People looked forward to a promising future with strong and stable government.

After the rule of King Zahir Shah for forty years without any significant upheavals, the country caught itself in the quagmire of the cold war in 1950s. Both Soviet and USA and their allies were trying to gain access into the land by outdoing each other in development work of Afghanistan. Soviet Russia and Chinese communist ideology was gaining access in people’s mind. Ideology of religious fundamentalist from Middle Eastern groups also began to influence the direction the country was headed to. In 1978, the local communist leaders supported by Soviet government launched military coup and toppled the people’s government. This was followed by the Russian invasion and the Afghanistan, the peaceful land turned into a land of oppression and violent fighting. Different faction of people fought bravely on their own with the support of U.S. and its allies. “By 1984 the United States was authorizing military supplies to Mujahideen of nearly $250 million per month,” writes the author. Russian invaders dealt harshly with the people, more than five million Afghan fled the land and took refuge in the neighboring countries.

One of the Author’s brothers, Zia was among the resistance fighters, and fought with the Russian invader bravely. Atta, the author fled to Germany along with other Afghans. From Germany he sought asylum in the United States, where he built a career in banking and ultimately had his family join him later.

Afghanistan remained under Soviet occupation for nearly a decade [1980 – 1989], during which the people and the land suffered irreparable damage. It has not been easy for Soviet Russia either, it’s said that more than 4 billion dollar a year was spent to maintain the puppet Kabul government, and thirty times this amount was spent on the cost of running the war for those years. Now that Russians were gone, the people were looking forward to a peace and stable life under their own government. But during the course of resistance against Russia, various Afghan factions with direct help from the United States and the Western allies, and from the Arab world have established their own territories of control. With the fall of Dr. Najibullah’s government in 1992, these factions came up to form an interim government. “But despite UN attempt to broker peace and bring the warring groups into a coalition government, Afghanistan remained at war.”

Amidst this uncertainty and instability, when a convoy of an influential Pakistani businessman was stopped by bandits in Kandahar, Pakistani government urged the students from fundamentalist school at the border to intervene. The student group not only released the convoy, but went on to capture Kandahar city. They soon began to take the role of disciplining the land, and many at first welcomed the change to have peace and economic stability denied by the warring warlords. Pakistan and ISI funded and supported this group, which came to be known as Taliban. Talib means ‘religious students’ and their core leaders were from Pakistan and other Arab nations. By 1996, Kabul was under the full control of Taliban. “They introduced religious police, a rigid military campaign against their opponents, and the use of non-Afghan forces.” It is estimated that 45 per cent of the Taliban forces were non-Afghan. The brutality with which they controlled the region and the use of non-Afghan forces from Middle East Arab countries led by Osama Bin Laden, gradually infuriated and earned the doubts and misgiving of the local populace. The United States initially thought Taliban as source of stability in the region and ally in sharing anti-Iran stance, and misjudged Taliban’s total hostility toward foreign values.

Then came the 9/11 incident in 2001 attack on World Trade Center building and Twin Tower by the Taliban terrorists. This was followed by the U.S. retaliation, and active involvement in the region. The author felt very bad that the Afghanistan has been turned into terrorist den by the non-Afghan militants from Middle East countries. He, his family and many Afghan people have been so affectionately received and provided for by this land and the fact that his own people attacked the United States made him feel very bad and sick. He made his best to explain to the people here that the attack was not done by the Afghan people, but by the non-Afghan militants who had made Afghanistan their activity base.

In 2011, the author visits Afghanistan, and was devastated to see that once peaceful land with pride and decency has been turned into violent, and corrupt with no trace of decency. The government is formed by the vested warlords who are least bothered about the people’s welfare; they are only interested in making themselves richer and richer. Factional fighting among the warlords has been exploited by the religious fundamentalist, which has caused the presence of foreign troops and dependency on them. All the funds from the United States and its allies are sabotaged by the few elites and the vast majority is languishing in poverty. Old Afghanistan of proud people with honesty and decency is lost. 

As a closing thought, the Author finds himself asking, “What if the Soviet Union had never invaded? What if Afghanistan had never been deserted after Russian withdrawal? Do you think 9/11 would have happened?”

This is difficult to say, but reading the book I can’t help thinking about Tibet and Tibetans. We must preserve and maintain our decency, moral integrity and unity so that when the time comes for the Chinese to leave Tibet, we are ready to take over the administration without internal feud or factional fighting. Till date, because of the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his vision, we have been able to maintain and promote our positive values, cultural integrity and unity among all the Tibetans. The book is a clear mirror to warn us that we all must cherish and maintain this unity and cultural values so that Tibet don’t become Afghanistan of today in future.

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Atta Moves x The Luisa Marshall Show (Simply the Best)

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Episode Details:
Airs on Monday, June 9th 2014 at 10:30am & 9:00pm on SMC

ALL NEW – Simply the Best – The Luisa Marshall Show On the Show:

  • Interview with author Atta Arghandiwal.
  • Surrey Clean Sweep Project.

Get Inspired: Special interview with ATTA ARGHANDIWAL From a refugee to a bank teller to a vice president and regional manager…  to an author… Atta’s passion for writing paved the way to tell his life story as a refugee in his first award winning book Lost Decency, The Untold Afghan Story. Atta spoke of his war-torn country, his family and his decision to leave. He made his dream into a reality to help his fellow immigrants in his new book Immigrant Success Planning: A Family Resource Guide.

Birthday clean sweep

Get Involved: This is not a typical glamorous birthday celebration! Members, friends and supporters of SPIDS founder Narima dela Cruz were divided into 4 teams and gathered in 4 different parks to do another Clean Sweep participation in the Surrey Clean Sweep Project.

Luisa was invited to speak at an event to promote multiculturalism in the community amongst immigrants and also to promote a book to help immigrants to be productive. As a dedicated humanitarian, ATTA ARGHANDIWAL has a dream as a refugee from Afghanistan to help his fellow immigrants. He understands what kind of information they need and how they can integrate into a new country. His inspiration coming from his own personal experiences, his challenges and personal battles.

Lost Decency is Atta’s first book of his personal story of his life as a refugee coming out of Afghanistan. At age 20 he left his country and didn’t know for sure what was going to happen to him. His life change in North America that has given him the opportunity to be productive and live a good life.

During my career, I met many other successful immigrants who have made amazing strides and progress despite many challenges. For that reason, I am a firm believer in hard work, dedication, and the realization that the sky is indeed the limit. – Atta Arghandiwal

Immigrant success story - An Instruction's Manual

"The hardest part of being an immigrant is adapting to one’s newly adopted home.  My family struggled with decoding the basics of living in the United States. I wish my parents had access to the Immigrant Success Planning: A Family Resource Guide, by my friend, Afghan American author, Atta Arghandiwal.  

This book has detailed “how to” guide for immigrants inthe U.S. and Canada ranging from basic to complex issues: how to shop, how to find a rental, how to manage finances, how to find a job, how to become a citizen and more.

My family’s life changed dramatically after the Russian invasion of 1979.  There was an exodus of middle class Afghans from Afghanistan. Mine was one of the hundred of families who settled in the Bay Area. Luckily, we found a community of other Afghan immigrant families who were also struggling just like us.  Our parents gathered over large platters of Mantoo, a coveted Afghan dumpling dish or the hearty meat and potato Qorma and advised each other on food stamp collection, San Jose flea market bargains, and the complexity of getting medical care in America. 

For me, food is what has kept my Afghan family comforted through years of turbulence, uncertainty and loss.  Back home we had a cook who made all the meals under mom’s supervision and instruction.  My mom, Jeja, saw cooking as a chore, which she hoped her daughters would never have to do. But, it’s her generation that holds the secret to the art of authentic Afghan cuisine. Our families were who had access best ingredients for making gourmet Afghan cuisine. 

Initially, the newly immigrated Afghan women such as my mother, scoured grocery stores and Indian markets in Northern California for ingredients.  The delicious aroma of coriander, cumin, and cardamom slowly healed the wounds of their loss and soothed their fears of their new life.  Now, there is an Afghan market or restaurant in every corner of Fremont and surrounding cities.

Immigrant children, such as myself, adapt quickly to their new home and are happy to embrace their new lives.  Adults on the other hand struggle to re-build the foundation of the life they lost.  They hold on to their culture -- assimilation is considered a betrayal of their mother country.

Looking back at my turbulent childhood of moving from Afghanistan to India, back to Afghanistan -- then to Pakistan, followed by Germany and finally the United States. There is one common thread of familiarity --my mother’s Afghan food that always kept me grounded and connected to my roots.

I think Atta has done a great service to many who arrive at this the land of milk and honey by providing them an instruction’s manual. I feel the practical advice, summary notes highlighting specific points and pull out boxes with positive and supportive life lesson from Atta’s own immigrant experience is what makes this book so useful and usable.

Atta is the award winning author of a memoir Lost Decency: The Untold Afghan Story and Immigrant Success Planning. Visit his extensive website, where he shares a wealth of information for new immigrants."

Humaira Ghilzai of Afghan Culture Unveiled Interviews Atta Arghandiwal

Humaira: How did you transition from writing a memoir to a "How to" book?

Atta: I started writing three different books simultaneously -- Memoir, Immigrant Success Planning, as well as a Leadership Guide for immigrants.  

But writing the “Immigrant Success Planning” was always on my mind from early days of arrival to my years in the Financial Services industry. In the end, I was encouraged by several authors to publish the memoir first -- to build a platform.

Humaira: Most immigrants don't speak English when they need a resource book like yours. Is your book available in other languages?

Atta: Unfortunately, not at this point. I am looking into translation possibilities Farsi, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic   I do feel that immigrant families usually have at least a couple members of family who speak English.  My hope is that most people will benefit from this handy resource.

Humaira: Did your family have problems finding ingredients to make authentic Afghan food?

Atta: Yes, resources were indeed scarce in early years – I remember going to Indian stores in Berkeley almost every week. My family loves to cook.  There experts within our family in the Bay Area who pass their knowledge and heritage to the younger generation.

Humaira: What are your favorite Afghan dishes?

Atta: Qabili Palau and Aushak 

Humaira: Do you cook Afghan food?

Atta: My brothers and I have been completely spoiled from day one -- our mother and seven sisters are all amazing cooks.  My wife Halima, is an amazing cook who prepares delicious Afghan food. I like to do prep and the clean up.

Immigrant Communities and Notables Come Together For Launch of New Resource Book

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This past Sunday saw the heartwarming gathering of many notables and members of immigrant communities for the launch of a new resource book, Immigrant Success Planning – A Family Resource Guide. Held in the beautiful Canyon View Hall atop a hill in San Ramon, California, the event had over 320 guests in attendance despite a rainy day.

The author, Atta Arghandiwal, was born in Afghanistan but left shortly after the Soviet invasion and became a refugee in Germany. Two weeks after his arrival in the United States, he started work as a bank teller, and built a successful twenty-eight year career, eventually being promoted to senior vice president.

The making of Immigrant Success Planning was born in Atta’s own struggles as an immigrant. Not being able to find an immigrant resource guide that fit his needs, he eventually created one, bringing together all of the useful information he had learned through experience and time. Immigrant Success Planning is a condensed lifestyle guide for immigrants—a road map for the whole family, filled with proven tips and strategies that can be used from the birth of a child to retirement and beyond.

Guests at the event included representatives from such organizations as USA International, Rising International, various social services, and the Afghan Coalition. A number of immigrant authors and poets attended, as well as community leaders, scholars, artists, entrepreneurs, politicians, and, of course, the dear friends and family members of the author, Atta Arghandiwal. The event drew people from as far as San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno, and San Jose, including well-known radio host Dr. Michael Krasny of National Public Radio, television host Robin Fahr of Tri Valley Television, and UN Ambassador Dr. Waheed Waheedullah, who also wrote the foreword for the book.

The guests enjoyed traditional Afghani refreshments and music. The event was filled with socializing, wonderful speakers, and book signings by the author, for which there was a long line. Publisher Julie Salisbury charmed the audience as MC with her British accent, presenting many interesting speakers to the crowd, including:

Dr. Waheed Waheedullah of the UN; Mr. Quasim Tarin, CEO and Chairman of Afghan Business Network and Chamber of Commerce NC division; Nancy O’Malley, District Attorney of Alameda County; Marla Markman, editor of the book, and Eileen Sandlin, the co-author;
as well as the author and his son Edreece.

Immigrant Success Planning is the resource that immigrants have been waiting for, and now they finally have it.

Source: Influence Publishing