Creative Writing – 126 – Comprehension Exercise

Creative Writing – 126

Comprehension Exercise

Study the passages carefully and answer the questions

Question Passages taken from The Washington Post

Flowing from the capital, the highway begins without promise, a long, curving scar stretching across the navel of Afghanistan. Potholes. Ruts. A bridge destroyed in an airstrike, still unfixed. Visible symbols of two decades of war, corruption, and neglect along the artery that connects the nation’s two largest cities, Kabul and Kandahar.

The conflict is over, at least as it was known for the past 20 years: airstrikes, night raids, ambushes, roadside bombs, a grass roots insurgency that outmaneuvered the world’s most powerful army and its proxies.

Taliban fighters, whose attacks burnished this road’s reputation as “the highway of death,” are again Afghanistan’s rulers. The Americans have left, but peace remains elusive. There are fresh enemies, fresh challenges. Hundreds of Afghans have been killed by suicide-bombings and other attacks since the takeover. Millions more are struggling to find work, purchase necessities and pay rent amid multiple crises, including a collapsing economy, deepening humanitarian woes and drought.

If roads can be the chroniclers of a nation, transporting not just passengers and goods but also the stories, aspirations and fears of a people, then the 300-mile journey from Kabul to Kandahar on National Highway 1 unveils Afghanistan’s past, present and future in all its cataclysms and yearnings.

Largely rebuilt after 2001 with American funding at a cost of at least $300 million, the highway was intended to win the hearts and minds of Afghans and bolster the nation’s economy — so much that in 2004 President George W. Bush publicly praised its speedy construction. Instead, it became a war zone and a symbol of American failure.

Flowing from the capital, the highway begins without promise, a long, curving scar stretching across the navel of Afghanistan. Potholes. Ruts. A bridge destroyed in an airstrike, still unfixed. Visible symbols of two decades of war, corruption, and neglect along the artery that connects the nation’s two largest cities, Kabul and Kandahar.

Questions

1. Describe the thoughts that cross through the author’s mind as he makes his journey along the ruined Kabul-Kandahar highway.
2. Does the author feel somewhat relieved after the conflict is over?
3. Is the respite from war temporary or permanent? Why does the author feel so?
4. How, according to the author, Afghan history is embedded with that of the highway?
5. The American ambition to reshape Afghanistan in its own mould has gone awry. Justify this statement.

Answers

1. Like a lifeless, dead river dried up by summer’s heat, the Kabul-Kandahar highway barely exists today. Potholes, craters, broken bridges, and furrows created by travelling trucks bear testimony to the relentless battering the highway has endured during the 20-year-old war. The sight is depressing and dark. The author’s mind is overtaken by despondency and morbid thoughts as he makes his way through the dilapidated highway.
The conflict is over, at least as it was known for the past 20 years: airstrikes, night raids, ambushes, roadside bombs, a grass roots insurgency that outmaneuvered the world’s most powerful army and its proxies.

2. That the curtains have come down on the long-drawn war brings some relief to him. People can hope to breathe easy now as guns have fallen silent, fighter planes don’t strike, ambushes and roadside bombs are almost gone. Local insurgents, tenacious and gutsy, have evicted the combined might of the U.S. and its allies.
Taliban fighters, whose attacks burnished this road’s reputation as “the highway of death,” are again Afghanistan’s rulers. The Americans have left, but peace remains elusive. There are fresh enemies, fresh challenges. Hundreds of Afghans have been killed by suicide-bombings and other attacks since the takeover. Millions more are struggling to find work, purchase necessities and pay rent amid multiple crises, including a collapsing economy, deepening humanitarian woes and drought.

3. When the war was on, danger stalked anyone who dared to travel along the highway. Mayhem and massacres, so commonplace during the war times, had given the name the ‘highway of death’. Sadly, even though the Taliban hold the reins off power now, violence continues to rear its head. The spectre of death and destruction has returned with a vengeance resulting in high fatalities and many more injuries. With food shortages and vanishing of jobs, starvation and diseases have returned with a vengeance. Afghans see no hope in the near future , as they stare into a long tunnel of darkness.
If roads can be the chroniclers of a nation, transporting not just passengers and goods but also the stories, aspirations and fears of a people, then the 300-mile journey from Kabul to Kandahar on National Highway 1 unveils Afghanistan’s past, present and future in all its cataclysms and yearnings.

4. First the Soviets and later the Americans, both might armies descended on the country with all guns blazing. The 3000-mile long Kabul -Kandahar became the, lifeline for the two rivals as they strove to capture it. Understandably, the road became a target of multiple bombings. It was damaged, repaired and again damaged as the tide of war webbed and flowed. In the process, it took his, some deadly leaving it with a ghoulish exterior.
Largely rebuilt after 2001 with American funding at a cost of at least $300 million, the highway was intended to win the hearts and minds of Afghans and bolster the nation’s economy — so much that in 2004 President George W. Bush publicly praised its speedy construction. Instead, it became a war zone and a symbol of American failure.

5. The United States genuinely wanted a progressive Afghan society to take roots, so that the people can turn their faces away from violence. Unfortunately, the American attempts to reshape the country’s future was not understood by the locals. They took umbrage at the heavy-handedness of the U.S. forces. As a result, the Taliban destroyed everything that the Americans built. It was a shambolic effort by the US. The Kabul-Kandahar built after 2001 with a staggering investment of $300 million was not spared by the Taliban. They perceived it as a symbol oof U.S. dominance, and targeted it. At the end, the road building project turned out to be a monumental failure.

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