Nasreen Sattar joined a well-reputed British Bank in 1986 and worked her way up to be the CEO of the Bank in Afghanistan in 2007. What happened next is now available in her debut book – My Kabul Story, published by Har Anand Publications, India. From her first day in Kabul, Sattar was inspired by a close friend to maintain a daily journal documenting the two and a half years that followed.
“I never thought of being a writer!” laughed Sattar, “and at the time, I never thought of sharing my journal with anyone.”
When you first pick up a book by a corporate professional like Sattar, you expect to read the story of a corporate woman’s journey in a male-dominated sector and a patriarchal society. While the author’s work-related experiences are mentioned during the course of the book, what really shines through is the unique story of Nasreen Sattar, as a woman, a professional, an expatriate but most of all, a person filled with unabashed curiosity and enthusiasm in an unfamiliar land that became her home.
“In my two and half years there, despite the volatile security situation and challenges in the workplace, I saw the brighter side of Afghanistan and I just fell in love with the
My Kabul Story is written in the form of a journal, with a highly personalised tone and simple language. Perhaps what is most refreshing is the author’s honesty in all her little
anecdotes, regardless of whether she’s writing about a highway robbery of three million USD or a dreadfully dull dinner with an acquaintance she can’t escape.
Another aspect of the book worthy of appreciation is how it immediately dives into dispelling expatriate stereotypes about Afghanistan.
“I was told by my predecessor to bring in all kinds of toiletries as nothing was available in Afghanistan, but when I reached there I found huge malls, and all the amazing restaurants in the safe-zone areas. My friend laughed at me for thinking I had to wear a head-scarf all the time. The local women covered their heads, but no one ever told me to. The Afghan people are just incredible – and the respect I got in Kabul, even though I was a woman, was unparalleled.”
When she was converting the journal into stories for the book, every story brought out different and intense emotions. While Sattar doesn’t have any plans of working on another book, she now spends her time training women in the banking world. The one thing she keeps telling her trainees is to believe in themselves, to stay focused and never give up.
My Kabul Story was launched at the Radius Center on Saturday, April 1. Along with the author, Farooq Sobhan, former Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh, Ameerah Haq, former Under Secretary General of the UN, Krishnan Srinivasan, former Foreign Secretary of India and Narendra Kumar, Chairman, Har Anand Publications, India were present at the event. The book is now available at the Book Worm, Tejgaon.