" . . . but women hold the power of story."
July 1, 2014 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Women make up roughly half of the 42 million Pashtun people in the borderland. The kind of hardship they know is rare. Some are bought and sold, others killed for perceived slights against family honor. But this doesn’t render them passive. Most of the Pashtun women I know possess a rebellious and caustic humor beneath their cerulean burkas, which have become symbols of submission. This finds expression in an ancient form of folk poetry called landay. Two lines and 22 syllables long, they can be rather startling to the uninitiated. War, drones, sex, a husband’s manhood—these poems are short and dangerous, like the poisonous snake for which they’re named.
posted by jason's_planet (12 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
The National Geographic's Afghan Girl was Pashtun.
posted by Melismata at 6:12 PM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

My Nabi was shot down by a drone

May God destroy your sons, America, you murdered my own.
He's working on it, Ms. Ahmadzai. The Dark Green ones first, then the Poor Green ones. Plus, He's got His "make sure they're all poor" project running in parallel. You don't destroy a society with the elite you wish you had, you destroy it with the elite you have.
posted by spacewrench at 6:15 PM on July 1, 2014

The article is great. She had a previous piece in the NYTimes magazine in 2012 that I recalled when I read this; it's also fantastic.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:23 PM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

I thought of this landay, which one of the schoolteachers brought us:

When sisters sit together, they’re always praising their brothers

When brothers sit together, they’re selling their sisters to others.

From the article, the issue of Poetry filled with these is here.

Landays began among nomads and farmers. They were shared around a fire, sung after a day in the fields or at a wedding. More than three decades of war has diluted a culture, as well as displaced millions of people who can’t return safely to their villages. Conflict has also contributed to globalization. Now people share landays virtually via the internet, Facebook, text messages, and the radio. It’s not only the subject matter that makes them risqué. Landays are mostly sung, and singing is linked to licentiousness in the Afghan consciousness. Women singers are viewed as prostitutes. Women get around this by singing in secret — in front of only close family or, say, a harmless-looking foreign woman. Usually in a village or a family one woman is more skilled at singing landays than others, yet men have no idea who she is. Much of an Afghan woman’s life involves a cloak-and-dagger dance around honor — a gap between who she seems to be and who she is.
posted by rtha at 7:05 PM on July 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

From rtha's link above:

Making love to an old man
is like fucking a shriveled cornstalk blackened by mold.

and now I am kicking myself in the ass for not using that as the title of this post.

posted by jason's_planet at 7:22 PM on July 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

These are all really good links.

EDIT: I see they also share an author.

(There is a previously associated with that Poetry article.)
posted by postcommunism at 7:22 PM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd love to use that "making love to an old man" bit every time yet another person tells me how I should be dating men old enough to be my father. However, those people outnumber me and would kill me.

Meanwhile, I relate to this one:

"What have you done to me, my God?
Others have blossomed. I stay tight as a bud."

Boy, does that ever describe being single.

I'm going to try writing one:

I get sick of being told what else
is wrong with me, how I don't please...it's too much trauma.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:48 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fantastic post, thanks.
posted by ersatz at 6:13 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this; it's a good account of something I was unfamiliar with. Having pulled out my Pushto dictionary, I can report that lanḍəi ( لنډۍ ) is the feminine form of an adjective derived from land 'short' and that the stress is on the final syllable. But I do have to quarrel with this bit from the Poetry essay: "we transcribed the poems in Pashto, which has the same characters and sounds as Arabic." That's just as true as saying English has the same characters and sounds as Albanian or Turkish because they all use the Latin alphabet, which is to say it's not true in the slightest. Just to take the name of the poetic form as an example, the letter ډ doesn't exist in Arabic, and neither do the sounds /ḍ/ and /əi/. Not the most important point, obviously, but it makes me itch.
posted by languagehat at 7:15 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is the kind of post that makes me love MetaFilter so much more than I already do. Thank you.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:32 AM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Huh, there's a Twitter feed. If only I could read Pushto!
posted by languagehat at 8:14 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd read something here about this form before, and indeed: previously.

Thank you for this post!
posted by Lexica at 5:34 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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