I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. I found an app called Stitcher, which you can load onto your smartphone. It allows you to search by topic and will return any matching podcasts it can find. You can then listen on your phone whilst out walking, running, at the gym or relaxing on the couch. I tend to listen whilst at the gym – lets me feel I’m getting some mental stimulation as well as a physical workout, takes the mind off the tedium and mostly blocks out the terrible piped music that they blast out (despite the fact that 90% of gym goers are, like me, listening to something else on their phones).
Anyway, the Poetry Foundation has a great series of podcasts and one in particular grabbed my attention. It was about a form of poetry handed down orally from generation to generation of Pashtun women. Anybody who thinks that Afghani women are timid, conservative things should listen to this. The poems, called ‘Landay’ are often bawdy, angry, rebellious and downright hilarious. The word ‘Landay’ can be translated as ‘a short, poisonous snake’ – which tells you that the poems can have a bite. For example:
You sold me to an old goat father
May God destroy your home, I was your daughter
You wound a fat turban around your bald head
To hide from me your age and that you are nearly dead
Slide your hand into my bra
Stroke a red and ripening pomegranate of Kandahar
The landay is a two-line poem, of 22 syllables. Though I think this applies to the original Pashto version, because the English translations are not necessarily 22 syllables. There is a detailed description of landays here.
The podcast I listened to was an interview with Eliza Griswold, who collaborated with photographer Seamus Murphy to document Afghan life through the prism of these landays. Above is a beautifully shot short film made by them, which provides great insight into the lives of Pashtun women.