When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers.When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others.– attributed to Malalai, Malala’s warrior namesake
A lot has already written about Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to have ever won the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala is one of the most prominent advocates for empowerment through education. I didn’t know a lot about Malala besides her basic platform and her Malala Fund, so I read her book, I am Malala, over the holidays. Malala was cowritten with Christina Lamb. The book is a combination of a political history of Pakistan and the story of Malala’s family. Malala’s parents are both such strong figures in the story, and it quickly became apparent how Malala’s upbringing shaped her views on the world. One thing that really stuck with me after reading this book, however, were the landays that were sprinkled through the book. A landay is a folk couplet, often passed down through oral traditions and sung aloud. Malala’s mother is illiterate (as are about 44% of the Pakistani population*). In the book, she would sing these landays while doing chores or drinking tea with her friends.
A landay has twenty-two syllables, nine in the first line and thirteen in the second. The poem ends with the sound of “ma” or “na” but doesn’t have to rhyme. The most common themes of landays are war, separation, homeland, grief, or love. In today’s war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan, landays have become more politicized, critical, and have started some modern hip-hop trends.
How much simpler can love be?Let’s get engaged now. Text me.
Many landays use sex and war to tease men about their cowardice in bed and in battle. This is one of the ways in which Pashtun women undermine the social code through these folk poems: simultaneously seducing men and mocking their weakness at the very skills with which they’re supposed to display the greatest strength.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is unfamiliar with Malala’s story, people with an interest in the conflicts in the Middle East, people who would to be informed global citizens.
- Pakistan’s High Illiteracy Rate Threatens Its Fragile Democracy
- Landays: Poetry of Afghanistan
- More examples of Landay Poetry
- More about I am Malala
- Learn more about the Malala Fund