of national symbols: the animal, the bird, and the flower

من نمی دانم
که چرا می گویند: اسـب حیوان نجیبی اسـت
و کبوتر زیباسـت
وچـرا در قـفـس هـیچ کسی کرکـس نیسـت
گل شـبدرچه کم ازلالهء قـرمـز دارد؟
سهراب سپهری

i don’t understand
why some say: horses are noble animals;
and pigeons are beautiful.
and how come there are no vultures in anyone’s birdcages
and what do clovers lack that red tulips have?
-sohrab sepehri


so therefore, here is a proposal to assign unorthodox national symbols to afghanistan:

first, a national mascot -the animal. why does it have to be the lion? i know that the animal is a virtual stand-in in our vocabulary for power, ferocity, and dominance, but then which of those attributes come to mind when one thinks of this country? and besides it must be decades since the last lion in the wild was killed off, and even the poor, captive, one-eyed marjan is there no more. let’s face it: horses are not faring well nowadays in this country. i see them every morning on my commute pulling cartloads of excrement from the city’s interior out to the farms in the suburb, and they are killed for the meat. and while buzkashi is entirely overrated and exoticised, the animal out of this game that should be our national symbol is not the horse. so what should be our national animal mascot? i propose two options:

1. the headless calf of the buzkashi: there is really no other animal whose fate and circumstances parallels that of this godforsaken land than the poor beheaded calf being pulled on all directions by the chapandaz. and it does not have a head, a unifying figure, a guiding leader. and it is always misunderstood and is taken for a goat by all the (western) spectators who seem to love the great game of buzkashi and love to read too much into the game and see it as a parable of the political happenings of the country.

2. the donkey: the status of this animal as the butt of all jokes and the last resort insult to any bitter argument is undeserved. for all its meekness, the animal’s contributions to the war of liberation against the soviet union equals that of the stinger missile. and as they say, the meek shall inherit the day:
طوق زرین همه بر گردنِ خر می بینم

second, the national bird. nope, not the eagle, not the parrot, not the pigeon. none of these. i propose that the domesticated chicken -the makyaan-, the everpresent and ubiquitous g. gallus domesticus be made the national bird. the nourishment that the egg provides saves lives in the remotest abandons of badakhshan and bamyan. the eggs are also sold by enterprising women of the household in most of the country to buy everything from much-needed medicine to school supplies. who cares if it does not fly? or does not have a curved beak like the eagle? and did i say it will survive on just about anything?

lastly, the national flower. now i know that with the previous two nominations, you are all set for something else entirely out of the blue. but this one is a no-brainer: it has got to be the red tulip -the laalah– that blooms across the deserts of the country every spring, parsing the earth, and for those few short lived days splashing the entire hillside, the entire desert with color and with passion. regardless of whether it has been a generous winter or a drought, the tulip will make its presence and will mark the arrival of the spring and beacon people to travel north for سیلِ گلِ لاله زار. for all the harshness of the nature here, it is amazing that something so young, so beautiful, so graceful, so passionate and oh so fragile can grow here at all -but grow it does, and this country would not be what it is without it.
لالهء این چمن آغشتهء رنگ است هنوز
سپر از دست مینداز که جنگ است هنوز


~ by safrang on February 16, 2009.

5 Responses to “of national symbols: the animal, the bird, and the flower”

  1. Hamesha, you make me laugh and cray at the same time.. I agree with your proposals. I would go with donkey for national animal 🙂 and laalah, oh laalah.. that should be…

  2. Dear Javaid,
    all theses suggestions are interesting ; but since we are all too often tempted to express our hatred towards things, I suggest that pig be made our national symbol. Shouldn’t a symbol express something that permeate our lives more often than not?

  3. I’m with you regarding the flower. Speeding along the dusty road with red tulips, it is the symbol of Afghanistan for me.

  4. all wrong answers

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