As vulgar swearing can be, let’s face it, we ALL do it. Even those of us who claim we never swear, we still do it, but perhaps not use as vulgar a word. I, personally, am not too great a fan of swearing/cursing, but I have to admit that I am guilty of it. I especially get vulgar when something really infuriates me. And I can’t help it at times. The funny thing (and I am sure others will agree with me on this) is that when I cuss, it feels good. So damn good. It’s almost like a great release from all the pent up anger and frustrations I’ve been holding up inside me. And it actually makes me feel much, much better, and lighter! (Of course, I try to refrain from cursing the person; I just curse in general.)
Anyway, before I digress from the topic, I’ve noticed that we, Pashtuns, especially our elders, swear a LOT. And they do it SO casually that I can’t help but laugh out loud rather than get offended. I mean, it’s almost like it’s embedded in the language (Pashto). It’s just absolutely hilarious!
I remember, while I was growing up, the times my family and I would visit Pakistan during the holidays (I grew up in the Middle East, until I moved to the West in my early teens), and listen to the way my aunts and uncles would cuss endlessly, using words like, “Da khar bachey” (Son of a donkey), or “Da spai bachey” (son of a bitch), and then my most favourite, and perhaps the least vulgar of them all, “Murdara shai!” (I hope you die). Oh, and let’s not forget the never-ending trail of “khairey” (a type of cursing that specifically refers to wishing bad or evil upon someone, and is also very common among Pashtun elders) that my mother, especially, would wish upon my siblings and I when we were growing up. Like for example, “Khuday deh khushaala ma ka” (May God never make you happy), or “Baikh deh Oza” (May your root/foundation fall down/apart). I’m sure there are many more, but they are slipping my mind at the moment. When I think of them, I’ll be sure to share them.
Anyway, the hilarious irony of some of these swear words is that, most of the time, we, Pashtuns, don’t swear at the actual person, but rather at their parents! Not sure how it came about to being that way, but most become oblivious to it when they cuss/swear. And, although, it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve visited back home, especially my village, I can’t wait to go back and listen to my elders bicker and curse over the most mundane things. I do realize that most of these swearings are done in good humour, and should not be taken as literally as they should be; however, I know I will definitely be a little perturbed by it. My husband warned me about this, and so did my sis-in-law. I fully realize that I’ll be getting the shock of my life when I do actually hear ‘em use some of the most offensive vulgarity, in the most casual and nonchalant way, ever. And to think that swearing in Pashto sounds a million and one times worse than it does in English! No, really it does! Well, at least to me! I mean, I know there will be times where I’ll be caught totally and completely off-guard, speechless, not knowing what to say. Or I might just pull an Ali Nadeem, from the famous 70’s British comedy show, “Mind Your Language” and say, “Oh, blimey!”
Nevertheless, it seems to me that swearing is (or has become) a part of who we are. And I’ve become indifferent to it. (Though, honestly, I wouldn’t be in favour of it, as it can get extremely vulgar to the point of being very insulting and demeaning.) Yet, like I said earlier, we ALL swear in one way or another. Some choose to refrain from using verbal vulgarity around others, resorting instead to more “softer” versions of it, and then there are those who don’t hold it in and let it all out in the open. Again, I don’t condone vulgarity, but it is what it is. And we are who we are, and if certain individuals have an issue with the way we do things, then, well, I have nothing to say ’bout that!
Besides, if swearing was so bad, then one of my most favourite Pashtun poets of all time would never have penned the following verses ;):
Pa wallah che da janat ba sham sthun, che kanzal pakey wonaram dah Pakhtun – Ghani Khan
(Rough translation: “I would not be interested in a Paradise, where I don’t hear the brusqueness (or swearing) of my Pakhtun.”)