The celebration that the Minister of Culture and Information organised for the International Women’s Day was nicely put together.
The walls of the meeting room are covered with portraits of the important figures who have contributed to the history of Afghanistan. The portait of a bespectacled man with white rimmed glasses kept staring at me from the wall. I asked who was represented in the painting. Nobody seemed to know and the name tag was written in too small characters for anyone to be able to decipher them.
The Kabul Theatre performed a very tragic play that generated a lot of approval, applauses and sighs and the Minister gave and engaging and paternal-sounding speech that made the women in the room giggle every so often.
The event began with a woman reciting the Qur’an. She has a black and glittery headscarf, a bright pink coat; a round face and chubby hands. She closer her eyes, took a very deep breath and began singing with a great inspiration and the most powerful of voices. It was the first time I heard a woman leading the prayer in a public occasion: her high pitch resonated in the ante-chamber of the Ministry’s meeting room all the way out into the street.
When she left the stage we all stood up for the national anthem. A lady dragged on stage an unruly group of children in traditional costumes. It took her a while to put them in a straight line, they kept shifting on their feet and disrupting the orderly composition she as trying to arrange. With their sparkling headscarves and headgears, they put their hands behind their backs and started singing with all the strength their little lungs could allow them. It was the cutest and most unharmonious thing I have heard in ages. Each of them was singing with great concentration at their own specific tone and speed. Spectacular! The performance reached its climax for me when I turned my attention to the pale boy with an oversized stripy robe hanging from his little shoulders. His mouth was wide open. I thought to myself what a remarkable passion was the boy putting into the singing.
I kept looking: his eyes closed, his head slightly tilted backwards.
He wasn’t singing: it was the longest yawn I have ever witnessed in my life…
After what seem an eternity, he regain his composure and went back to singing as if nothing had ever happened.