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Splendid suns & Kabul & two women

"One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls"

Translated from persian poem "Kabul" by Saib-e-Tabrizi

A thousand Splendid Suns is a tale of friendship between two women with an age difference of 19 years. A series of unfortumate events lead to Mariam and Laila getting married to Rasheed, an abusive and domineering husband. The man marries Mariam with the sole purpose of getting a child (read male child) and when she is unable to do so she ends up being a caretaker of his house and a punching-bag whenever he feels like taking out his frustrations. Mariam, an illegitimate child, is abandoned by her father after her mother dies. Getting married to Rasheed was not by choice. The backdrop of story is the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The war which left many parents child-less and created new orphans everyday. Laila was one such orphan who was duped into marrying Rasheed (his purpose of marrying remained the same).

The book describes atrocities done by Rasheed on the two women and their endurance. It tells how these two women who initially are not very fond of each other become each other's confidante.

When i reached the middle of the book i really got tired of the "wife-beating sessions". Rasheed with his belt wound around his wrist lashing out at either Mariam or Laila. I almost lost interest in the book. It seemed like a science fiction (that too an unpleasant one) where nothing is believable. How can two women survive years of torture at the hands of their family, the war, their husband, the society and even Taliban? But i guess we cannot even imagine what the women and children of Afghanistan had to go through. May be what this book describes is only 1/1oth of their misery.

Laila had to put her daughter in an orphanage to lessen the load on the family. According to the laws of taliban, a woman was not supposed to be seen on the roads without a male-companion. The poor woman had to beg Rasheed to take her to the orphanage and when he refused she somehow tried to find her way to the orphanage without being caught by the taliban. Seldom she could make it. Most of the time she returned home with blood soaked clothes after being whipped by the taliban officials.

Since there were no proper medical facilities in hospitals for women, Laila had to undergo a C-section without an anaesthesia. Can a man imagine that pain?

Somehow the parts of the book dealing with violence did not bring tears to my eyes. It was to that extreme that may be it left me numb. But what ultimately moved me was Laila's journey to Herat and to Mariam's home, where Mariam had spent the first 15 years of her life. It was like Laila paying tribute to her closest friend Mariam, by visiting her town of birth long after she dies to save Laila and her children. The description of Laila feeling the presence of Mariam around her when she sits quietly in the small house was heart-rending.

If one loves someone so deeply, one feels like spreading the arms and gathering everything
which has anything to do with that person or his/her's life. Even breathing the same air in which the loved one had once lived...

"Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing
finger always finds a woman. Always."

Nana to Mariam


Nepali Akash said…
"Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing
finger always finds a woman. Always."

Do u really agree?
Shazia said…
I dont agree completely with this statement. But the context in which it is spoken by a woman who dares to have a child out of wedlock even after being let down by her lover, it seems to be justified. She says this to her young daughter--as one of life's bitter truths--based on her own experiences.
Angika said…
I loved this book too. I wish I had written about it immediately after I read it, now the sentiments are not so strong! Anyway, nice to see that you felt the same way about the book as I did.

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