Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini's 'A Thousand Splendid Suns,' published in 2007, is a tale of friendship, hatred, love and women sufferings set around the bad times of Afghanistan. This novel tells the story of family and friendship lived in wounded Afghan soil. Moreover, it is a vivid portrait of women's sufferings and their endurance beyond imagination.

Mariam is born ill-fated, a harami- an illegitimate child by a rich man, Jalil, with his onetime storekeeper, Nana. Jalil, to save his face, abandons Nana, with Mariam in her womb, from his big house in Herat to live in the outskirts of a village called Gul Daman. (Khaled Hosseini has mentioned in this book that “Herat is a city where you couldn't stretch a leg without poking a poet in the ass.”)

Jalil often comes to visit Mariam with colorful but sky far dreams for her, which Nana discards as rich lies- a rich man telling rich lies. Once Mariam, behind Nana's eyes, but to her complete knowledge, skips her kolba for Herat to visit Jalil only to find her hanging by a branch of a tree.     

Nana, for ignoring her for Jalil's lies, lefts Mariam alone in this
world. This world, where, according to Nana, like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman.

Although Jalil's heart can't refuse Mariam, his name and richness can't embrace her either. Nana is gone. Now, Mariam is the only walking, breathing embodiment of Jalil and his family’s shame. Jalil's family had been disgraced by Mariam's birth, so it was their only chance to erase the last trace of his scandalous mistake. And as a result, Mariam, only 15 then, is sent to Kabul to marry the troubled, bitter, arrogant, tempered and ill-mannered Rasheed, who is thirty years her senior.

Her failure to bear a child, though Rasheed is desperate for a son, even worsens her times with him. Her times with Rasheed, for her minor or even no faults, are thus acknowledged by knocking out of her teeth and her sever beatings till river of blood and the signs of unconsciousness.

Nearly, two decades later, Laila is bound to join Mariam's unhappy household- situation bounds her to share Rasheed with Mariam. Laila was raised better and educated well unlike Mariam. But, when she was only 15, a great tragedy strikes her. Her parents are killed in a bombing and her house is turned to chunk of ashes. She is wounded to unconsciousness. 

In this climate of growing political unrest, killings and tragedies everywhere, Rasheed plots a lie of Tariq's death- the farewell to Laila's love of life, and bounds her to marry him. To nurture the life growing inside her belly, by Tariq,  in a safe and secure environment, she agrees to marry this rugged man, who is in his sixties. But, between Rasheed's growing impatience with his wives and the resulting harshness and ill- treat with them- Mariam and Laila are to find consolation in each other, their friendship to grow as deeper as it could.

With the passing of time comes Taliban rule over Afghanistan. The streets of Kabul are occupied with the sounds of gunfire and bombs. People start fleeing Afghanistan for safer Pakistan and Iran and they struggle to live between starvations, brutality and fear. The condition of women worsens as they endure to live beyond worst of imaginings- confining themselves to burqa, bed and the walls of their homes. But, it is love and bonding at last that triumph over the harshness of Rasheed and destruction of Taliban. It is love that bounds Rasheed and brutality go and Tariq and good times to come. The hidden thousand splendid suns come to lighten them/ Laila.     

‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ centers itself on the condition of women as brought by harsh and crude Islam. The novel is a great blow to the Taliban- Islam and Fundamentalist’s Islam. The story develops into two folds. One bring into limelight the dark days of Afghanistan while the other tells the tale of families, love and friendship of those brutal times. Hosseini concludes this unforgettable tale with the message that no country can upgrade its condition making half the population stay home and do nothing.  
“One could not count the moons
that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns
that hide behind her walls.”
-         Saeb- e- Tabrizi

- Rajan Kathet
Nirmali Danda- 5, Khotang
October 25, 2010



Canada said...

I was hooked on this book from the moment I started reading. I read it in one weekend I couldn't wait to get to the end... yet at the same time it was heartbreaking to continue reading the experiences these characters were going through... I wept in several parts and that has never happened to me reading a book. I am so grateful that I was born in a country that respects women's rights. I feel for the women growing up in that part of the world and I pray for their freedom. I'm not sure how, but I feel this book has touched my soul and I will never see Afghan women the same.

Veni said...

I so absorbed, felt like I've been with Miriam and walked the struggle with her, even insisted my husband read the book so I could share the sadness as it was too much to express, reading the book allows you to be in the story feel the pain,shock,strenght of a woman.