I read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner ten years ago, as a girl. I enjoyed the depth of his writing, but felt that it lacked style. The story was gripping and the writing was brutally honest, but there was a little something that I felt was lacking. It is difficult to explain without coming across as presumptuous. Today, a decade hence, the Afghan born doctor cum writer crawls back into my (grown up) heart all over again, with A Thousand Splendid Suns.
The book touches upon Afghanistan, fresh from its upheaval of monarchy and takes us through its journey of war, Soviet occupation and finally, the dark regime of the Taliban. When Mariam’s mother gives her lesson for life at the beginning of the story, little do we realize how much impact those few words have over not only Mariam’s life, but also Laila’s (the other protagonist) :
“Only one skill. And it’s this : tahamul. Endure.”
Mariam’s life is made up of one difficult situation after another, one pain after another. The reader’s heart feels her pain but just like her, is helpless. You almost endure it all over again. And again. Suddenly I think of these lines from The Kite Runner : When
You know that what Mariam really wants is to escape it all, like in those lines above, but she is trapped into her life, that husband, that country and her mother’s curse : to endure. When you think of women like her, who are still battling reality in patriarchal societies all over the world, your heart is sure to bleed and suddenly, your own life feels like an enormous luxury.
The descriptions of Herat and Kaboul evoke very strong feelings about the places and country. The Boudhas of Bamiyan, the minarets of Herat and the night life in Kaboul stay etched in your mind long after you have closed the book. It is the city of Kaboul that is behind the title, too.
Beautiful, isn’t it? As a person who gives away her soul to certain places and cities, I could totally identify with it.
If Mariam’s curse was to endure, Laila’s was to wait. Waiting for love, waiting for clouds to pass, waiting for times to change.
“Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.”
While Laila’s story can retain some hope, Mariam’s is devoid of any. Probably the story of many women in Afghanistan and in many other societies as well. Khaled Hosseini’s might touch upon aspects of politics or history but the central story is always that of these two women, stuck together by kismet, born into a world and a time that was cruel to its women. The book is poetic and poignant, very hard to put down once begun. It is an extremely heart-wrenching tale of life, that goes on, despite all odds.
“Each snowflake was a sigh heard by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. All the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how women suffer, how quietly we endure all that falls upon us.”