The ‘not-so-rosy’ picture of women in many parts of the world is not an unknown matter to us anymore. The horrific and humiliating experiences that women face in their lifetime is enough to insult the humanity. They are not even considered as human beings in the first place. This fact is once again established in the novel- A Thousand Splendid Suns. The novel is another masterpiece from Khaled Hosseini after his first bestseller, The Kite Runner.
You may think – here comes one more cliched story about the outrageous behaviour inflicted on women by the men coming in their lives. This is where the book stands different from it’s counterparts. It not only depicts the endurance, perseverance, fear, helplessness and fragility of two women but also their courage to dream of a sunny future even in the darkest hours of their lives.
I remember reading this novel back in college days. My room-mate borrowed it from one of our batch mates. In those days, I was mostly into reading romantic novels (we all go through this phase once in our lifetime :)). So, when I took this book and started reading it, I was taken aback seeing the way Rasheed, the husband was treating his wife, Mariam. It was a far cry from my hunky dory romantic novels. Keeping the novel aside looked best for me and my sanity. But people change, their choices change as well. And, I am no exception. Almost 10 years down the line, I once again sat with the same novel few days back (not a borrowed but a purchased one this time). I realised that I have kept myself away from one of the finest craft all these years. This is also due to my 3 rules for picking up a book to read.
Set in the backdrop of Afghanistan, the novel begins with the innocence of a 5 year old ‘illegitimate’ child, Mariam. She lived with her heartbroken mother, Nana in the village of Gul Daman. For the first 15 years of her life, Mariam believed that she was very precious to her father, Jalil. His weekly visits to her kolba in Gul Daman along with his love, affection and gifts always supported her belief. Mariam dreamt of going to Herat some day, the city where her wealthy and influential father resided with his 3 wives and 9 children borne from them. Mariam wished to live a happy life with Jalil in his big mansion in Herat. Did her wish come true ? Here are 7 such reasons that lead one to hold onto this outstanding novel :
Yes, Mariam’s wish was fulfilled but with a huge cost. She regretted her wish to stay close to her father over the years. But why?
Mariam wanted to study like Jalil’s other children. Then, what made her marry Rasheed, a shoe-maker in Kabul and almost triple her age ? Did she meet Jalil again in her life ?
She started to accept Rasheed as her husband. Mariam experienced a new life in Kabul, away from the confined four walls of her kolba. What happened all of a sudden that left her without any hope and also changed Rasheed’s behaviour towards her?She understood why Nana advised her to learn endurance.
Laila and Tariq, the children living few houses down the lane in the neighbourhood were fond of each other. How did Laila’s life intertwine with Mariam’s life ?
One after another war-like situation declared by the various leaders of Soviet union, Communists and Taliban crippled life in Afghanistan. Could Mariam and Laila stay away from the heat of terrorism and barbarity in their lives?
Mariam desired for a life free of horror and longed for peace & happiness. Did she do anything to achieve it ?
Laila used to visualise a better future with Tariq in Kabul. Was it possible for Laila to lead the life she wanted in Afghanistan ?
The title of the novel was adapted and translated from a poem composed by a 17th century Persian poet, Saeb-e-Tabrizi :
“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hid behind her walls.”
While going through the novel, I couldn’t understand the relevance of the title with the story. The relation emerged proudly at the end. It is about the bliss, happiness and content that one feels standing under the sky he is born. When the story was written, the innocent Afghans were running for their lives in the streets where they have walked once without fear. Due to the back to back turmoil caused by the Soviet Union, Communists and Taliban in the landscape, the citizens felt unsafe even inside their homes. The basic human rights of men and women were declined. They had no other option but to leave their homes behind and live as refugees in Pakistan and Iran. It doesn’t require much effort for a reader to realise the pain and sufferings people in Afghanistan went through.
I don’t have the audacity to decide if A Thousand Splendid Suns is worth a read or not. Undoubtedly, it is. Those who have read it, they know why I am saying so. And, those who are yet to read – friends, please grab a copy of the novel. Else you will miss an engrossing and encouraging story of two women standing and fighting in their own way in the midst of inhumane circumstances.
Let me know your opinion about the novel.