A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A thousand splendid Suns is not only the tale of two Afghan women. In fact, it’s more than that. It’s a soul shaking story of love, longing, suffering, resilience, demolished childhood and most importantly it’s about hope.
Hope, is a four letter word. But, it’s one of the most powerful words. For a human body to survive ingredients like food and water are a must. Without it a person can’t survive for long. The same we can say about the word, Hope, isn’t it. A hopeless individual can’t survive for long, unlike a person who is full of hope.
Afghanistan, The land which is epitomized as the ‘Graveyard of Empires’. The people of Afghanistan have seen too much of death and destruction and still they are hopeful that one day everything will be fine.
The people of this beautiful land have seen the coup of 1973 when King Zahir Shah was removed from the throne of Afghanistan, they’ve seen the rule of communists, they’ve seen the Afghan Jihad (1979-89) and its consequences, they have seen the horrific civil war which ensued after the Afghan Jihad, they’ve experienced the brutal rule of the Taliban (1996-2001) and they’ve seen the peace and stability of the post taliban.
Still, they’ve showed a tremendous resilience. That’s what made Afghanistan and Afghans the most unique people of this planet earth.
The story of a thousand splendid Suns will take us to the land of these resilient people.
So, let’s go to this journey of a thousand splendid suns.
What is A Thousand Splendid Suns?
A Thousand splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is the story of Mariam and Laila, The two headstrong Afghan women. Although, it’s a fictional tale but it’s realistic fiction.
Through this tale the author has touched several important topics like about Orphans, Broken families and neglected Childhood which in general our society and the people ignore most of the time.
Although, majority of the people will connect with the protagonists of this book but the children of broken families will be able to connect more with them.
An unwanted child
Mariam didn’t knew the meaning of the word, Harami ( unwanted or illegitimate) when her mother called her by this name several times. What she knew is that she love Jalil, her beloved father. Although, her mother, Nana used to curse Jalil but Mariam ignore her whenever she hears anything bad about Jalil.
Mariam was born in Herat, Afghanistan. Her mother, Nana used to work as a household helper in Jalil’s house until she became pregnant. As soon the womenfolk of Jalil’s household realised that Nana was pregnant they knew that it was Jalil’s child.
Although, Jalil was already married. He had three wives. But, he also made Nana pregnant. Even before Mariam was born, Jalil shifted Nana to the outer part of the city. He built a kolba (Shed) for her and theirs child.
Nana and her unborn child was an outcaste not only for Jalil’s family but also for the society. An unmarried pregnant woman is treated like an outcaste. This is not only in Afghanistan but throughout the world it’s the same.
For Nana, Mariam is the only thing she have in her life. She is her soul. Although, Nana used to curse Jalil and his family. But, for Mariam none of this matters. What matters the most for Mariam is Thursday. Because on every Thursday, Jalil used to visit Nana and Mariam.
For Mariam this was the most important day of her life. When she talks and interacts with her father about different things. Each and every moment is too precious for that young girl. Although, Nana said several times that Jalil abandoned them like animals. But, none of this matters to that young child who loved her father the most. In fact, Mariam worship Jalil.
But one day Mariam asked Jalil to take her with him to his home. She wanted to meet her half sisters and brothers. She wanted to see the cinema with her extended family. And Jalil promised her that he will. When Mariam told this to Nana. The latter told her that she was a harami and her father will never take her to his house.
The only person whom Mariam can trust is Nana, this is what Nana told her. It was Nana who brought her alone. It was Nana who gave birth to her. And she clearly told Mariam that she will kill herself the day she leave her for Jalil.
But, Mariam was a young girl, she thought that she will go to the city and find the house of Jalil Khan on her own. So, one day she discreetly left her kolba and went to the city of Herat. She didn’t knew that this was the last time she was seeing her mother alive. She didn’t knew that this single decision of her will change her life forever. But what she knew is that she wanted to meet the family of Jalil.
Although, she found the home of the man whom she worshipped. But, as soon as she reached there the guard and the house helpers told her in clear terms that Jalil Khan is not here and she should leave immediately.
Although, she didn’t leave immediately until she was taken to her kolba forcefully by one of the drivers of Jalil Khan. The words of Nana rang in her ears. Each and every word she said about Jalil and his family. That how he abandoned them. Mariam realised that Nana was not wrong. But, it was too late. Nana committed suicide as soon as she realised that Mariam left her to meet Jalil.
A forced marriage
After the death of her mother, Jalil brought Mariam to his house. The same house which denied entry to Mariam. Now, she was here all alone but not for so long.
Mariam was told by the family of Jalil that they’ve found a man for her marriage. Mariam was shocked when she heard this. She was just a teenager.
She wanted to hear from the mouth of Jalil that he is really doing this with her. Giving her to a middle aged man. And when Jalil said, yes. She realised that Nana was not wrong. Like the way he abandoned her mother, he’s abandoning her also.
Trust, is another important word which we all take for granted. Jalil not only had broken the trust of Mariam but he also demolished anything which is associated with trust.
Mariam was married to a middle aged man by the name Rasheed who was from the city of Kabul. A teenager marrying a man who is thrice of her age. She realised that life would not be the same again. Rasheed wanted a son but Mariam was not able to give him what he wanted the most. In fact, she had several miscarriages.
For Rasheed, Mariam became something which needs to be despised. He used to beat her unnecessarily. For her life like this became a part. Life has been too unkind to her. First she lost her mother, then her forced marriage and now this life of hell. Too tough to endure, isn’t it.
A family of three
Laila, Babi and Mammy were a normal family of three living their lives in the city of Kabul. Although, Laila have two brothers also but she didn’t remember them. She was too young when both of them went to join the forces of Ahmad Shah Masood to fight against the Soviets.
On one hand Laila’s father, Babi, a man of books and on the other side, Mammy, Laila’s mother who most of her time remained lost in her thoughts about her two beloved sons.
Babi, a man who not only enjoys reading good literature but he also encouraged her daughter to study. There is another person who is close to Laila, he is Tariq. Her love. With whom she had made love but discreetly.
But, things can change suddenly, especially in a country which is not stable. Until 1973, Afghanistan was a monarchy. But, after the coup of 1973, it became a republic under the rule of Daud Khan. But On April 27, 1978, he was killed in a coup by the communists.
And to support their communists brethren in December 1979, The Soviets invaded Afghanistan. This invasion opened the Pandora’s box which not only started the Afghan Jihad (1979-89) but it also changed the landscape of Afghanistan forever.
This war also changed the lives of Mariam and Laila forever. I’ve gave you an overview about the context in which people like Mariam and Laila lived their lives. Although, the Soviets were defeated by the Mujahideens but it started a civil war in Afghanistan amongst the various factions.
The city of Kabul was rained with rockets. Shootings and rapes became common. People started to leave Afghanistan. Laila, Babi and Mammy have also decided to leave Afghanistan forever. In fact, they were leaving the city of Kabul when one of the rockets struck the home of Laila.
In that incident she was not only badly injured but she also lost both her mother and father. Her life were also changed upside down within a fraction of second.
Until we meet again and a thousand splendid Suns-
It was Rasheed who brought Laila to his house. Mariam took care of her like a mother. But Mariam didn’t knew the motive behind this kind attitude of Rasheed towards Laila. If she knew then she wouldn’t let Laila enter in her house.
Laila was aware that she recently missed her menstrual cycle. The day when she made love with Tariq is still evergreen in her thoughts. Although, Tariq left Afghanistan but he left a part of his inside her.
She has to be careful. A mother’s instinct began to develop inside a teenager. Rasheed also waited for few days until he told her that Tariq died while leaving Afghanistan. Although, it was a lie which Rasheed said to her so that he can persuade her for marriage.
Laila broke down when she heard this news. Although, she is aware that she is pregnant with Tariq’s child but she can’t share this with anyone. To save her child she accepted Rasheed proposal for marriage. Mariam started hating Laila when she realised that Rasheed is going to marry Laila.
After marrying Laila, Rasheed wanted the same thing which he wanted when he married Mariam, A son. But, Laila gave birth to a beautiful daughter whom she named, Aziza. Although, Rasheed ignored Aziza but Mariam started developing a liking for this beautiful child. This child brought Mariam and Laila together. This friendship became so strong that no one could break it.
While things in Afghanistan also started to change. The civil war which was started after the Afghan jihad cooled down and the Taliban captured the power in Afghanistan.
When Taliban (1996-2001) came to power in Afghanistan, the first thing which they did is to ban the girl child education. They’ve introduced a very rigid interpretation of Islam and the Sharia law.
Although, Aziza was born but Rasheed had a serious doubt about Aziza. He in a cunning way told Laila that she doesn’t looks like him. Laila’s heart started beating when she heard this. She knew that Rasheed will kill them the day he realised that she lied to him.
Rasheed used to beat both Mariam and Laila. One day they’ve decided to ran off but unluckily they were caught by the Taliban and they have handed them again to Rasheed. In between all of this, Laila became pregnant again. This time she delivered a boy. Rasheed name his son, Zalmai. He loved him the most.
Although, the financial condition of family was not good. They started to sell everything as they couldn’t buy the food items. In fact, Aziza was given to an orphanage because they couldn’t afford the food for all of them.
But, one day out of the blue, Laila saw a known face. She couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Tariq. Her love. The father of Aziza. She hugged him like a child when she saw him. She cried in his arms like a child.
She thought that Tariq died long ago. She believed the story which Rasheed told her about Tariq. She said sorry to Tariq.
Tariq started visiting Laila’s home. Mariam knew about Tariq. Mariam and Laila knew about each other’s story. But, Zalmai told his father that a stranger used to visit the house when he is not around. Rasheed realised that it was none other than Tariq.
The day Rasheed heard this he started beating Laila and Mariam like a butcher. He was about to kill Laila when Mariam hit him with the shovel. Mariam killed Rasheed but she knew that by killing him she saved the lives of three people.
She told Laila that she should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible with her children and Tariq. Laila told her that they all leave together and will live their lives peacefully.
But, Mariam said no. She told Laila that the Taliban will caught all of them as soon as possible when they came to know about this incident. And she won’t let this happen.
Mariam decided to sacrifice herself for the sake of Laila, Aziza, Zalmai and Tariq. With a heavy heart Laila left Afghanistan for Pakistan.
Mariam was killed by the Taliban when she confessed that she killed her husband. But, she knew that she also saved the lives of the people who after Nana and Jalil became her life.
Although, Tariq and Laila married and started a family together. But, she missed Mariam the most. That’s why after the defeat of the Taliban she went to Afghanistan again and started teaching to orphans.
In fact, she became pregnant again. And she knows that what name she will give to her child if it’s a girl child. Mariam will remain with her forever. The sacrifice won’t be forgotten.
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, Or the thousand splendid Suns that hide behind her walls.
Children without childhood
Blessed are those people who are showered with the love of mother, father, grandparents, uncles and aunts. And to those who grew up alone without the care of mother and father are the chosen ones because they are blessed with the love of the Almighty.
I might be mistaken but those people who’ve everything around them complains too much. They can’t even think about those people who grew up alone without complaining.
A child without a childhood, those people who goes through this painful phase of life are often possess the most different kind of personalities.
Maybe it’s the childhood trauma which made them more thoughtful about the others. They create a world of their own. In their universe entry is quite tough but the exit gate is always open.
Although, these children suffers a lot. The society and the people are so shallow that they torment these kids unnecessarily. It doesn’t matter if you are in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or anywhere else in the world. You will find the children without childhood everywhere.
In a civilised world people don’t torment those who are not blessed with the love and care of parents. In fact, in a civilised society people try to understand them and tell them that they are not alone.
I hope this society will become more civilised sooner than later. A thousand splendid Suns is a must read book. Go for it. And read it diligently.
I’ll conclude with these lines of Mahatma Gandhi.
‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’.
I hope you like this, Thanks for reading, Jai Hind.
My Ratings: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)
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