Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When you lose sleep...

over a book...
It happened to me after many years. Sat up two consecutive nights to complete "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini. I know it sounds crazy and I am up feeling groggy but was it worth it!
For all my friends who have made my head swell with their belief that there is a book in me waiting to be written, I have to say 'no way!' I cannot hold a candle to the most brilliant story telling I have experienced with this book. I cheated through a few pages, so eager was I to know what's going to happen next but then gave up and went back to my reading as I realized I wouldn't be able to sleep with this breath-taking narration waiting to happen. If it wasn't for the inevitability of the daily chores, I might have completed the book in one go.
Yes, it is again an Afghan war story from Hosseini. If 'The Kite Runner' is told through the eyes of a boy and a man, this story is told through the eyes of a girl and a woman. It is a story of a strange alliance between two women from diverse backgrounds, Laila, an educated girl and Mariam, an illegitimate girl from a lower social order, both forced to marry the same man who is much older than the ages of the two women put together. The story tells about the atrocities of the war and the results of Talibanization. Heart-wrenching to read through the tales of killing, mutilation, hanging, whipping. And... a woman's plight amidst all this.
To quote the author, “Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”

It's absolutely astounding to read that a man can be so sadistic and thrash, kick, whip, pummel, disfigure and hurt his wives so much. The wife is allowed to go out only when her husband accompanies her. Therefore, Laila, his younger wife  is at her husband's mercy who is not interested in visiting the daughter in the orphanage where she is abandoned due to scarcity of food at home. The son is, of course, at home. When Laila dares step out alone to visit her daughter, she is brutally whipped by the Taliban. Despite this, she goes to visit her daughter wearing three coats so that the whippings don't hurt as much. 

Despite all that's happening inside and outside home, the women exhibit extraordinary courage and resilience and fight the system to emerge victorious in their own way. 

At the end of the story, I was too numbed and had to make a great effort to bring my mind to focus on the mundane things of everyday life. I felt so insignificant and my wants so selfish. I have so much going for me and I agonize over trivial things. Tears overwhelmed me as I realized how the Afghan women have suffered through all this.
This story has an Afghanistan backdrop but war or no war, across the globe, across countries, cultures, social and economic status, we see droves of women live cowering like rats succumbing to sheer brutal physical strength day in and day out.

Some more quotes from the book: 
  •  "A man’s heart is a wretched, wretched thing, Mariam. It isn’t like a mother’s womb. It won’t bleed, it won’t stretch to make room for you.”  
  • “A society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated...”
  • "Marriage can wait, education cannot.” 


Vinod Ekbote said...

Subha, This is a nice, from-the-heart review. I wonder why I haven't read the book till now.

Beautiful World said...

Vinod, all credit to the book for inspiring such review. As tho 'The Kite Runner' wasn't overwhelming enough...
I too wonder that you haven't read it so far. You are usually way ahead of me in keeping up with the latest :)