A= Afghanistan of A Thousand Splendid Suns

“A” is such an interesting letter. A is the first alphabet of four of the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica. Then there are places like Aymanam from  God of Small Things that is forever imprinted on my mind. A offered me many options for selection. Still, this alphabet turned out to be the easiest one for me. All the options tried to seduce me in writing about them, of course, but my heart only went to one place and my first choice—Afghanistan of Khaled Hosseini that he brought to life in A Thousand Splendid Suns.

I am a child of 1980s. By the time I came to understand or even think of Afghanistan, the war had already ravaged the country. News highlighted the place. For me, it was the city of wars, extremism and refugees. I am not trying to insult anyone here, but that’s all I knew. I was an ignorant teenager who had little interest in world politics. Till the newspaper highlighted the country, I had no particular thoughts about it.

I did read “Kite Runner” too, but that was more of a mixed book with all countries covered in. Even though Afghanistan is at its centre, there still are tangents. It was this book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which made me see Afghanistan. As the book describes the city using lines of poems:

“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,

Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.” (Pg 149)

The book spans two different eras for Afghanistan. The first era is the era of Mariam—the first character who was born in 1959, in peaceful Afghanistan. Part 1 of the book defines the Kabul which has just heard the distant echoes of wars and has not faced them directly. In Mariam’s words, one of the leading characters, tell about her impression of modern women in Kabul.

“Yes, modern Afghan women married to modern Afghan men who did not mind their wives walked among strangers with makeup on their faces and nothing on their heads. Mariam watched them cantering uninhibited down the street, sometimes with a man, sometimes alone, sometimes with rosy-cheeked children…”

This was the Afghanistan I hadn’t thought of, a country devoid of wars and tyranny , but home where people—men and women—lived in harmony. The book not only talks about the modern people.

It also talks about Afghani food like borani, daal, rice etc. There is a reference to communal tandoor where Mariam would go after kneading her dough where “Mariam could hear their high-pitched chatter, their spiralling laughs.” She also “caught the banter which had to do with sick children or lazy husbands.

This was a new Afghanistan I was seeing, yet it felt similar to my own country in some ways.  There is a beautiful description of Ramadan and Id which brought the city to life for me. All is not rosy in that world as well. In fact, the book shows the divide of that time between rural and urban Afghanistan. Book touches on the struggle of women who are new to burqa with quotes like how it “hampers the peripheral vision” but yet provide a “one-way window to the world.

Then came the Part-2 of the book which took me back to those newspapers and news channels showing the city being eaten up by war. When the book took the readers to Buddha’s statues in Bamiyan, I was living in the pages of the book seeing the world through the cavities in this huge Buddha statue. The lush green fields “bordered by poplars, criss-crossed by streams and irrigation ditches” mesmerized me as well along with Laila, the second character of the book. My gasp was real when I read about the statues being blasted.

I do not want to give the spoilers about the book, else there is much more marked up in my copy of the book. So, I will close it here. Also, I would like to clarify that this book talks about a lot more stuff—gender inequalities, the bombings, Taliban, education, and resurrection of Afghanistan as well. Even though my post just covers the setting of past and present as explained in the book, the book itself is more than that. If you haven’t read the book, do read it. It is one of the most heart-wrenching stories.

P.S. All the text marked in italics is from the book directly.

Advertisements

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jz
    Apr 02, 2019 @ 05:49:24

    Hmm… you have definitely made me move this up on my To Read list!
    Thank you for that. 🙂
    Happy A-Z’ing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: