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A Thousand Applauses
Sep 24, 2007 03:24 PM 3806 Views
(Updated Mar 25, 2008 02:55 PM)



*A Thousand Splendid Suns (TSS) follows the much-acclaimed Kite Runner (KR) from Khaled Hosseini (KH). The almost autobiographical narration of KR pulls your emotional cords like never before. The book made me guilty of childhood meanness meted out to lesser fortunate of the group, then. Growing up and it’s un-shakable appendages of guilt and regrets are honestly captured in KR. Amir & Hassan will perhaps remain in my heart for many years to come. Loyalty gained a new meaning with KR.

Having read KR twice over to make sure that I had missed nothing, I was thrilled to hear about TSS and made a rush to the nearest bookstore to pick up the book. Unfortunately, there were no hard-bounds available so I had to settle for a paperback edition. 


*The book begins with an interesting line about little Mariam, one of the protagonists, getting to hear the word “Harami”. Mariam’s childhood, adolescence, adulthood and maturity as a human being is captured beautifully well by KH. Khaled, in an interview mentions that he traveled to Afghanistan, spoke to many women and heard many stories of their lives from them. That inspired him to write about them, in an attempt to somehow address the rights of women by perhaps initiating a debate in Afghanistan. Needless to say, Khaled manages to get in to the mind of an Afghan woman with ease and also, in the process gives us an insight in to it. You live in the moment of hope, aspiration, anguish, regret and desperation from chapter to chapter getting under the skins of Mariam and Laila.

Mariam, the elder of the two protagonists manages to garner maximum consideration if not sympathy. She grows on you for sometime in the book and somewhere in the middle you tend to think if Khaled has forgotten about Mariam when he starts whole-heartedly telling you stories about Laila. You get the feeling of being the neglected first child when the second one arrives, when Khaled concentrates on Laila in the book. Slowly, but steadily, Khaled manages to suck Mariam’s life in to Laila’s, or the other way around.

How a woman has to make sacrifices all her life is the essence of this book, war or otherwise. My heart went out to Laila when she makes the choice of getting a caesarean operation done without any anesthesia or pain-killers. To what extent a mother can go to protect her child is evident from both Mariam and Laila. Mariam wins in the end by making a sacrifice that goes unparalleled.

The men in this book have faded to the background and Khaled’s contempt for them is not hidden. Society in general has always been biased against women for being bad drivers, bad decision-makers, bad managers, etc…stereotyping them as second fiddles to men. However, the truth is, men are threatened by women and the immense power they wield. A woman is a life-giver and can take pains that a man will shudder to even think of. Fact of the matter is that women are made of sterner stuff and all men do is just feed their ego and bank on superior physical strength. Unfortunately, strength is not necessarily how much pain you can inflict, but how much pain you can withstand. Women win in the later, hands-down.

For those who respect women, TSS helps you respect them more and for MCPs, it gives a reason to respect women. Thanks to Khaled, I now see our own versions of Mariams and Lailas around me, albeit the claustrophobic and chauvinistic society of Afghanistan. They all suffer, in varying degrees and make sacrifices so that their children have a better tomorrow. As we all know only too well, one educated women will have more impact on a society than a man. As Laila’s father says in the book, a society where women are sidelined will ultimately perish. That is what has happened to societies across the world, historically.

I hope we learn from mistakes, both ours and others and TSS adds to our perspective.

KH has managed to take quick detours amidst the tragic narrative to paint vivid pictures of the magnificent giant Bamyan Buddhas and the retreat with the Kolba where Mariam grows up. This is a departure from his earlier style of narration and is a welcome change. The two fathers in the story – Mariam’s and Laila’s – are as different as chalk and cheese in the way they treat their daughters. Your heart goes for Jalil, Mariam’s father, who lives a life of regret after one mistake which he cannot undo. Characters of Rasheed and Tariq have their own merits with Rasheed as the villain asserting more ‘screen space’ than the other men in the book.


*I feel that TSS goes beyond being a mere work of fiction like its predecessor and makes an appeal to your conscience on rights, wrongs and the in-betweens. Many things about our life and relationships are taken for granted by us. Some books like this shake you awake from your slumber and tells you not to complain, for, your life is beautiful – much more beautiful than that of many unfortunate people across this world. That we need to be thankful for what we have, is a case of pure understatement.

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A Thousand Splendid Sun - Khaled Hossieni