Thursday, March 5, 2009

Long live Mr. Hosseini, Long live women !!!

It will take another thousand years before I get to read a book as intensive as A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS.

I discern a deep veneration for the author, Khaled Hosseini , who has crossed all frontiers in sketching a beautifully sensitive, soul-stirring saga of the struggles of the Afghan women. The plight of the vulnerable women of Afghatistan is so pathetic that I feel divinely blessed to be born in India, a land where we have had women as a Prime -Minister, a President, Chief Ministers, Judges, Speakers, political leaders, not to mention the umpteen lawyers, doctors , engineers, CEOs, magistrates, bureaucrats, IAS officers , pilots.....the list goes on and on.
There definitely is an undercurrent bigotry among the two sexes in India , but where in the world there isn't ?

Returning to the crux of the story , I must say I feel humbled to even attempt a review of this splendid novel. The two dominant female characters - Mariam and Laila, whose two diametrically opposite destiny , bring them face to face , are hugely enduring and adorable. Their lives are scarred, shattered , tormented .... and yet they LIVE !

Mariam's life begins as a harami, [ that's what nana (her mother ) calls her] . Born on the wrong side of the bed from the influential and affluent businessman, provincial governor of Herat, Jalil - Mariam's childhood is one of constant humiliation and disregard . Her only tutor is Mullah Faizullah, a priest who infuses in her, faith in the Allah . Jalil loves her, but never acknowledges his fatherhood socially. He has other legitimate wives (three, to be precise ) and other legitimate children ( nine in precise ) to pamper. When Mariam goes to meet her father, Jalil, whom she loves uncompromisingly much against her mother's wishes, she faces disappointment because Jalil refuses to meet her . When the poor distraught girl returns home she finds her nana hanging from a tree.
From here Mariam's life takes many twists and turns - being married hurriedly to a man more than double her age, Rasheed , a chauvinistic demon in the garb of a man , who for the next two decades will rule her - bodily and mentally, battering her to the core - till Laila arrives in her life .

Laila's arrival is both astounding and accidental. When the war - ravaged kabul was firing rockets and bombs, one got hurled on her and she was , in a nanosecond, struck by a cruel quirk of Fate . She was separated from her parents (who too got killed in the bombardment) . And who should find her mauled body but the same demonaical Rasheed ? Yes, Rasheed saves Laila's life , but for himself.
It is shattering both for her and for us readers to see her rooted out of her familiar soil , like a raddish pulled out of the secured earth and thrown into some filthy debris . Even her faithful lover Tariq is not around , to save her !

The novel is an ode to human spirit in general and to women in particular.
I again humbly salute Mr. Hosseini for being so sensitive and perceptive in putting together the myriad emotions of the women protagonists: their subtleties ; their characteristic fragments of traits; their strengths and foibles ; their tremendous resilience and ability to weather all torture , what you may ; and still they so profoundly retain their sensibilities and warmth.
But true it is that how Destiny can digress !!

Laila who was to live the rest of her life as the lover of Tariq , has to marry the same demon , Rasheed !
I swear I never felt so very relieved before , as I did when Tariq resurfaced in Laila's life !

For the sun's warm rays are always welcome in the darkest days.
Although it's very late for Laila, having lost her daughter to an orphanage and her incisor to Rasheed's atrocities, it's never too late to make amendments in life.
I will feel quite happy and blessed if my female readers pick up this book from the stores on Women's Day and read it . I am sure ALL of them will feel themselves blessed to be a part of this epic tale.
To divulge more secrets will be disastrous for anyone who is planning to grab a copy ofA THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS !!!