I remember the very first day i first read a review on the Kite runner. I was in school and i was going through the book reviews on the Time magazine. I dont know what got me hooked, but i knew that i had to get my hands on that book. So i made it a point to get it as soon as it came to Sri Lanka. From that day onwards i was one of those people who just kept saying Kite runner was one of my favourite all time books. I dont think any author other than Jean Sasson has brought out the true horrors of the pain that the muslim people have gone through.
I remember i saw A thousand splendid suns in the book store one day when i walked into it and i quickly grabbed myself the very last copy. The funny thing was i didnt read a single review of the book and when i started reading this book i actually had tears in my eyes for the number of pain the girls go through.
The book is based on two girls decades apart in age but who ultimatly count on each other for every bit of support. Miriam is a unwanted child who was born a “Bastard” as refered to her by her mother frequently. Her father, a rich man from Herat had an affair with his housekeeper and nine months later the outcome was mirium. When her mother became pregnant with her, her fathers three wives refused to have her there and thinking of his own reputation he made a small shack for them far out in the outskirts of town. As a child Mirium loved her father and thought the world of him, eventhough he only came to visit her for two hours every Thursday. After her mother dies tragically, Mirium’s father marries her off at the age of 15 to a man double her age so that he can save face in the eyes of his community.
During her married life she goes through a lot of hardship as she suffers countless miscarriages and gets beaten up by her husband daily. There was even an instant in which he made her eat pebbles so that her teeth broke. In the same neighborhood lives a beautiful girl named Laila and a boy named Tariq, who are close friends, but careful of social boundaries. But during the course of their budding teens, they discover their friendship has turned into one of love for each other and they realise that being with each other was exactly what they want. War comes to Afghanistan, and Kabul is bombarded by rocket attacks. Tariq’s family decides to leave the city, and the emotional farewell between Laila and Tariq ends with them making love. Laila’s family also decides to leave Kabul, but as they are packing a rocket destroys the house, kills her parents, and severely injures Laila. As fate would have it Laila is taken in by Rasheed and Mariam.
After recovering from her injuries, Laila discovers that she is pregnant with Tariq’s child. While this takes place, Mirium notices her husbands blatant acts at getting Laila interested. Now a man of 60, he sees a longing passion within him to marry the 14 year old Laila. As Laila is in a terrible position she arranges to marry Rasheed, who is eager to have a young and attractive second wife. Laila, who has been told that Tariq is dead (by another ploy of Rasheed), gives birth to Aziza, a daughter. Rasheed is unhappy and suspicious, and he becomes more abusive. Mariam and Laila eventually become confidants. They plan to run away from Rasheed and leave Kabul, but they are caught at the bus station. Rasheed beats them and deprives them of water for several days, almost killing Aziza.
A few years later, Laila gives birth to Zalmai, Rasheed’s son. The Taliban has risen to power, and there is a drought, and living conditions in Kabul become poor. Rasheed’s workshop burns down, and he is forced to take jobs he is ill-suited for. The family sends Aziza to an orphanage as they dont have the money to feed her and because Rasheed doesnt consider her important as she is a female. Then one day, Tariq appears outside the house. He and Laila are reunited, and their passions flare anew. When Rasheed returns home from work, Zalmai tells his father about the visitor. Rasheed starts to savagely beat Laila, and Miriam couldnt bare it any longer so she kills Rasheed with a shovel. Miriam refuses to come along with Tariq and Laila because she believes that the Taliban regime will find them and kill them. Her worst fear was for the children. So Laila and Tariq leave for Pakistan with the children. Mariam confesses to killing her husband and is executed by the Taliban government.
The story was truly heartwarming and a shock to the system. You notice the changes and the pain a woman goes through eventhough she utters no words to disrespect her husband. People say u dont know what true pain is, unless you go through it your self, and this book shows it all to the readers. The author brings out the true atrocities and pain of Afgan women through this book.
Just for your knowledge : Some of the Taliban Laws
Taliban restrictions and mistreatment of women include the:
1- Complete ban on women’s work outside the home, which also applies to female teachers, engineers and most professionals. Only a few female doctors and nurses are allowed to work in some hospitals in Kabul.
2- Complete ban on women’s activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband).
3- Ban on women dealing with male shopkeepers.
4- Ban on women being treated by male doctors.
5- Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution. (Taliban have converted girls’ schools into religious seminaries.)
6- Requirement that women wear a long veil (Burqa), which covers them from head to toe.
7- Whipping, beating and verbal abuse of women not clothed in accordance with Taliban rules, or of women unaccompanied by a mahram.
8- Whipping of women in public for having non-covered ankles.
9- Public stoning of women accused of having sex outside marriage. (A number of lovers are stoned to death under this rule).
10- Ban on the use of cosmetics. (Many women with painted nails have had fingers cut off).
11- Ban on women talking or shaking hands with non-mahram males.
12- Ban on women laughing loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman’s voice).
13- Ban on women wearing high heel shoes, which would produce sound while walking. (A man must not hear a woman’s footsteps.)
14- Ban on women riding in a taxi without a mahram.
15- Ban on women’s presence in radio, television or public gatherings of any kind.
16- Ban on women playing sports or entering a sport center or club.
17- Ban on women riding bicycles or motorcycles, even with their mahrams.
18- Ban on women’s wearing brightly colored clothes. In Taliban terms, these are “sexually attracting colors.”
19- Ban on women gathering for festive occasions such as the Eids, or for any recreational purpose.
20- Ban on women washing clothes next to rivers or in a public place.
21- Modification of all place names including the word “women.” For example, “women’s garden” has been renamed “spring garden”.
22- Ban on women appearing on the balconies of their apartments or houses.
23- Compulsory painting of all windows, so women can not be seen from outside their homes.
24- Ban on male tailors taking women’s measurements or sewing women’s clothes.
25- Ban on female public baths.
26- Ban on males and females traveling on the same bus. Public buses have now been designated “males only” (or “females only”).
27- Ban on flared (wide) pant-legs, even under a burqa.
28- Ban on the photographing or filming of women.
29- Ban on women’s pictures printed in newspapers and books, or hung on the walls of houses and shops.
Apart from the above restrictions on women, the Taliban has:
– Banned listening to music, not only for women but men as well.
– Banned the watching of movies, television and videos, for everyone.
– Banned celebrating the traditional new year (Nowroz) on March 21. The Taliban has proclaimed the holiday un-Islamic.
– Disavowed Labor Day (May 1st), because it is deemed a “communist” holiday.
– Ordered that all people with non-Islamic names change them to Islamic ones.
– Forced haircuts upon Afghan youth.
– Ordered that men wear Islamic clothes and a cap.
– Ordered that men not shave or trim their beards, which should grow long enough to protrude from a fist clasped at the point of the chin.
– Ordered that all people attend prayers in mosques five times daily.
– Banned the keeping of pigeons and playing with the birds, describing it as un-Islamic. The violators will be imprisoned and the birds shall be killed. The kite flying has also been stopped.
– Ordered all onlookers, while encouraging the sportsmen, to chant Allah-o-Akbar (God is great) and refrain from clapping.
– Ban on certain games including kite flying which is “un-Islamic” according to Taliban.
– Anyone who carries objectionable literature will be executed.
– Anyone who converts from Islam to any other religion will be executed.
– All boy students must wear turbans. They say “No turban, no education”.
– Non-Muslim minorities must distinct badge or stitch a yellow cloth onto their dress to be differentiated from the majority Muslim population. Just like what did Nazis with Jews.
– Banned the use of the internet by both ordinary Afghans and foreigners.