To all my Hamshiras

Hamshira means sister. And this post is dedicated to all my sisters, to all women.

I have been reading “A thousand splendid suns” and the book has as usual turned me inside out. The ambience and ethos of the country and the war and resulting chaos and trauma its people suffer raises many a question in our minds – can such things really happen ? In the 21st century ? Somehow the country seems to permeate into my cells until I can see, hear, smell and feel the spirit there. Maybe it is also because I have visited Kabul and have personally witnessed the aftermath of over 30 years of conflict. I have seen the kind of rebuilding that is taking place there. Earlier, before I read the book, I was very judgemental about the quality of rebuilding and reconstruction taking place – but now, I have been educated and know that anything is an improvement, everything is welcome.

I don’t for whom I feel worse for – Mariam or Laila ? Mariam, who becomes a wallpaper, a silent spectator, making herself small so that the wrath of her husband doesn’t find a target in her or Laila, young, clever, progressive but nevertheless as helpless and fragile as Mariam. Both with radically different pasts but with a interwoven present. Both veiled and burqaed, their identities obliterated.

The author is extremely clever. He does not describe the emotion, the feeling, the inner turmoil that these women go through. He describes an event and leaves it to the reader to fill in the colours. This makes the experience different for every reader. He also neither applauds nor denigrate any of his characters. This too he leaves it to the reader. And the judgement one passes on these characters reflects one’s own experience in life.

My vote is for both, Mariam and Laila. Mariam, who is like the disturbance deep inside, which gets reflected in a passing response with deep repurcussions, whose endurance you wonder at. Mariam who really does not exist – even in the book she is kept well in the background and you only sense her presence. Also to Laila, extremely young, educated, clever, yet a puppet in the hands of fate, whose patience and endurance you wonder at. My sympathies are with Mariam, my appreciation is for Laila.

Mariam takes the only way out.
And Laila takes the optional way in.


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