On the morning of her marriage, Mariam is given borrowed clothes for her wedding and is taken to the long brown table where sitting are two witnesses and a strange mullah. When Jalil pulls out a chair for her, he tries to smile encouragingly. They then call for the groom to enter. Mariam smells him before she sees him - cigarettes and the overpowering scent of a thick, sweet cologne. Through her veil, she sees that he is tall, broad-shouldered and thick bellied. His size almost makes her gasp.
Then, the mullah explains that this will not be a traditional nikka, because of Rasheed’s need to leave that afternoon. He asks Jalil if he has any objection to the marriage and of course, the man says no. Next, he asks Rasheed if agrees to the marriage contract, and the strange man says yes in a harsh and raspy voice. Finally, he asks Mariam if she agrees and she refuses to answer. One of the wives quickly says she agrees, but the Mullah insists that Mariam must be asked three times if she agrees and then respond. Mariam stays silent for the first two questions, but after the third, when Jalil says her name in a shaky voice, she capitulates and says yes. Then, a mirror is passed under her veil. Mariam sees herself and all the character traits of her face that she dislikes. At the same time, she sees a face that is not pretty but somehow not unpleasant to look at either. She also sees in the mirror the face of the man who will be her husband. He has a big, square ruddy face, watery, bloodshot eyes, crowded, yellow teeth, and the impossibly low hairline that is barely two fingers width above his bushy eyebrows. She can only think, “This is the face of my husband.” Their gazes meet briefly in the mirror, and then both look quickly away. So they exchange rings and are pronounced married. Mariam signs her name to the marriage contract. The next time she signs her name to a document, twenty-seven years later, a mullah will again be present.
Jalil accompanies them to the bus for Kabul and Rasheed goes ahead and
finds a seat to allow the man to say his goodbyes to his daughter. All
Mariam can imagine is a meek goodbye with Jalil running alongside the
bus, waving cheerfully, unscathed, spared. She decides she cannot allow
it. She says to him, “I used to worship you . . . On Thursdays, I sat
for hours waiting for you . . . I thought about you all the time . . .
I didn’t know you were ashamed of me.” All the time she says these things,
Jalil tries to change the subject, but she continues on and when he says
he will visit her, she insists that he must never come. She doesn’t ever
want to hear from him again. She says, “It ends here for you and me. Say
your goodbyes.” Jalil can only say, “Don’t leave like this.” However,
Mariam just climbs on the bus and refuses to even acknowledge her father,
even when he presses his palms against the window and raps his knuckles
against the glass. She doesn’t look at him, even when he runs alongside
the bus and calls her name. Her new husband tells her, “There now, girl.
There. There,” but his words are spoken absentmindedly as if there is
something more interesting out the window than her.
Mariam’s wedding is a joke. She has no way to protect herself from her
father and his wives determination to have her out of their home. Ironically,
when he pleads for her to say yes to the marriage, she gives in. The way
she describes Rasheed shows that he has many unlikable traits and the
mirror not only show both of their faces, but reflects a couple that is
different from each other that the future may offer only despair for them
both. Her refusal to allow her father to feel no guilt as she leaves is
the only power she has left.
Mariam and Rasheed arrive in Kabul in the early evening of the following day. She must pay close attention when he talks because of the Kabuli dialect of Farsi and his Pashto accent. His house is smaller than Jalil’s but a mansion compared to the kolba. The houses are crowded together and share common walls, with small, walled yards in front buffering them from the street. Rasheed’s house had once been blue and has two stories. The yard is unkempt with an outhouse on the right and a well with a hand pump on the left. Rasheed tells her that Jalil has said she liked to fish and says maybe he will take her someday. Mariam stands in the middle of the living room and looks around, noting everything that is different from the kolba that she knew so intimately. Now, all the things that had been so familiar to her are gone. She is in a stranger’s home and the space of it suffocates her.
Mariam begins to cry. That’s when Rasheed finally begins to talk to
her at length. He makes it clear that he does not like crying women. When
Mariam says she wants to go home, he tells her that he won’t take this
comment personally. This time. He shows her to her bedroom and explains
that he prefers to sleep alone. It is much smaller than the room she used
at Jalil’s home. She is relieved for the time being that he chooses not
to sleep with her. He points out the basket he has left on the windowsill
- white tuberoses spill over its side. He asks her if she likes them and
when Mariam says yes, he demands that she thank him. She does and she
also apologizes. When Rasheed sees she is shaking, he asks if she is afraid
of him, if he frightens her. She can hear something slyly playful in the
tone of his questions, like a needling. However, Mariam tells her new
husband her first lie and says she is not afraid. Then, he leaves her
alone with her suitcase and dry flowers.
Mariam is already stressed and traumatized by what has happened to her, but
Rasheed shows no signs of being a sympathetic husband. His home is rough,
his tone is rough, and his behavior is somewhat a signal of what might
come in the future.
Cite this page:
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Thousand Splendid Suns".
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