The man who is standing at the door tells Laila he must talk to her parents. Babi gently draws her aside and then she sees Mammy come into the room. The man has come with news of her brothers’ deaths. Mammy screams and screams, tearing at her hair. The next morning the neighbor women arrive to take charge of preparations for the funeral dinner. Whenever Laila tries to talk to her mother, she is shooed away, because these women relish all things that have to do with death. They are the official consolers who let no one trespass on their official duties. Babi, too, wanders aimlessly. “Keep him away from me,” are the only words Mammy speaks all day. Fortunately for Laila, Giti and her mother arrive and Giti embraces Laila in a surprisingly long and strong embrace.
That afternoon, the men go to a hall in Karteh-She which Babi has rented
while Mammy and the women come to the home. Laila sits with Mammy at the
living room entrance to receive visitors who come to mourn along with
them. Even Rasheed’s wife Mariam comes to sit with them. As for Mammy,
she just rocks back and forth and seems to notice nothing, even when Laila
takes her hand in hers. “Now and then, sitting next to Mammy, seeing the
drooping, woebegone looks around the room, the magnitude of the disaster
that has struck her family registers with Laila. The possibilities denied.
The hopes dashed . . . it is hard to feel, really feel, Mammy’s
loss . . . Ahmad and Noor had always felt like lore to her. Like characters
in a fable. Like kings in a history book . . . It is Tariq who is real,
flesh and blood . . . in Laila’s heart, her true brother is alive and
Laila’s long missing brothers are killed in the jihad and she must face
a funeral and her mother’s deep grief and hatred for her father. The only
one she has close to her heart at this terrible time is Tariq, who is
real, alive, and well.
Soon Mammy becomes hounded by many different ailments. Babi takes her to a doctor who does many different diagnostic tests on her, but they can find no physical illness. She lies in bed most days, always dressed in black. The only task she never neglects is her five daily prayers which always end with her asking God to make the mujahideen victorious. As a result, Laila is more and more burdened with extra chores. She washes clothes, cleans house and eventually does all the cooking.
After her chores, she will sometimes crawl into bed with Mammy and cuddle next to her. At these times, Mammy talks endlessly about her sons, how Ahmed was a leader and Noor wanted to be an architect. She says that now they are both shaheed, martyrs. “Laila wishes Mammy would notice that she, Laila, hadn’t become shaheed, that she is alive, here, in bed with her, that she has hopes and a future. But Laila knows that her future is no match for her brothers’ past. They have overshadowed her in life. They will obliterate her in death.” Mammy says that she listens to the clock ticking in the hallway and thinks of all the hours and days and weeks and months and years waiting for her. All of it without her sons. And she can’t breathe as if someone if stepping on her heart. She tells Laila that she is a good daughter and that she hasn’t been much of a mother to her. Laila then asks her mother if she’s ever thought of suicide. Mammy reassures her that even though she has thought about it at times, she knows she will not do it, because she wants to see her sons dream come true: victory over the Soviets.
Laila now is left with dueling emotions. She is reassured that Mammy
wanst to live, but she is disappointed that it is not because of her.
She will leave no mark on Mammy’s heart the way her brothers have, because
her mother’s heart is like a pallid beach where Laila’s footsteps will
forever wash away beneath the waves of sorrow that swell and crash.
This chapter shows how Mammy has become completely bound up by her grief over
the deaths of Ahmed and Noor. However, it is even more tragic, because
she has totally washed away Laila from her heart.
Cite this page:
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Thousand Splendid Suns".
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