One of Mariamís earliest memories was the sound of a wheelbarrow squeaky iron wheels bouncing over rocks. It was always two of Jalilís sons delivering food and other supplies to Mariam and Nana once a month. Mariam would comment when they arrived that Jalil had servants and could send them with the supplies to which Nana always replied that once again this was Jalilís idea of penance. The two sons always know better than to get any closer than two hundred yards from the house, because Nana stands in the doorway with her pockets full of rocks which she throws at them if they get too close. Mariam feels sorry for them, because they have already struggled so to bring the supplies over the rough ground. Nana just laughs hard and tells Mariam, in an echo of Jalilís very words, that sheís a good daughter. She then reminds Miriam that the boys are laughing at her, yet she loves her.
Mariam and her mother spend their days milking the goats, feeding the
hens, and collecting the eggs. They seldom have visitors, because Nana
dislikes people in general, but she makes exceptions for a few. One is
Habib Khan, the leader of Gul Daman. He comes by once a month with food.
Another is Bibi jo, whose late husband had been a stone carver and friends
with Nanaís father. She brings gifts, complaints, and gossip. Mariamís
favorite visitor is the elderly village Koran tutor, the akhund, named
Mullah Faizullah. He is Mariamís teacher and the one who taught her how
to read. They go for walks together and discuss the teachings of Islam.
He admits that at times, he doesnít understand the meaning of the words
of the Koran. However, he teaches her that the words can bring her comfort
and never fail her in her time of need. She loves him so much for his
gentle heart that she finds she can tell him things that she doesnít dare
tell Nana. As a result, she tells him that one of her greatest wishes
is to attend school. Bibi jo had told them the week before that Jalilís
daughters were attending the Mehri School for Girls in Herat and now Mariam
wants to go as well. She appeals to Mullah Faizullah to intervene with
Nana and get her permission. Unfortunately, Nanaís response is merely,
ďWhat for?Ē She says there is no sense in Miriam going to school and comments,
ďItís like shining a spittoon. And youíll learn nothing of value in those
schools. There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs
in life, and they donít teach it in school
. . . Only one skill. And itís this: tahamul. Endure . . . Itís our lot in life, Mariam. Women like us. We endure. Itís all we have. Do you understand? Besides, theyíll laugh at you in school. They will. Theyíll call you harami. Theyíll say the most terrible things about you. I wonít have it. . . There is nothing out there for her. Nothing but rejection and heartache. I know, akhund sahib. I know.Ē
This chapter is important because of the lesson it presents the reader
about the relationship Nana had forged with Mariam. She fears that Mariam
will leave her alone and so resists anything new in her daughterís life
that might take her away from the kolba. She continuously feeds
the girl blackmail that there is no other life for her outside of her
childhood home and her motherís influence.
Mariam loves all the visitors who come to the kolba, but her greatest love is her father, Jalil. He comes every Thursday and she is so excited by his visit that her anxiety would set in on Tuesday night. She sleeps poorly and walks around aimlessly on Wednesday. Once Thursday arrives, it is all she can do to sit still while she keeps her eyes glues towards the stream, and waits for him. Once he arrives, she leaps to her feet and watches him leap the stones across the stream, all smiles and hearty waves. She knows her mother is watching her reaction, so she keeps herself patient until he opens his arms and then she finally runs. He lifts her high and swings her in the air, and Nana says that one day, he will surely drop her. However, Mariam always feels that she will land safely into her fatherís clean, well-manicured hands.
When Jalil arrives, Nana is always subdued and mannerly despite her rants against him when he isnít around. She is clean and neat as well and always asks him about his wives and children. When he agrees with her that he now has ten children, she quietly points out that he has eleven with Mariam. Mariam argues with Nana after he leaves, because she thinks that her mother has deliberately tricked him into not including Mariam as one of his children. While he visits, Jalil teaches Mariam how to cast her fishing line into the stream and catch trout. He even shows her how to clean the fish and lift the meat off the bone in one motion. He draws pictures for her as well, including showing her how to draw an elephant in one stroke, without ever lifting the pen from the paper. He teaches her rhymes and songs, and he brings clippings from the newspaper in the Herat. In this way, he is her only proof that there exists a world at large, beyond the kolba. In this way, she learns about the bloodless coup in 1973, when King Zahir Shah was replaced by his brother, Daoud Khan, and Afghanistan became a republic. He also brings her presents, often jewelry, that Nana labels nomad jewelry and not the precious gold he should bring her. When he leaves, she holds her breath, believing that for each second she doesnít breathe, God will grant her another day with Jalil.
One of Miriamís greatest fantasies is the thought of what it would be
like to live with Jalil. They could take walks together, go to the bazaar,
and drive around in his car. She decides that one day, soon, she will
tell him of her desire to live with him and she believes that surely,
he will take her with him.
This chapter shows the relationship between Mariam and her father. She lives
for the one day a week he comes to visit, but is careful never to make
her mother think she cares more for him than her. Her greatest wish is
to live with him and be acknowledged as her daughter. She isnít old enough
yet to question why he has never taken her to his home. It foreshadows
that she is due for a fall.
Cite this page:
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Thousand Splendid Suns".
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