Study Guide: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - BookNotes

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CHAPTER 36: Laila


One spring morning in 1994, Laila becomes convinced that Rasheed knows about Aziza not being his child. So after he goes to work, she awakens Mariam and says they are leaving in a half hour. They take a taxi to the bus station. Laila sinks low into the seat of the car, fearful that Rasheed is out there, while Mariam mutters prayers. It is the second time she has been out of the house counting the day before when she had pawned her wedding ring to have money for bus fare. She sees the consequences of the war which frighten her. She reaches across the seat of the taxi to grasp the softness of her daughterís arm.

At the bus station, it is first important that Laila find a man willing to accompany them on the trip as it is forbidden for women to travel alone. Secondly, once they reach Pakistan, because that country has closed its border to Afghanis. But the border is porous and Laila feels they will find a way in once they get there. Eventually, Laila spots what she thinks is the perfect man to accompany them on the bus. He is sitting with a veiled woman by his side and a little boy on his lap. She introduces herself to him and explains that she is a widow who is going to Peshawar with her mother and little girl. The man asks if she wants to come with his family, and Laila, grateful, gives him money to buy their tickets. His name is Wakil and Laila thinks he will be perfect. They will be his cousins. She watches him buy the tickets and tells her that he will hold on to them for safetyís sake. Then, they rise to board the bus. Lalila sees a look pass between the soldier who tears the tickets in half and Wakil as they are boarding, Then, Wakil leans down and whispers something in the soldierís ear which makes the soldier pull Laila, Mariam, and Aziza aside. He makes them follow him and tells her as she protests that they are not getting on that bus, and he will drag her away if necessary. As they are led to a truck, Laila sees Wakilís little boy waving merrily to them from the back window of the bus.

At the police station, Laila is taken into an interview room where a man in civilian clothes tells her that he knows she lied at the bus station and that now the question is whether she will continue to lie. Then, he proceeds to question in such a way that her story of a being a widow going to visit her uncle is obviously a lie. Then, he tells her she can be imprisoned for running away. Lalila asks him for compassion. But he argues that it is his job to uphold the law and to maintain order. When she tells him that there is no telling what Rasheed will do to them if they are sent back, he argues that it is none of his business what a man does in his own home. Laila then asks him where the law is in that situation. He says they donít interfere in those situations. Laila bitterly points out that they only interfere when it benefits a man, never a woman. He just has her dragged out of his office and calls in Mariam. Mariam is not smart enough to counter his questions and ends up being caught in all kinds of lies as well. The police the take them back to Rasheed.

Rasheed is still in his workclothes. He sends Laila and the baby upstairs. Laila tells him that Mariam didnít want to leave, but Laila made her. Rasheed responds with the hardest punch in her gut that Lalila has ever experienced. It is so dreadful that Laila drops the baby. He then grabs her by the hair and lifts Aziza in the other arm and drags the two of them into Mariamís room, kicking Laila as he goes out. Then, he goes downstairs and begins beating Mariam with his fists first followed by the sound of something thudding against her flesh over and over. Finally, he leads the older woman by the nape of the neck and shoves her into the tool shed. He locks the door to keep her there. Afterwards, he takes board and nails, climbs a ladder and attaches the boards across the window of the room where he has imprisoned Laila and Aziza.

The room has become totally dark, because he has filled in the cracks and covered the foot of the door to keep out the light. They are kept in there for three days without food or drink. The heat turns the room into a pressure cooker and soon, Aziza stops crawling around and falls in and out of sleep. Laila dreams that they run into Tariq, she calls out his name, but he doesnít hear her. Laila pleads for the babyís needs every time Rasheed comes by the door, but he pays no attention. Eventually, Aziza becomes so listless that she stops crying and moving altogether, Laila keeps her ear near the babyís chest to make sure she is still breathing, but wonders how much more the child or even she can take. Suddenly, the door opens and Laila is momentarily blinded by the light. Rasheed says to her, ďYou try this again and I will find you. I swear on the Prophetís name that I will find you. And if I do, there isnít a court in this godforsaken country that will hold me accountable for what I still do. To Mariam first, then to her, and you last. Iíll make you watch. You understand me? Iíll make you watch.Ē He leaves the room, the door open, but not before kicking her so hard in her side that she pees blood for days.


This is a tragic setback for Lalilaís hopes for freedom from Rasheed. In every instance, like Nana had once told Mariam, Men turn on them and block their paths: Wakil, the soldier, the man at the police station, and of course, Rasheed. However, Laila is a strong woman and her hopes for the future are not destroyed.

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