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Written by Ruchika Thukral
Greenery is associated with prosperity and stability. Shadbagh is famous for its raisins, which is also its main export. Most of the characters in the rural areas are into agriculture. In Baba Ayub’s story the land is desolate at first and as it prospers, Baba Ayub prospers as well by becoming a wealthy merchant. The oak tree is said to be so old that it was present during the reign of Genghis Khan. Whadatis are also proud of their garden, it’s a symbol of their opulence for them. As the place suffers with the War, the trees die and the garden withers symbolizing the state of Wahdati household.
The desert features prominently, particularly when a character feels lost or in despair. The directionlessness of the desert brings an image of being lost. When Abdullah wakes from his sleep in the middle of desert during his journey to Kabul, his first reaction is that he has been abandoned. Second reaction is that his father has been killed by dacoits who are now on the prowl for children. Parwana also struggles with her feelings for her sister and the desert is an active part of that as she abandons Masooma in the middle of desert.
Food is a common motif in the book; the dishes are never named specifically but described with a feeling of relish. Since the characters come from different cultures, the food vary according to that. Raisins are a common feature in Afghani dishes. The beverages change from green spiced tea in Afghanistan, to black tea in Kabul, to coffee in France and America. The food thus plays an active image in creating the distinction between cultures.
Markos spends his childhood in Tinos, a Greek island. He feels trapped on the island, there is no variety, and the people are of the same mentality: nosy, uneventful and distrustful or outsiders. He longs to get out of the island and visit other places. To him, the island is full of repetitive faces and scenes. This feeling is intensified when Madeline brings with her tales of faraway exotic lands.
Disease and old age
By the end of the novel, major characters have matured to later years of their life. The scenes describe the slowness of the limbs, the reduced dexterity of the mind, and helplessness on the parts of others who love them. The novel thus gets to a full circle and covers the human life span, from a newborn to an elderly person.
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