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Written by Ruchika Thukral
Family and Love
The main characters of the story are Abdullah and Pari, and the central story is about their separation and final reunion told through multiple characters each of whom have a different story of their own of a similar theme. The characters, even when they have other relationships, experience a stronger pull from the bond they share with their family. It’s not just the amount of time they spend together or like-mindedness, the relationship between family members is shown at a spiritual level. The theme also describes how the love of the family members shapes a person for life. All the characters in the story struggle with their feelings towards their family.
The major issues of these characters arise from conflicting emotions, and inability to express feelings. The inherent lesson it gives is that we take our family to be granted. The character have issues with their families which they can’t seem to resolve, a feeling of not being understood by the loved ones lingers. Abdullah longs for his sister, Parwana is guilt-ridden for almost killing her sister, Nabi is attracted to Nila Wahdati whose husband is in love with him, Idris is antagonized with his cousin Timur’s showmanship, Pari has mother issues, Adel is disillusioned from his hero-worship of his father, Markos is guilt-ridden for not having taken care of his mother, Pari, Abdullah’s daughter, is stuck in a life where her parents are dependent on her. The character have an inner turmoil, for a part of them revolts against the love and duty they feel towards their family and subsequently, guilt surrounds this revolt.
War and Mortality
The war is a secondary backdrop in this novel. The story, reunion of the two siblings, progresses with it. A very dormant theme is about the viability of human activities in proportion to one’s mortality. War in Afghanistan displaces people like Golam from their family land, while for people like Idris and Timur, it’s just a way a way to make more money from their ramshackle property. The characters in the story grow as the story progresses and are affected directly or indirectly by the war in Afghanistan. Yet, it is clear that the war is an act that has no effect on the universe. The universe would continue to be so. All the wars make little differences when one considers them on a broad level.
The novel follows multiple charcters across continents meeting up coincidentally and sharing a connection. Pari and Abdullah, step-children of Nabi’s sister live in Shadbagh. Pari is adopted by Nabi’s employers, the rich Wahdatis. Suleiman Wahdati is in love with Nabi. Nabi rents the house to Markos. Markos contacts Pari, Pari visits Kabul and is unable to trace Iqbal, but finally traces Abdullah. The essence of the story is the connection, we all, as humans, share. We may live in different spheres of life but the inherent emotions are the same. Love, hate and anger are felt by everyone and we all have the ambivalence that is associated with that love. It’s the human connection that has Adel seeking the company of Golam. Apart from the basic necessities, a person seeks the company of like-minded people. This is not just the need of being together or fear of being alone, the book describes, it’s almost spiritual in nature.
Most of the characters are conflicted because of their desires and the way the society deals with them. The conflict arises out of the restriction one feels due to society’s preconceived notions. A major example of this would be Nila Wahdati. In absence of a loving parent, Nila turned rebellious. Rebellious being a relative word her. Nila does things she thinks would shock his father. This includes her overly-sexualized poetry which though critically acclaimed are but, little liked by her, as she feels that his phase was in a way driven by her father and not her. Suleiman Wahdati, a closeted homosexual, in contrast leads a solitary life as he can’t express his love for Nabi. Their marriage was a marriage of convenience and a way to escape from society’s words.
Stereotypes associated with beauty affect the lives of Thalia and Madeline. Madeline who is beautiful cannot bear to be associated with a child with deformity, and thus ends up deserting on the island of Tinos. Thalia who has an intelligent mind, but shamed with her mother’s attitude and humiliation over her own condition can’t finds it in her to face the people of Tinos. It is with Odelia’s support she is able to reclaim her self-confidence. Still, the idea of facing new people with her face is unacceptable to her so much that she rejects the private school education her step-father offers. It’s her plight that inspires Markos later to become a plastic surgeon. Stereotypes with idea of a preconceived idea of beauty also affect the lives of Masooma and Parwana. Parwana who is plain is shamed, made to feel inferior, at times by her own sister. The sibling rivalry reaches to a point where Parwana ends up pushing Masooma form the tree’s branch making her an invalid for her entire life.
Time and Memory
The story of Abdullah and Pari runs parallel to that of Baba Ayub and Qais. When Baba ayub reaches Qais, Qais doesn’t remember Baba Ayub. But, Baba Ayub decides to let go of Qais to give him a better life. The div however, offers Baba Ayub a way to forget Qais. Similarly, Abdullah pines for Pari when she has no inclination of her being adopted. It is only when Pari is contacted by Markos, she learns of Abdullah. However, at this point, Abdullah is an Alzheimer’s patient and his condition doesn’t permit him to be recounted of old memories. One can wonder if memory is a bane or boon. Is it better to pine and remember or better to forget and move on?
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