Download 2.31 Mb.Pdf ko'rish
- Bu sahifa navigatsiya:
* * *
Back at the hotel, Tariq and the children are not back yet.
Laila sits on the bed, the box on her lap. Part of her wants to leave it
unopened, let whatever Jalil had intended remain a secret. But, in the
end, the curiosity proves too strong. She slides in the key. It takes some
rattling and shaking, but she opens the box.
In it, she finds three things: an envelope, a burlap sack, and a
Laila takes the tape and goes down to the reception desk. She learns
from the elderly clerk who had greeted them the day before that the
hotel has only one VCR, in its biggest suite. The suite is vacant at the
moment, and he agrees to take her. He leaves the desk to a
mustachioed young man in a suit who is talking on a cellular phone.
The old clerk leads Laila to the second floor, to a door at the end of a
long hallway. He works the lock, lets her in.
Laila's eyes find the TV in the corner. They register nothing else about
the suite-She turns on the TV, turns on the VCR. Puts the tape in and
pushes the play button. The screen is blank for a few moments, and Laila
begins to wonder why Jalil had gone to the trouble of passing a blank
tape to Mariam. But then there is music, and images begin to play on the
Laila frowns. She keeps watching for a minute or two. Then she pushes
stop, fast-forwards the tape, and pushes play again. It's the same film.
The old man is looking at her quizzically.
The film playing on the screen is Walt Disney's Pinocchio. Laila does not
* * *
Tariq and the children come back to the hotel just after six o'clock.
Aziza runs to Laila and shows her the
earrings Tariq has bought for her, silver with an enamel butterfly on
each. Zalmai is clutching an inflatable dolphin that squeaks when its
snout is squeezed.
"How are you?" Tariq asks, putting his arm around her shoulder.
"I'm fine," Laila says. "I'll tell you later."
They walk to a nearby kebab house to eat. It's a small place, with
sticky, vinyl tablecloths, smoky and loud But the lamb is tender and
moist and the bread hot. They walk the streets for a while after. Tariq
buys the children rosewater ice cream from a street-side kiosk. They eat,
sitting on a bench, the mountains behind them silhouetted against the
scarlet red of dusk. The air is warm, rich with the fragrance of cedar.
Laila had opened the envelope earlier when she'd come back to the
room after viewing the videotape. In it was a letter, handwritten in blue
ink on a yellow, lined sheet of paper.
May 13, 1987
My dear Mariam:
I pray that this letter finds you in good health
As you kno w, I came to Kabul a month ago to speak with you. Bui you
would not see me. Iwas disappointed but could not blame you. In your
place, Imight have done the same. Ilost the privilege of your good graces
a long time ago and for that I only have myself to blame. Bui if you are
reading this letter, then you have read the letter that Ilefi at your door.
You have read it and you have come to see Mullah Faizullah, as I had
asked that you do. Iam grateful that you did, Mariam jo. Iam grateful for
this chance to say a few words to you.
Where do I begin?
Your father has known so much sorrow since we last spoke, Mariamjo.
I have dreams of you too, Mariam jo. Imiss you. Imiss the sound of
your voice, your laughter. I miss reading to you, and all those times we
fished together. Do you remember all those times we fished together?
You were a good daughter, Mariam jo, and I cannot ever think of you
without feeling shame and regret. Regret… When it comes to you,
Mariamjo, I have oceans of it. I regret that I did not see you the day you
came to Herat. I regret that I did not open the door and take you in. I
regret that I did not make you a daughter to me, ihatl leiyou live in that
place for all those years. Andfor what? Fear of losing face? Of staining my
so-called good name? How Utile those things matter to me now after all
the loss, all the terrible things Ihave seen in this cursed war. Bui now, of
course, it is too late. Perhaps this is just punishment for those who have
been heartless, to understand only when nothing can be undone. Now all
Ican do is say that you were a good daughter, Mariamjo, and that Inever
deserved you. Now all I can do is ask for your forgiveness. So forgive
me, Mariamjo. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.
I am not the wealthy man you once knew. The communists confiscated
so much of my land, and all of my stores as well. But it is petty to
complain, for God-for reasons that I do not understand
-has still blessed
me with far more than most people. Since my return from Kabul, Ihave
managed to sell what Utile remained of my land. I have enclosed for you
your share of the inheritance. You can see that it is far from a fortune,
but it is something. It is something. (You will also notice that I have taken
the liberty of exchanging the money into dollars. I think it is for the best
God alone knows the fate of our own beleaguered currency.)
I hope you do not think that I am trying to buy your forgiveness. I hope
you will credit me with knowing that your forgiveness is not for sale. It
never was. I am merely giving you, if belatedly, what was rightfully yours
all along. I was not a dutiful father to you in life. Perhaps in death I can
Ah, death. I won't burden you with details, but death is within sight for
me now. Weak heart, the doctors say. It is a fitting manner of death, I
think, for a weak man.
I dare, I dare allow myself the hope that, after you read this, you will
May God grant you a long and prosperous life, my daughter. May God
give you many healthy and beautiful children. May you find the
happiness, peace, and acceptance that I did not give you. Be well. I leave
you in the loving hands of God.
Your undeserving father, Jalil
That night, after they return to the hotel, after the children have played
and gone to bed, Laila tells Tariq about the letter. She shows him the
money in the burlap sack. When she begins to cry, he kisses her face and
holds her in his arms.
The drought has ended. It snowed at last this past winter, kneedeep,
and now it has been raining for days. The Kabul River is flowing once
again. Its spring floods have washed away Titanic City.
There is mud on the streets now. Shoes squish. Cars get trapped.
Donkeys loaded with apples slog heavily, their hooves splattering muck
from rain puddles. But no one is complaining about the mud, no one is
mourning Titanic City. We need Kabul to be green again, people say.
Yesterday, Laila watched her children play in the downpour, hopping
from one puddle to another in their backyard beneath a lead-colored sky.
She was watching from the kitchen window of the small two-bedroom
house that they are renting in Deh-Mazang. There is a pomegranate tree
in the yard and a thicket of sweetbriar bushes. Tariq has patched the
walls and built the children a slide, a swing set, a little fenced area for
Zalmai's new goat. Laila watched the rain slide off Zalmai's scalp-he has
asked that he be shaved, like Tariq, who is in charge now of saying the
prayers. The rain flattened Aziza's long hair, turned it into
sodden tendrils that sprayed Zalmai when she snapped her head.
Zalmai is almost six. Aziza is ten. They celebrated her birthday last
week, took her to Cinema Park, where, at last, Titanic was openly
screened for the people of Kabul.
* * *
"Come on, children, we're going to be late," Laila calls, putting their
lunches in a paper bag-It's eight o'clock in the morning. Laila was up at
five. As always, it was Aziza who shook her awake for morning namaz.
The prayers, Laila knows, are Aziza's way of clinging to Mariam, her way
of keeping Mariam close awhile yet before time has its way, before it
snatches Mariam from the garden of her memory like a weed pulled by
After namaz, Laila had gone back to bed, and was still asleep when
Tariq left the house. She vaguely remembers him kissing her cheek.
Tariq has found work with a French NGO that fits land mine survivors and
amputees with prosthetic limbs.
Zalmai comes chasing Aziza into the kitchen.
"You have your notebooks, you two? Pencils? Textbooks?"
"Right here," Aziza says, lifting her backpack. Again, Laila notices how
her stutter is lessening.
"Let's go, then."
Laila lets the children out of the house, locks the door. They step out
into the cool morning. It isn't raining today. The sky is blue, and Laila
sees no clumps of clouds in the horizon. Holding hands, the three of them
make their way to the bus stop. The streets are busy already, teeming
with a steady stream of rickshaws, taxicabs, UN trucks, buses, ISAF
jeeps. Sleepy-eyed merchants are unlocking store gates that had been
rolled down for the night-Vendors sit behind towers of chewing gum and
cigarette packs. Already the widows have claimed their spots at street
corners, asking the passersby for coins.
Laila finds it strange to be back in Kabul The city has changed Every
day now she sees people planting saplings, painting old houses, carrying
bricks for new ones. They dig gutters and wells. On windowsills, Laila
spots flowers potted in the empty shells of old Mujahideen rockets-rocket
flowers, Kabulis call them. Recently, Tariq took Laila and the children to
the Gardens of Babur, which are being renovated. For the first time in
years, Laila hears music at Kabul's street corners, rubab and tabla,
harmonium and tamboura, old Ahmad Zahir songs.
Laila wishes Mammy and Babi were alive to see these changes. But,
like Mil's letter, Kabul's penance has arrived too late.
Laila and the children are about to cross the street to the bus stop when
suddenly a black Land Cruiser with tinted windows blows by. It swerves
at the last instant and misses Laila by less than an arm's length. It
splatters tea-colored rainwater all over the children's shirts.
Laila yanks her children back onto the sidewalk, heart somersaulting in
The Land Cruiser speeds down the street, honks twice, and makes a
Laila stands there, trying to catch her breath, her fingers gripped tightly
around her children's wrists.
It slays Laila. It slays her that the warlords have been allowed back to
Kabul That her parents' murderers live in posh homes with walled
gardens, that they have been appointed minister of this and deputy
minister of that, that they ride with impunity in shiny, bulletproof SUVs
through neighborhoods that they demolished. It slays her.
But Laila has decided that she will not be crippled by resentment.
Mariam wouldn't want it that way. What's the sense? she would say with
a smile both innocent and wise. What good is it, Laila jo? And so Laila has
resigned herself to moving on. For her own sake, for Tariq's, for her
children's. And for Mariam, who still visits Laila in her dreams, who is
never more than a breath or two below her consciousness. Laila has
moved on. Because in the end she knows that's all she can do. That and
Zamanis standing at the free throw line, his knees bent, bouncing a
basketball. He is instructing a group of boys in matching jerseys sitting in
a semicircle on the court. Zaman spots Laila, tucks the ball under his
arm, and waves. He says something to the boys, who then wave and cry
out, "Salaam, moalim sahib!"
Laila waves back.
The orphanage playground has a row of apple saplings now along the
east-facing wall. Laila is planning to plant some on the south wall as well
as soon as it is rebuilt. There is a new swing set, new monkey bars, and
a jungle gym.
Laila walks back inside through the screen door.
They have repainted both the exterior and the interior of the
orphanage. Tariq and Zaman have repaired all the roof leaks, patched
the walls, replaced the windows, carpeted the rooms where the children
sleep and play. This past winter, Laila bought a few beds for the
children's sleeping quarters, pillows too, and proper wool blankets. She
had cast-iron stoves installed for the winter.
Anis, one of Kabul's newspapers, had run a story the month before on
the renovation of the orphanage. They'd taken a photo too, of Zaman,
Tariq, Laila, and one of the attendants, standing in a row behind the
children. When Laila saw the article, she'd thought of her childhood
friends Giti and Hasina, and Hasina saying, By the time we're twenty, Giti
and I, we'll have pushed out four, five kids each Bui you, Laila, you'll
make us two dummies proud. You 're going to be somebody. I know one
day I'll pick up a newspaper and find your picture on the frontpage.
photo hadn't made the front page, but there it was nevertheless, as
Hasina had predicted.
Laila takes a turn and makes her way down the same hallway where,
two years before, she and Mariam had delivered Aziza to Zaman. Laila
still remembers how they had to pry Aziza's fingers from her wrist. She
remembers running down this hallway, holding back a howl, Mariam
calling after her, Aziza screaming with panic. The hallway's walls are
covered now with posters, of dinosaurs, cartoon characters, the Buddhas
of Bamiyan, and displays of artwork by the orphans. Many of the
drawings depict tanks running over huts, men brandishing AK-47s,
refugee camp tents, scenes of jihad.
Laila turns a corner in the hallway and sees the children now, waiting
outside the classroom. She is greeted by their scarves, their shaved
scalps covered by skullcaps, their small, lean figures, the beauty of their
When the children spot Laila, they come running. They come running at
full tilt. Laila is swarmed. There is a flurry of high-pitched greetings, of
shrill voices, of patting, clutching, tugging, groping, of jostling with one
another to climb into her arms. There are outstretched little hands and
appeals for attention. Some of them call her Mother. Laila does not
It takes Laila some work this morning to calm the children down, to get
them to form a proper queue, to usher them into the classroom.
It was Tariq and Zaman who built the classroom by knocking down the
wall between two adjacent rooms. The floor is still badly cracked and has
missing tiles. For the time being, it is covered with tarpaulin, but Tariq
has promised to cement some new tiles and lay down carpeting soon.
Nailed above the classroom doorway is a rectangular board, which
Zaman has sanded and painted in gleaming white. On it, with a brush,
Zaman has written four lines of poetry, his answer, Laila knows, to those
who grumble that the promised aid money to Afghanistan isn't coming,
that the rebuilding is going too slowly, that there is corruption, that the
Taliban are regrouping already and will come back with a vengeance,
that the world will forget once again about Afghanistan. The lines are
from his favorite of Hafez's ghazals:
Joseph shall return to Canaan, grieve not, Hovels shall turn to rose
gardens, grieve not. If a flood should arrive, to drown all that's alive,
Noah is your guide in the typhoon's eye, grieve not
Laila passes beneath the sign and enters the classroom. The children
are taking their seats, flipping notebooks open, chattering- Aziza is
talking to a girl in the adjacent row. A paper airplane floats across the
room in a high arc. Someone tosses it back.
"Open your Farsi books, children," Laila says, dropping her own books
on her desk.
To a chorus of flipping pages, Laila makes her way to the curtainless
window. Through the glass, she can see the boys in the playground lining
up to practice their free throws. Above them, over the mountains, the
morning sun is rising. It catches the metallic rim of the basketball hoop,
the chain link of the tire swings, the whistle hanging around Zaman's
neck, his new, unchipped spectacles. Laila flattens her palms against the
warm glass panes. Closes her eyes. She lets the sunlight fall on her
cheeks, her eyelids, her brow.
When they first came back to Kabul, it distressed Laila that she didn't
know where the Taliban had buried Mariam. She wished she could visit
Mariam's grave, to sit with her awhile, leave a flower or two. But Laila
sees now that it doesn't matter. Mariam is never very far. She is here, in
these walls they've repainted, in the trees they've planted, in the
blankets that keep the children warm, in these pillows and books and
pencils. She is in the children's laughter. She is in the verses Aziza
recites and in the prayers she mutters when she bows westward. But,
mostly, Mariam is in Laila's own heart, where she shines with the
bursting radiance of a thousand suns.
Someone has been calling her name, Laila realizes. She turns around,
instinctively tilts her head, lifting her good ear just a tad. It's Aziza.
"Mammy? Are you all right?"
The room has become quiet. The children are watching her.
Laila is about to answer when her breath suddenly catches. Her hands
shoot down. They pat the spot where, a moment before, she'd felt a
wave go through her. She waits. But there is no more movement.
"Yes, my love." Laila smiles. "I'm all right. Yes. Very much."
As she walks to her desk at the front of the class, Laila thinks of the
naming game they'd played again over dinner the night before. It has
become a nightly ritual ever since Laila gave Tariq and the children the
news. Back and forth they go, making a case for their own choice. Tariq
likes Mohammad. Zalmai, who has recently watched Superman on tape,
is puzzled as to why an Afghan boy cannot be named Clark. Aziza is
campaigning hard for Aman. Laila likes Omar.
But the game involves only male names. Because, if it's a girl, Laila
has already named her.
For almost three decades now, the Afghan refugee crisis has been one
of the most severe around the globe. War, hunger, anarchy, and
oppression forced millions of people-like Tariq and his family in this
tale-to abandon their homes and flee Afghanistan to settle in neighboring
Pakistan and Iran. At the height of the exodus, as many as eight million
Afghans were living abroad as refugees. Today, more than two million
Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan.
Over the past year, I have had the privilege of working as a U.S. envoy
for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, one of the world's foremost
humanitarian agencies. UNHCR's mandate is to protect the basic human
rights of refugees, provide emergency relief, and to help refugees restart
their lives in a safe environment. UNHCR provides assistance to more
than twenty million displaced people around the world, not only in
Afghanistan but also in places such as Colombia, Burundi, the Congo,
Chad, and the Datfur region of Sudan. Working with UNHCR to help
refugees has been one of the most rewarding and meaningful
experiences of my life.
To help, or simply to learn more about UNHCR, its work, or the plight of
refugees in general, please visit: www.UNrefugees.org.
Khaled Hosseini January 31, 2007
A few clarifications before I give thanks. The village of Gul Daman is a
fictional place-as far as I know. Those who are familiar with the city of
Herat will notice that I have taken minor liberties describing the
geography around it. Last, the title of this novel comes from a poem
composed by Saeb-e-Tabrizi, a seventeenth-century Persian poet. Those
who know the original Farsi poem will doubtless note that the English
translation of the line containing the title of this novel is not a literal one.
But it is the generally accepted translation, by Dr. Josephine Davis, and I
found it lovely. I am grateful to her.
I would like to thank Qayoum Sarwar, Hekmat Sadat, Elyse Hathaway,
Rosemary Stasek, Lawrence Quill, and Haleema Jazmin Quill for their
assistance and support.
Very special thanks to my father, Baba, for reading this manuscript, for
his feedback, and, as ever, for his love and support. And to my mother,
whose selfless, gentle spirit permeates this tale. You are my reason,
Mother jo. My thanks go to my in-laws for their generosity and many
kindnesses. To the rest of my wonderful family, I remain indebted and
grateful to each and every one of you.
I wish to thank my agent, Elaine Koster, for always, always believing,
Jody Hotchkiss (Onward!), David Grossman, Helen Heller, and the tireless
Chandler Crawford. I am grateful and indebted to every single person at
Riverhead Books. In particular, I want to thank Susan Petersen Kennedy
and Geoffrey Kloske for their faith in this story. My heartfelt thanks also
go to Marilyn Ducksworth, Mih-Ho Cha, Catharine Lynch, Craig D. Burke,
Leslie Schwartz, Honi Werner, and Wendy Pearl. Special thanks to my
sharp-eyed copy editor, Tony Davis, who misses
nothing, and, lastly, to my talented editor, Sarah McGrath, for her
patience, foresight, and guidance.
Finally, thank you, Roya. For reading this story, again and again, for
weathering my minor crises of confidence (and a couple of major ones),
for never doubting. This book would not be without you. I love you.
Download 2.31 Mb.
Do'stlaringiz bilan baham:
ma'muriyatiga murojaat qiling