“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”
From A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Babi, speaking in the words of Saib-e-Tabrizi (172)
★ ★ ★
This quote appears in A Thousand Splendid Suns two times; the first being when Laila’s father recites it as they are preparing to leave Kabul, and second as Laila looks back upon the way Mariam’s presence in her life has affected her. The first time we Khaled Hosseini incorporates this quote into the story, it describes Kabul’s insurmountable beauty in the eyes of those who look upon it. Babi does share this with Laila as it is a piece of beautiful literature Kabul brings, but it is not quite this simple. When you analyze Saib-e-Tabrizi’s poem in full, there is two lines of his writing which stands out in significance and hints to another reason for Babi’s love for it. It goes as such,
“The dust of Kabul’s blowing soil smarts lightly in my eyes,
But I love her, for knowledge and love both come from her dust.”
During the novel, the characters are facing the conflict within their country. The beauty that was so incredibly prominent about their former Kabul is now hidden by the war, or in relation to Saib-e-Tabrizi’s poem, the dust. The dust which has arisen from the strife has clouded the vision of those who look upon Kabul, and in result, changed both the perception of Kabul by its citizens and those around the world. However, the quote’s second line signifies that while this dust has changed the perception of Kabul, it cannot change anyone’s love for it. Babi confirms they are not leaving due to hatred for their country but due to the fact they are no longer safe in the place they love.
Babi is clearly torn apart by the fact they must leave. To him, it almost feels as though it is a betrayal – he is leaving the country in the middle of war, abandoning the land he calls home in its moment of unrest. By sharing the poem with Laila, Babi is not only reminding himself of the love for his city, but reminding his daughter to never forget as well. This is the strength of the knowledge Kabul’s literature delivers, and the love Kabul’s beauty gives to citizens; it will continue to follow them in their hearts wherever they may go.
The second time the quote arises is when Laila is moving back to Kabul with Tariq and the children. It is not as a direct quote; instead, Laila takes the significance of it and relates it to the love she shared with Mariam. Mariam has recently been executed and is no longer in Laila’s life, but Laila claims the love and inspiration Mariam gave her will continue to shine. This is further exemplified by Laila’s work at the orphanage, and how Mariam’s love continues to spread from person to person even after her death. It was Mariam’s sacrifice which allowed Laila and her family to have a second chance at life, and they do not take it for granted.
I had a hard time choosing a quote for this assignment, as none I would come across struck a chord with me. It was only when I remembered how Laila connected the two lines of Saib-e-Tabrizi’s poem to her own life, that I realized I connected to it as well. However, my connection to it began as very surface level. It took awhile for me to understand how the sun and moon relate to my situation, and I will explore my final findings later in my emulation.
I remembered how my father lost his own dad at the age of 15, and how the experience of this loss changed the way my dad looked at the world. I always see it in his eyes when he complains about family members taking their parents for granted, or when my grandmother calls to say she is in trouble with something again. I have learned my father is afraid of things changing out of his control and have seen with my own eyes the pain the idea of death brings to him.
The passing of my grandfather at such a young age is heartbreaking. Its affects on my father’s life today may also seem heartbreaking, but I can see how it has taught him to love. There is not a day where he takes the people who is important to him for granted, and it is because of this, I have learned to do so as well.
I do not know much about my grandfather, and I fear I will never truly know. All I do know is the memories of his existence will forever be within the hearts of his children. I have sensed it, and I have felt it. The remaining light of his love shines in their actions and how they take care of their children, or how they express care for their nieces and nephews. Everything the death of their father has taught them has changed the way they love us.
My emulation begins here, in the form of a (sort of) elegy. I dive into the relation of the sun and moon imagery from the quote to my life, as well as how my grandfather’s love is shared with me through my father; much similar to Mariam’s love which is passed down to others by Laila.
You are the sun,
but death has taken your light.
Memories of love remain at a distance,
but your memories
have been swallowed by the night.
Your ability to love will forever be ceased,
but fear not,
as the love has not disappeared but rather
While the darkness consumed the moon
at the death of his sun,
it did not dare take away his shine…
For the moon learned what it is to love
by loving you.
He continues to shine his love,
as you and I look upon him.
I sit from the walls,
gazing up at the moon,
and you peek from the horizon.
Although I cannot see you, I can feel you,
for the light of the moon reminds me so.
One could not measure this light
which shines onto me from the moon,
or the thousand moments of love