A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

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Chapter 36 Summary

On the morning that Laila and Mariam plan to leave, Laila listens as Rasheed prepares for work and watches him as he pedals away on his bicycle. She fears that he knows that she has been lying about his being Aziza’s father and that he knows of her and Mariam’s plan to escape. The taxi arrives, and as they drive, Laila fears that Rasheed will be somewhere on the street to spot them. Mariam mutters prayers. On the street are the signs of the fighting that has taken over the city: ruins of homes, destroyed buildings, shattered glass, and overturned cars are everywhere. As they pass a funeral procession and a cemetery, Laila clutches Aziza’s arm. The taxi driver drops the women off at the bus station, and Laila and Mariam look around for a man whom they think might agree to pose as one of their family members. Women in Kabul are no longer allowed the freedoms of the past, and travelling without a male family member as a chaperone is strictly forbidden. Laila and Mariam know that they will also face great risk if they make the journey to Pakistan because the country is already overburdened with refugees and only those with official visas are admitted through the border. The pair hope that they will be able to bribe their way into Pakistan.

After some deliberation, Laila and Mariam agree on a man whom they see sitting on a bench with a veiled woman and a young boy outside the park. Laila is encouraged by the man’s soft face and demeanor, and she asks the man, Wakil, if he will do them a favor and act as a family member. The man agrees, and he takes Laila’s money to buy the bus tickets. When the time comes to board the bus, Wakil’s wife and son go on first, and Wakil whispers something to the guard. The guard pulls Laila and Mariam to the side, and they are forced to board a truck heading to the police station.

At the police station, Laila and Mariam are interrogated separately. Laila claims that Mariam is her mother and that they had been headed to visit an uncle in Peshawar. After more questions, the officer tells Laila that it is a crime for women to run...

(The entire section is 593 words.)