“The Feast – Part II”
Or, “Saahm and Sahmi are screwed”. Seriously, you can’t help but feel for these poor kids – they’re going to have a trying married life trying to keep up with Laila and Leyli. The twins are cute and all, but a more selfish and spoiled pair of hellions you’ll be hard-pressed to find.
That brings us to one of the striking things about this chapter. It’s an inescapable fact in reading these pages that all of the principals are children, and as I’ve said before, Mori-sensei is really treading on ground that could be dangerous in less skilled hands. The four of them are about to be married, yet all (especially the girls) seem utterly innocent to the journey they’re about to undertake. It’s all about food, and boredom, and restlessness, this big day of theirs. But in this time and this place, this is when people got married – at 13 or 14 years old. It wasn’t just a custom, it was a necessity.
One thing that’s clear here: as it is today, weddings are more for the families than the brides and grooms. As the girls sit under their mother’s watchful eye, tortured by the smells of delicious food and the sounds of merriment, Saahm and Sahmi are paraded around the village in their wedding finery like a pair of prized livestock. The families and friends coo and gasp over them, and the men all have words of advice that mostly go over their heads. As for the boys themselves, they’re just embarrassed more than anything – one gets the sense they’d rather be just about anywhere than where they are.
As always with Mori, what comes through is the commonality of human emotions – even in this remote setting of time and place, everyone is instantly recognizable, because they feel the same things we feel. The boys are uncomfortable at being the center of attention, and when the girls rope them into being errand boys, sneaking them food and in Laila’s case, sneaking her out of her tent, Sahmi particularly feels resentful at the unfairness of it. After all, he’s running around like crazy, sneaking food off tables (or conning the twins’ baby brother into doing it), and it’s all for Leyli’s sake. The older brother sternly reminds him that it isn’t about being fair, and that “keeping score” is not the right way to look at a marriage. That will be advice the younger Sahmi would be well-served to remember as the years pass.
Any way you slice it, the feeling is that these are children playing house, not adults about to be married – yet, married they are about to be. The feeling in these pairings is nothing like that of Amira and Karluk – oddly enough, though there’s a large age difference, the two of them feel much more like a true couple. There’s certainly a much deeper connection between them, and a truer sense of mutual love – there’s certainly no chance that the twins and the brothers love each other yet, or really even understand what that means. As is the nature of arranged marriage, love is something the relationship will either grow into or it won’t – and this just serves to prove how very lucky Karluk and Amira are. In spite of their age difference deferring some aspects of their relationship, they already have the hard part – mutual devotion – down pat.