'The Kite Runner': Voice of a shattered nation

You? You've always been a tourist here, you just didn't know it.
These are the words that sting Amir when a driver says this to him on his return to Kabul after two decades. That's when Amir realises that the Afghanistan he knew, and the one he didn't, are both gone. Written from Amir jan's perspective, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is not only touching, it is a chronicle of how wars can scar lives forever. We always look at wars and violence in terms of numbers - how many people died, how many were maimed, how many rendered homeless and how many orphaned or widowed. We are never in a position to even estimate the devastation that a war can bring into an individual's life. The protagonist is the lucky one - he escapes before he sees his country shrivel and die like an unwatered plant in the scorching summer. Yet, he suffers immensely for his own cowardice, as his alter ego Hassan faces the brunt of the Russian invasion and the Taliban regime.

Hosseini describes the downfall of a nation which was not without its faults, but did have its own soul. An Afghanistan which was discriminating yet tolerant, where blood flowed only when people flew kites on their glass-coated strings. He describes how Hassan suffers for being a Hazara under the Taliban rule, how women are beaten like animals and children robbed of their childhood. This is an Afghanistan which we even see today - where every skeleton of building is swathed with bullet holes if they survive the shelling. After 9/11, what America bombed was this fallen country, already dying a bloody death everyday.

Yet Hosseini does not pass judgement, he just pictures these events through Amir's eyes, sometimes first-hand, sometimes not. People may dispute some of the descriptions of Afghan society - especially the hypocrisy of the Taliban - but it doesn't undermine the message that war in any form is a catastrophe. He writes of how Afghani immigrants try to keep their culture alive, miles away in America, in contrast to the freedom that their brothers lack in their own country.

Yet Amir is full of hope, as he muses:

Zendagi migzara, Afghans like to say: Life goes on, unmindful of beginning, end, kamyab, nah-kam, crisis or catharsis, moving forward like a slow, dusty caravan of kochis.

There is no doubt that the Afghans are a strong people, but its about time they got their country's soul back. Its nang and namoos - its dignity and honour. Hosseini does not preach a message of peace - he does not have to. Through the ordeal of Hassan's son, Sohrab, he paints as a clear picture of human atrocity as can be painted. It's through Sohrab's silence that we realise that he's screaming inside - screaming to have his old life back, screaming to regain his childhood and his country. This child realises at an early age that life is not fair, that your parents can be dragged into the streets and shot. This is the story of a people who are still struggling to piece together their broken identity.

The Kite Runner is a riveting read and I feel one ought to read it, if only to see what's happening on the 'other' side.

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Anonymous said...

I might daresay that Khaled undoubtedly uses to perfection the non-fictional backdrop of war-torn Afghanistan, but the book is much more than just that ..the poignance associated with the lives of Amir and Hassan is only qualified with the inclusion of the savagery of war.
Good post anyhow ..just finished reading the book, and while looking for opinions, landed here :)

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