Archive for December, 2007

The Kite Runner : Ironies, tragedies and No humour

December 11, 2007
This book that I read a while ago, by Khaled Husseini, had been a good read. It already is a best seller and a movie based on it is about to be released with or without the rape scene described in the story. The writer, a physician by profession, seems to be a humble guy who said recently that it was very difficult for him to get the Literary agents read his work before it was published.

The Afghan culture of the time just before it was occupied by USSR is richly described in the book, in the earlier part. It reveals the cruelty and violence prevalent in the society, against the weaker sex and the minority hazara community, which is perhaps Shia sect, though the life looks peaceful to the main character, living a protected life in the -what could be said to be- the upper middle class of the city.

But life begins to change as the hidden conflict in the society escalates and the King deserts the people, and the USSR troops occupy the nation; later facing a stiff resistance from the people of it after the rise of Taliban. While the ones with a wherewithal and connections leave to or through Pakistan. The truck drivers extort big money from these fleeing people, while a Russian troop could not rape the wife of a refugee, while the father of the main character intervenes -to his dismay- to protect the honour of a lady; and the soldier’s officer, later, apologising for the incident. A refugee commits suicide as soon he lands into Pakistan after the difficult journey, and the anguish and humiliation.

In spite of discovering his sense of irony in his writing that is so essential for an aspiring writer – in his school days, at home, with the help of one of the friend of his father, as he finds his father indifferent to his feelings though he throws lavish parties to celebrate his birthdays, and takes him around in the city Kabul, as he lost his mother while he was very young – the chief protagonist has failed to explore circumstances that the safer world like the USA too is created and maintained by people, to which he would run away in his childhood along with his father, from the turmoil at his home; and be educated there enough to write the stories that the world would read and appreciate.

In this world the writer will also find his large refugee community, living, to meet a girl -one who had fallen out of a brief marriage to a drug addict and is a daughter of another Kabul elite- to do the courtship in an as orthodox, inhibited way, as in his home, Kabul; and will play the music so loudly to celebrate his marriage that the neighbors would have to call the police late into the night, to shut it.

However, the jealous psychology of a young motherless boy is splendidly described in this novel, who finds his father’s love for an orphaned boy with a cleft lip difficult to live with. He conspires in a way that the boy, with corrected lip now by an Indian doctor, had to leave their home, and feels guilty for it ever since. Later he discovers that the boy, who collected the kites for him with his uncanny talent to predict where a one would land after being cut by another, was actually a half-brother of him from a pretty lady of the hazara community, with whom his father had an affair, while she was raising him after he lost his mother so young. The lady is sexually exploited by many men including a few from the army, as she belonged to the minority and had little protection, before his father brought her home to marry and live with their servant. On the birth of a boy with cleft lip she is disappointed – hysterical as her character is depicted, for being exploited to the extent she is – and runs away to only return to take care of her grandson from the boy: The Kite Runner. The servant of the family of the main protagonist and her husband raises the boy and the main protagonist. The Kite Runner too was once raped by the boys belonging to the majority community of the main protagonist, those who vy to collect the defeated kites with the two: the kite runner and his young master and friend. He watches this scene helplessly.

Later he returns to look for The Kite Runner, leaving behind a wife he could not make pregnant, on realising that he was his half-brother. The frustration of having sex while knowing that it will not result in a pregnancy is well described in the novel. He finds that his country is totally destroyed by the civil war he escaped, though the USSR troops have left, after he reaches Kabul with a great difficulty. He discovers The Kite Runner – who is later murdered by the Talibans for being a hazara – and also that his young son is in the captivity of Talibans. The revisiting of the town and the home, both are though nearly in ruins, where he passed his childhood days, are poignantly described in the story. His sense of loss appears profound.

It turns out that the boy who raped The Kite Runner was the leader of the captors of his son as well, and sexually exploits this boy too by dressing him as a girl and make him perform dance after he becomes inebriated with alcohol and drugs. The chief protagonist finds that the old enmity against him was not forgotten by this war-lord now, while they competed to collect the Kites. Who was incredulous that he returned from the USA to look for his half-brother from a lunatic hazara woman, out of an illicit relationship of his father. Also is described in this book a horrific scene, in which a young man and a young married woman are stoned to death for committing adultery. A death that the man does not resist while the woman does everything to mean that she did not agree with the justice.

Some how he manages to take this boy away from his childhood enemy, surviving a violent confrontation and injuries, into Pakistan, where he was delayed while he receives treatment and the USA embassy takes its time to arrange visa for the young boy. In the meanwhile the boy tries to commit suicide and is rescued with great efforts by the Pakistani doctors. The proceedings in the hospitals -earlier also, when he tries to treat the infertility of his wife,in the USA- are described in fair details, as the author is a physician by profession. His frustration of the USA embassy in Pakistan is portrayed in length, apart from the Afghan people living as refugees in Pakistan – a difficult life full of conspiracies, intrigues and crimes.

The Book amply displays the turmoil and violence in the societies in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, and the destruction the years of civil war has wreaked in Afghanistan. The sensitive way the story has been told may leave a reader choking with emotions. Though the author has acted in a correct way by not exploring much the political dimension of the tragedy, that is the life of the main protagonist, who appears to be at a fault to have been a victim. Being a hero he bears every indignity and tyranny with grace and style. He almost appears like a paragon of virtues, ironically.