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‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini

September 13, 2010

The Kite Runner:  A Preface (sep 9, 2010) :

Yeah, inspite of myself, i can empathize with the author, his simple narration sans any phoney decorations, with the real life characters, with the afghan tragedy everything.

But before writing up full summary, let me point out this thing:

1. First of all we indians shd never again try to link Pak with India. Its Pak-Af that share such a blood relationship over us; its they who are like brothers; let the truth rub into all indian hearts first. Culturally, demographically, economically, geographically whatever = past is past, presently Af & Pak are almost one & the same. This is the present day fact – and its the way it will stay in future. So never can these two countries have anything in common with India or Indians – not in a million years. In which world are we living in really?

2. Indian muslims are different – i realise this every second i am reading this book. there might be some rotton apples even amongst indian muslims – but then remember SRK whos married to a hindu woman, who worships Ganesha, remember Salman who dances to ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’ and remember hindus thronging Ajmer dargah, the islamic place of worship. Inter-religious faith is pretty common & accepted amongst us – and so far none of us think its strange. Seeing both hindu & muslim devotees @ Shirdi Sai Baba’s shrine – who was born a muslim but raised a hindu. We’re used to this type of mixed ideology – which is unique only to India. And why leave out sikhs & christians? My christian friends celebrate diwali too – calling it the national festival of India. We don’t give communal colours to everything here. For fast breaking, all hindu (textile) shops in Chennai were serving snacks to everyone for the last 1 month of Ramadan. Thats our spirit – inspite of the differences that exist betn us.

Such a religious tolerance or acceptance is UNTHINKABLE in those 2 countries. I have no illusions abt Af-Pak as the book unwinds before my eyes now… leaving this moment to read it from where i left.

I am relieved India will never become something like Pakistan or Afghanistan -= coz i am aware, our muslims are most moderate, tempered by the great hindu influence on their otherwise easily ignitable minds. (given their ethnic connection to pakis). It neutralises them in a beneficial manner – thats what i think. U can see a similar effect on malays brought in by indians & chinese in Malaysia. In multi-cultural societies like ours, this is natural.

THE KITE RUNNER:  FULL REVIEW:

Updated: 15th sep 2010. with my / our version of history of Afghanistan, Kandhahar, Peshawar & Lahore (scroll down)

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STRONGLY RECOMMENDED – NO I’VE NOT SEEN THE PIC, I DON’T WANT TO. Wept thro’ almost the entire book .. a very compelling story… (the second half tho’ was a bit dramatic/cinematic – luved the first half most)

I luv all the characters: such a strength of character we rarely see anywhere these days: be it the Baba or even his son Amir or Sohrab or his dad Hassan or even his dad Ali or uncle Rahim Khan or even Soraya, Amir’s wife… again, Asian values i shd say… or rather old world values … Abt Baba’s failings – i would have been disappointed if only he had been such a perfect man 100%; we’re all humans after all – i luv Baba more for his grave slip now; it shows hes normal.

(This is easily one of the best books i’ve ever read in my life. But its tragic out & out. I feel sick to the pit of my stomach reading it. so why am doing this to myself?)

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The power of guilt: more than calling it an afghan story or nostalgia or whatever, i would rather call it ‘the power of guilt.’ It forever renders us in Amir’s position. Indebtedness.
On kite-flying & other forgotten games of a bygone era:

Abt Kite=flying: its not restricted to just Afghanistan. It was once a great pastime even in India, in my own good old Madras. Well, i was not quite the kite runner like Hassan, the hazara boy, me being a girl – but i was this quiet kite stealer in fact! Never let a single kite pass thro’ my terrace @ my head level. Would cut it out. If anything touched my tv antenna, again it was mine.!  Whether i flew a kite or not – i was always upstairs hoping for one of them to get caught in my house terrace! And when the boys wouldn’t be around, on hot afternoons, me & my sis would try to fly the stolen kites which hardly flew more than a few feet up in the sky! U shd have seen Mylapore in those days. Kite flying season for us was bet July-Nov i think.

(kite-flying is banned in my city for many years now, coz of fatalities it caused to pedestrians & 2-wheeler riders. u can still fly kites legally from beach sands where it is allowed. many do)

(not just the kites: i was also in the habit of flicking some cricket balls that fell into my house/terrace!)

(kites, cricket, swirling tops then what we used to call ‘goli’ (making a pit in the sand & shooting the small marble balls into that hole using our fingers), then gilli (used to play with 2 small wooden sticks i think – again a brat’s game.)

(nostalgic: suddenly this book reminded me of all those cute games we used to play in those days. kites/cricket/ top/goli/gilli/skipping ropes and also that panjpar with stones – all this my son does not even know of. very sad. miss them man! well… i am also willing to play any of these games if someone is willing!)

(my hubby & his bros well known kite-fliesr in their area.   like in mylapore, they used to prepare the glass thread, kite everything @ home)

(carroms: @ home, we always played big big rounds of carrom board games, cards etc. where have those days gone? atleast 10-12 packs of cards would be ready @ my home always.)

(one more game unique to TN – its played in a wooden box with 12 holes – 6 on either side. its called ‘pallankuzhi.’ then the snake & the ladder game; then ofcourse, there was that throwing the dice game. the dice throw that resulted in the great Mahabharat battle. but we were forbidden from playing the cards/dice on fridays/tuesdays.

then there was this outdoor game called ‘pondy’ – which was like: we would draw big numbered checkers in the floor and hop abt it. i think Sridevi is seen playing that game in the film ‘sadma.’

then ofcourse there was ‘tenniqoit’ – which we used to play without nets @ home. (@ school with nets). rings were important playstuff for us girls. we played rings always @ beach. that was before playing disc became fashionable in the city. now i see only discs @ beach – and i feel a small ache for the forgotten neat white rubber ring which all of us had @ home.

lastly we used to have this ‘trade’ game where everyone bought & sold Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras, Hyderabad, Goa, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Cochin etc etc plus aeroplanes, ships everything with rolling of dice & fancy printed currencies. no chance of my son even touching such a game)
on: Much ado abt nothing

Let me say this abt the so called ‘nang & namoos’ of the afghans the author speaks abt. My place is also full of such ppl – or was like that until recently. But last 10-20 yrs things have drastically changed. I think its a sign of progress clearly. I hate that empty ‘pride & honour’ thing all these ppl so easily talk abt – i mean very loosely use abt really. These 2 things are frankly the issues only with those who are wealthy enough to afford it – in my opinion. U gotto be born in the right family; be surrounded by right ppl; go to right school; attend the right university; move in the right circle; marry the right person from an other right family; work in the right place – then ofcourse u can afford to boast of all that ‘nang & namoos’ – just hate it man!

But what abt those who have to work always as chefs, drivers, servants, gardeners, coolies etc etc. What abt their pride & honour. They just have to swallow up these matters like acid & move on?

Its something i always argue with even my MIL. ‘Don’t talk abt the bygone eras when zamindars (my FIL’s father was one) exploited innocent peasants! land ceiling – be it rural or urban is the best thing that ever happened to this country, even if many found benamis as loopholes’ i would say. She hates me talking like this – like a communist.

Look @ the way this boy Amir grows up in this book – treated so deferentially alongside his hazara friend (!) Hassan, who meekly accepts his chosen destiny …. Such differences exist even in my society until today… but very minimal nowadays… (thanks to widespread education & a more equitable society since independence) …this is the curse of this south Asia, what more can i say?
On Taliban

Taliban brutality – heart wrenching, but again we hindus know it right? It does not surprise or shock me…. i’ve read abt worst atrocities committed by moghuls/ moslem invaders on hindus… if i want revenge, i can spew venom here… but past is past… and finally we’re winning… so thats what counts….

Still,

Just think, why the name ‘hindukush’ came into existence. History repeats itself thats all. In this case, Afghans need no foreign mercenaries.
A slice of history: history of Kandhahar (Ghandara), Peshawar & Lahore

Kandhahar – once the capital of the Gauravs (of Mahabharat) called ‘Gandhara.’ . (tho’ Afghanistan got cut off from India earliest – by perhaps first wave of islamisation in 6th or 7th century) Worst still,  the afghans don’t even know where they got their names from i guess – just like malays call themselves ‘bumiputras’ totally unaware that its a hindu/sanskrit name.

(to be precise, Ghandhari, mother of the Gauravs, was named after Ghandhara, her hometown – so its actually Gauravs’ maternal grandfather’s place)

Peshawar – was called Purushapura, once the capital of Mauryan empire – yeah a hindu empire. Despite myself, my heart strings get tugged. (it was emperor Purushotham that Alexander the great defeated in 3rd century BC. so @ that time, Peshawar was still ‘Purushapura.’ History has it that, Alexander could not pronouce the name & called the king & the place as ‘Porus.’ Peshawar is corruption of that fine name which means like this: great man’s place. Purush in sanskrit = man. puram = town

proof: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purushapura_%28disambiguation%29

ofcourse Lahore derives its name from Raam’s son Lav who founded it as mentioned in Ramayan. (Lav & Kush were the twin sons of Ram & Sita who founded Lawahor & Kasur respectively.

proof:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081219001722AAj8t2E

http://lahore.g2gm.com/history.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasur

http://www.kasur.org/ksr_history.htm

See, who gave u ur name. And in that Lahore today, founded by MY RAAM’S SONS, can hindus live without fear? Where once fair & peaceful Raam Rajya prevailed, what is happening today?

(u know thats the only reason i care for Pakistan. its the place where Raam has walked, Sita has breathed. Parvathi & Shiva have roamed. Krishna & Arjun have been. What right u guys have to talk abt Palestine. Such a shame that the people who live in my holy land do not even know who lived there once.)
on: what future holds:

About Afghanistan’s future: i have absolutely NO HOPE.

About Pakistan: Even when the book was written i think perhaps Pakistan was slightly better under Gen Musharaff i think. Now its like frying pan to fire for them i suppose. Pak will go the Afghan way, i have no doubt abt that. I am saying this with a very heavy heart. Whats the use of few individuals’ glory in Pak? Their moderate voices will be subdued in no time. I have only prayers to offer … and Goodwill, whatelse? I am giving a timeline of upto 2015. Lets see.

But its no good news for India. It means by 2015, the taliban could be knocking on our doors from Pakistan.

God save Pakistan first. We got some more years to think abt that.

Whatever, India is not Pakistan – and talibans can’t ever find sympathy in this hindu majority land the way they’ve found in Pak. So that will be our saving factor i guess. We won’t succumb, that i know.

Long lost Afghan glory: thats the only thing that infuriates me abt the author. Like he admits anyway, afghans are prone to exaggeration! Except for Amir’s family, i don’t see any glory even in the 70s in Afghanistan. Neither will there be future glory.
on shifting blame: which afghans & pakis are good at

Blaming rousis, americans, west for everything: BLAME URSELVES FIRST, BCOZ TALIBAN ARE NOT ROUSIS OR AMERICANS BUT TALIBAN ARE AFGHAN THEMSELVES. AND TALIBANS ARE PUNJABI TOO THESE DAYS.
On language of the subcontinent:

Language spoken: i would think all these are hindi/urdu words… surprised by words like tandoor, naan, bache, nazar, bechara, tanhaayi, mard, subzi, baazaar, morgh, etc. I can see how much hindi has drawn from these rich persian/urdu languages.

on ‘Nazar’  (evil eyes)

‘Nazar’ especially is given so much importance. We believe in that very much too. But we don’t sacrifice lamb for that ok! My MIL takes a lemon, cuts it into 2 halves, covers it in vermillion (kumkum – perhaps signifying blood), lights a camphor on it, and does some circles around me, my H & my son always..  and this is supposed to ward off evil eyes !!

Again, hindi is mentioned in slightly deferential tone – perhaps bcoz comparatively India is better-off. Even Pakistan is mentioned in a slightly better way, may be in the light of having a neighbour like Afghanistan.
on: afghans & pakis who i see today

Afghans i see today: are pathetic. I see the so-called pathans working as labourers & truck drivers in middle east. … so much for the misplaced afghan pride….

As for Pakis: also fallen from grace in last 10 yrs everywhere. In the middle-east, now they maintain a very low profile, rarely mixing with anyone – compared to how boisterous they were just a decade back… and how much they would especially mock the south indians, our culture, our way of dressing, our lifestyle everything…. (a friend can vouch for it)

And now… the same pakis are calling the south Indians ‘Sahibs’

Well, its truly not just the fall of afghans & pakis, its also abt the rise of India & Indians equally in a gigantic wave ushered in by our growing success stories… For us Indians, recognition comes at last….
so finally,

The after effects: feel a profound sadness only @ the pit of my stomach for all that could have been, all thats lost….

I don’t feel such kinship abt Afghanistan – but whenever Pakistan is mentioned, i feel myself perk up. But whats the use. Look @ today’s news:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Pakiban-How-Pakistan-protected-Taliban-against-US-post-9/11/articleshow/6550329.cms

So is there any hope for Pakistan at all?

(rest later)

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