The Kite Runner was Khalid Hosseini’s first novel, published in 2003. It is a story which revolves around the friendship of two boys, Amir and Hassan. It is set against a backdrop of the crisis which was going on in Afghanistan around the 1979-1989. Khalid Hosseini was born in Kabul and admittedly has fond memories of pre-Soviet era Afghanistan and the Hazara people. Hossein Khan, a Hazara man, taught Khalid how to read and write. He drew inspiration to write the book from his childhood relationship with Khan.
The Kite Runner is a fictitious novel, and describes a beautiful and poignant story about two adolescent boys. Living in big metropolitan cities, few of us know the ground realities in war-hit countries like Afghanistan. Restrictions abound and Taliban makes your life hell. Yet people there manage to survive with less than the basic necessities, with a smile on their face but fear inside their hearts. One really gets to know the lifestyle of the people by reading this book. With every line of the book, you start to feel for them and empathize with them.
The Soviet invasion in Afghanistan had led to the fall of the monarchy. The Taliban rule was gaining power. There was major crisis going on. Living amongst all this in Kabul was a young Pashtun boy named Amir. His father, whom he referred to as Baba, was a wealthy merchant. Amir was not very close to his father, and he considered Rahim Khan, Baba’s close friend, as his father. Hassan, a Hazara boy, was the son of Ali. Ali worked as Baba’s servant but Baba loved Amir and Hassan equally. The two boys spent their time kite fighting and Hassan was a great kite runner. They grew fond of each other despite their social differences and Hassan used to lookup to Amir. Aseef was an aggressive and mean boy who would tell Amir not to associate with Hassan because he belonged to the lower caste. Aseef would pick a fight with Amir but Hassan would always intervene and take Amir’s side.
One day, Amir won a local kite fighting tournament. Hassan went to run the last cut kite, as a reward for, and as a gesture for his love towards Amir. On the way he met Aseef who tried to snatch the kite from him, but he refused to give it up. They got into a fight, and Aseef and his friends raped Hassan. At this point in the book, my eyes were filled with tears, and my heart went out to the innocent child. I almost cried his cries. Amir went looking for Hassan but hid when he heard voices. He witnessed the horrific event silently because he was scared that he might have to face the same. But the guilt inside was killing him and thereafter, he tried to maintain his distance from Hassan.
To get Hassan to leave, Amir placed and a watch and some money under Hassan’s bed, trying to make Hassan look like the culprit. Naïve Hassan confessed to the crime. He was forgiven by Baba but Ali and Hassan left the house anyway. During the Soviet invasion, Amir and Baba escaped to Pakistan and then to California. They lived in a small apartment and Baba started working at a gas station. Amir pursued his interest in writing and finished his graduation. He met a refugee girl named Soraya whom he eventually married but they soon realized that they could not have children. Baba fell terminally ill and soon passed away.
Many years later, Amir received a call from Rahim Khan. He was on the verge of dying and told Amir to come to Pakistan because he had important news. Amir then sets out on a journey, which is perhaps an opportunity in the form of a blessing to relieve him of the guilt and shame he had been living with for so long.
The most beautiful line in the book was said by Hassan to Amir, “For you, a thousand times over.” It is so full of Hassan’s love and respect towards Amir. I consider the book to be an epitome of what friendship and betrayal truly means. People like Hassan do not exist anymore. The world has become too greedy to care. We must learn to sensitize ourselves towards people, especially the poor, before it’s late. The book also provides an insight into the lives of the people living in Afghanistan. We cannot be ignorant of their situation anymore, probably which is why the author has set the story against such a background.
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