Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi
The book has been written by Afghan born author Khaled Hosseini who migrated to America in 1980 after the invasion of Soviet Army in Afghanistan. The Kite Runner is the debut novel of the author published in year 2003 by Riverhead Books. The novel derives its name from the Afghani custom of holding yearly kite flying tournament and winning that tournament was considered no less than winning a battle.
The book is an emotional as well as informative(as far as Afghan culture and history is concerned) story of two boys named Amir and Hassan who were the natives of Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. This is a story about friendship, loyalty, betrayal, good and evil, redemption, longingness for acceptance and survival. This novel provides us the first-hand experience of all the events from the fall of monarchy to Russian invasion, exodus of refugees to Peshawar in Pakistan and emergence of Taliban in Afghanistan. Book also highlights the racism and ill treatment of Hazara community which comprised of Shia Muslims meted at the hands superior Sunni Muslims after the fall of monarchy. Amir is a son of very wealthy father and Hassan is the son of their family servant Ali (a Hazara). Hazaras were a poor, inferior and uneducated tribe given very menial jobs in the houses of Sunni Muslims in Afghanistan and were considered analogous to Dalit’s of Hindu Caste. These boys were best friends and experts in the art of Kite flying especially Hassan but Amir was jealous of Hassan who had characteristics that Amir’s father admired a lot.
Amir in the whole story lives with a guilt of betrayal as he could not save his friend Hassan who was goddamn loyal from being sexually abused. After the culmination of kite flying tournament, Assef (a Pashtun boy) flanked by two other boys who all belonged to the privileged Sunni class insisted Hassan to handover Amir’s trophy (the kite) but he resisted that lead to him being sexually assaulted which Amir watched behind the scenes. Amir did this act of betrayal precisely due to hiscowardice that kept him haunting and gave sleepless nights to him. One day afterthe culmination of his birthday party, he commits another act of treachery but levelled the allegations on his best friend Hassan which forced Ali, their servant to leave that home.
After the invasion of Soviet Army there in 1979, Amir and his father fled Afghanistan and settled in Peshawar(Pakistan) for some time as refugees. The tragedy of politics and civil war made his father to settle in Fremont, California(USA) in 1980 with other immigrant Afghan community.
Amir studied there and took English as Major in the junior college to hone his skills of creative writing which he had inculcated as a school boy during his stay in Afghanistan. While helping his father to sell pre owned goods in the flee market of Afghans in Fremont, he finds his love Soraya who happens to be the daughter of an Afghan General. He convinces his ailing father to take the proposal of marriage to General’s home. General agrees to the proposal and they get married in customary Afghan tradition but Soraya could not beget a child even after receiving treatment for several years.
After the death of Amir’s father whom he affectionately called Baba, Rahim Khan a close friend of his father calls him to return to Pakistan to make peace with Hassan as he knew about the betrayal. Upon reaching Pakistan, Rahim Khan gives a new twist to the story by disclosing him the secret that Hassan is his ‘half brother’ not the son of Ali as Amir’s father had committed a sin with Ali’s wife Sanaubar.But Sanaubar being a Hazara women, he could not disclose this to anyone as it could have diminished his acclaimed honour and pride in the society.
The latter half of the book focusses on Amir’s attempt to atone his wrongdoings by rescuing Hassan’s son Sohrab two decades later. From Rahim Khan, Amir gets to know that Ali was killed in a landmine blast while the parents of Sohrab were killed by Taliban who considered Hazaras as Aliens thereby wanted to cleansen Afghanistan from them.
In Peshawar, Amir decides to visit his motherland Afghanistan along with a taxi driver Farid to know the whereabouts of Sohrab. On reaching Kabul almost after two decades, he gets to know that his ancestral property was taken over by Talibs and Sohrab was living in an orphanage in Hazarajat. The director of orphanage firstly denied Amir any information about Sohrab but later told him that he had sold Sohrab to some Taliban leader for few thousand bucks as the orphanage was unable to feed its inhabitants mostly orphans due to shortage of essentials.
He manages to find that Taliban leader during a soccer match played between two local teams and fixes an appointment with that leader which he later finds to be Assef, the same person who had sexually abused Hassan and was doing the same with his son Sohrab whom he kept as hostage. Finally, Amir manages to get Sohrab out of the hostage mainly due to the bravery of Sohrab who used his extraordinary slingshot skills inherited from his father Hassan to defeat Assef.
On returning back to Peshawar, Amir called his wife Soraya in California to give her news about Sohrab whom he wanted to adopt which she happily accepts. After some hurdles at emigration and suicide attempt of Sohrab, he manages to take Sohrab to US thereby atoning his transgression to Hassan, his half brother.
Novel ends with note of optimism about the peace in Afghanistan which it has been yearning from several decades because Afghans believe in independence in every aspect of their existence and being proud people they have been defending their country against one invader after another invader.
Conclusion: After reading this novel one gets an insight into the culture, history, social structure and how class difference has deeply affected social fabric of Afghanistan. Besides one hopes that future of war torn country is peaceful and auspicious which it has been yearning for from almost four decades now.
Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi