14th January every year the state of Gujarat in Western India hosts the international Kite Flying festival called “Uttarayan”. This essentially marks the beginning of summer and hints the farmers the approach of the harvest season. As per Hindu culture this festival is called the “Makar Sankranti”.
January, 1989 when Uttarayan was formally launched, I was lucky to be in Ahmedabad, about the same age of Amir who is the “protagonist” in the book “The Kite Runner”. Thanks to my baba (In Malayalam- Achan) who was deputed in Ahmedabad for his core banking Job. The Terrace of Shyam Gokul Apartment in Jivaraj Park was filled with young and old Kite flyers with a spool of thread nicely polished with glass powder. Most often my spool holder would be my younger brother Vinu or my friend Raghu or Harsha his brother. But Unlike Amir Agha and Hassan; who was a born slave of Amir, we took turns to fly the kites and hold the spool. We believed that every one of us has the right to fly the kite during the season. Probably that was part of our culture; an element of secularism that we boast about.
The book; took me back to Jivaraj Park (23 years back); in Ahmedabad the days I used to fly kites with my friends Raghu and Harsha the children of Bhatt Uncle and Sumati Aunty.
The situation in Kabul those days; was not as good as in Ahmedabad. Though these two different cities in two different countries celebrated kite flying; in 1989 Gujarat was able to become the proud host of the international kite flying festival. Had Russia not invaded Afghanistan in December, 1979 probably this honour would have rightfully gone to Afghanistan, by what Khaled Hosseini had to say in his book about the Kite Festival.
I don’t remember; though knowing my father well; he would have had forced me to watch the “World this Week” and I would have seen a glimpse of it; in the news then. But then, I never released the value of watching such a programme in the television. Probably having read “The Kite Runner” was a moment of great revelation for me; trying to relate it back to life then in Ahmedabad and now in Bangalore or the life of children in Afghanistan or the life around me.
One dreadful event on the day of the kite festival changes the life of Amir and Hassan forever. The jealous Amir betrays his friend Hassan and flees to America and returns only on the request of Rahim Khan; his baba’s business partner and friend after 20 years. His return journey to Kabul and his fight with the Talib to bring back Sohrab; Hassan’s son seemed to be an exaggerated event. The book does not cover great details on the Taliban or the decades of warfare and the devastation caused by it. But the book does give you a moment of redemption and you need not be a Muslim to relate to the life of children in Afghanistan.
I think; this is worth a read for the children of Afghanistan, if you ever intend to do anything about it.