I have been reading “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini and I recommend it to any one that loves the written word, and even those who do not. It was a remarkable read.A lot of things came to mind as I read it and over the next couple of weeks I am going to discuss them. If you have not read it but intend to and you are one of those who does not like to spoil the suspense, you may need to skip this post (it hurt to say that!).

In the book we are introduced to two boys who are play mates. I say, playmates not friends because of their social standing, Hassan (9) is the servant’s son, he is also from a tribe that is considered inferior and Amir (10) is the son of the richest, most influential man in the city of Kabul. They were suckled by the same woman and have played together since they were babies.

Amir longs for his father’s love and approval and his father gives it very sparingly. His mother died giving birth to him, so he feels that he is to blame and that it is the reason for his father’s disinterest in him. The absence of his mother and the need to make up for his father’s love makes him try harder and harder to get it. Hassan on the other hand is loyal to Amir, like his father is loyal to Amir’s father. In fact, Hassan’s father was born in the same house as Amir’s, and has been his servant for about 40 years. Part of Hassan’s loyalty is being able to understand and read Amir without Amir having to say anything.

So one day, Amir’s father tells Amir (whom he does not feel is much of a boy) that it would be nice if he won the kite flying tournament this year. Amir sees it as a chance to earn his father’s love (like love is something that we earn, but that is the subject of another post on this book). Winning the kite tournament consists of two things, having the last kite flying in the sky and “running” the one that you pulled out of the sky to keep yours as the last one flying. “Running” here means you chase after the kite as it flies to a fall (excuse that, it most vividly paints the picture I want), catching and holding onto it. Every other child will be running to catch that kite. Hassan knew just how much Amir wanted any crumb of love his father threw his way and therefore understood what winning that tournament will mean to him. So he is committed to helping him win.

The tournament takes place and the Amir wins, with Hassan’s help. His blue and white kite is the last one flying in the sky out of the hundreds that started out and Hassan runs the kite for him. He runs far and fast (because it means so much to Amir, it means the world to Hassan, you see. He used to say to anything Amir asked “for you a thousand times over”). Amir runs after him but at a slower pace and losses him. He asks around and is pointed in the direction that Hassan ran. It’s an alley, blocked off by a knit fence he hears voices and peers through.

It’s Assef, the town bully who owns brass knuckles-with which he has hit other children in the past-and whom Hassan has threatened to hurt in defence of Amir. He is with his 2 sidekicks and they ask Hassan for the kite- the kite that he has gotten for Amir’s victory to be complete. He says no. They threaten him but he refuses. They call him a loyal dog, ask if Amir will try to protect him at any risk to himself and they say he can keep it but that they will teach him a lesson. That the kite will always serve as a reminder of what they are about to do to him. And the two sidekicks hold him down while Assef rapes him.

All this time, Amir is looking through the fence. You must understand that he is petrified, that he thinks that if he shouts Assef would hurt him too. That he feels outnumbered so he just watches and keeps quiet; he even tries not to breathe so they won’t know he is there. Assef and cronies run out laughing, he scrambles in another direction and waits. Hassan comes hobbling out a while later, hands the kite to Amir (who pretends not to know anything). He is weeping silently, trying not to let anything spoil Amir’s joy at winning. He slinks into his room in the servants quarters and does not come out for long. Amir on the other hand, goes home triumphant, his father puts him on his laps (it felt like heaven), they celebrate and it would have been the best time of Amir’s life but for the price he had paid for it- what he just let happen.

God forbid that I raise a coward (but that’s also for another post). I sympathise with Hassan and would talk about him in a subsequent post but right now I’d like to rummage through Amir’s mind. The first thing I see is a misunderstanding of his identity. I wonder if he ever asked himself the question ‘who am I?’

I say with all certainty that the reason why Amir was afraid was he did not know who he was. First he was a boy-just like the boys who bullied him. They may have been bigger, but they were just boys. If he shouted, made some noise, even a whimper, they would have been afraid and probably run away. If they were bold and pulled him in, rather than run, would two not have stood a better chance against three than one? Could one have held one captive, and the other one had held one down while the other committed the dastardly act? No. There would have been a greater chance of a struggle, of being beaten perhaps but also a greater chance of escape. He did not know the power of HIM, did not think too much of himself. He saw in himself a grasshopper in the face of the proverbial giants.
Do you realise the power of YOU? What you can change just by lending your voice? By speaking up and not looking the other way? By not keeping your pain to yourself? Do you?

The second and most important thing I know for sure is that Amir did not know who his father was! He was the son of the most important and influential man in the city. Really, who would dare touch him? His voice mattered! He represented someone bigger than himself, someone that epitomizes something that Assef and every other bully in town would not dare touch, someone others had been warned against crossing. But what did he do? What did he know? In his eyes he was small. In his eyes he did not matter. In his eyes Assef was big and could mean the death of him. In his eyes his father’s love was worth sacrificing a good loyal friend for and who could blame him, things that are not freely given must be purchased at a price (if only he knew that protecting the friend may have been the currency for purchasing that love). In his eyes, Hassan did not matter so much, he did not realise, that in letting his friend get scarred, he scarred himself for life.
In his eyes… what is in your eyes? When you look at yourself at your world, what do you see? More importantly who do you see? Lucy Wallflower or Johnny Near-do-well? I don’t know who you see. I see in me a child of the king, I see in me someone who has everything going for her. I see beautiful, brave. I see; loved, wanted, sought after. I see in me potential, I see promises birthed, I see kindness in the world, wealth at my disposal. I see strength, knock me down and see if I won’t come bouncing back up. If you did not kill me when you had the chance, sorry, it’s too late now. I see in me greater, I see greater than all my problems, fears, challenges, issues…

I see a lot of things. Nearly all of them good, but sometimes I see the ‘me’ that I am now. I see that I am flawed, that I am not always right, that I do not always see me in the ways I mentioned above. When I look at the flawed me, my vision and psyche may be affected for a bit and I feel unworthy. That like Amir, I should whimper, be quiet and hide in fright. That I have to earn love at all costs, that some things may be worth dehumanising myself and others for. But you know what I do when I feel like this? I see my father’s face. I see him, big, strong, beautiful and in control-a fierce lion but a gentle lamb. I see him all powerful, untouchable and unbeaten (ever!) and I look back at myself and tell myself that I am that man’s child, that I am all that and more. That since I came after, I may even be better and something in me rises up. Something in me does not cower any more. Something in me stands, shoulders squared, mouth open and screams at the top of her voice!!!!!!!!

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