January 23, 2009

I just finished reading Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner. I have no idea why I delayed reading the book so long. For some reason, I was under the impression that the book was all about the atrocities committed in Iraq and this, again for reasons unknown, created a mind block.

Finally about a couple of weeks back, I picked up the book from my library and started reading it. Fair to say, that this book affected me deeply. The book has almost everything that I look for in a story (what those are will be the topic for another post), plus most importantly, I could personally relate to the protagonist’s overriding emotions of guilt and cowardice as it comes out through the story. I am sure all of us, at various points in our lives, have felt these emotions. But a time comes when we start thinking more and more about incidents that bring out these emotions. At least that has been the case with me and the book kind of made me think a lot more about those incidents in my life which I am not particularly proud of. In fact, some of these incidents that seemed so full of bravado at the time of their happening appear absolutely cowardly in retrospect.

What is also remarkable about the story is the complete insouciance of Amir till such time that he receives the call from Rahim in Pakistan. He appears to have been emotionally none the worse during the intervening period. Our ability to push inconvenient memories to the dark recesses of our mind and the ease with which these come to the forefront when there is a trigger is something that I can relate to completely. But unlike Amir, in my case, the opportunities for redemption are non existent and I am consigned to leading a life of guilt and cowardice. I would be well served if I remind myself of what, Rahim, another pivotal character in the story, tells Amir that what is most important is that we learn to forgive ourselves rather than wait for forgiveness from the rest of the world. It would be cyncial to say “easier said than done”. But is there any other way to be. As it is, the drudgery of this life can be overpowering and on top of that if we keep piling on mounds of guilt…… I had to agree that Rahim Khan had a point. The simplicity with which this statement is made and the context in which it is constructed made reading it a eureka moment for me.

There are books which are aspirational, in the sense that you wish you could be like one of the characters in the story. For me, Kite Runner was very different by virtue of the fact that I thought I could very well have been Amir. The actual incidents themselves were very different, but the emotions that they brought out and the effort in grappling with these subsequently were very similar. That is what makes Kite Runner a very special story for me. I am hoping that the movie based on the book gives me as much enjoyment.

Disclaimer : This is not meant to be a literary review of Kite Runner.


2 Responses to “Guilt”

  1. it’s a beautiful book. u should check out khalid’s blog too. btw totally recommend a thousand splendid suns. it is so touching that the story haunted me for months after i finished reading it.

  2. Bennita Ganesh Says:

    Just finished reading “The Kite Runner” and “A thousand splendid suns” inspired by your post and the above comment. What a gift Khaled Hosseini has! Both books are spectacular in that they literally transport you to places like Afghanistan and make you believe for a while that you are as helpless/hopeless and as inhumanly treated as the protagonists. With fists clenched and tears streaming down your cheeks you realise just how privileged your life is and how utterly trivial your worries and insecurities are in the face of the day to day challenges faced by these people. Even sadder fact is that we are the very very small minority and most people unfortunately live out “A thousand splendid suns” in their far from splendid lives every day without the hope of Laila’s happy ending.

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