I’ve been indecisive for quite some time as to which book should I talk about for my first blog post. The one book I eventually decided upon was one of my recent reads – Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, The Kite Runner.
Hosseini has the skill of striking a chord by not just hitting close to home, but also by bringing in light some very gruesome happenings from around the world (Afghanistan, so far), of which, not many of us know well enough. Rare are such authors who can deal with universal themes as well as local issues, both at the same time, and treat both of them with justice. In The Kite Runner, Hosseini has covered the dynamics of the mainstream, filmy friendship between a rich brat, Amir, and his servant, Hassan, with whom he has grown up and who regards him no less than his best friend. The friendship deals with its set of twists and turns which leads to the main themes of the story of betrayal, guilt and redemption. There’s also the complex relationship between Amir and his single parent, his father, which deals with its own fair share of ups and downs. As much as one can predict where the story is headed at a lot of times, the author manages to catch you off-guard at a fair number of points. This is where you realize that the central themes are not contributed to by just the one character as you had guessed.
The story is narrated by Amir and the narration starts while he’s in San Francisco. He has just gotten off a call from his father’s close friend, Rahim Khan, and it takes him back to his past that has always haunted him and rendered him helpless due to the guilt he has always lived with. “…it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past always claws its way out.” For ease of discussing, the whole story can be divided into four parts: Committal of fault, Escape from it, Certain realizations and Amendments. It’s the Realizations section that catches one off-guard and the Amendments sections that hits the reader with utter poignancy, thanks to the trip to the brutal, Taliban-ruled Afghanistan (via Pakistan).
Talking of the characters, as much as I wanted to hate Amir for his immunity to the many wrongs that were done, and Hassan for his absolute selfless devotion despite the brutal disservice inflicted upon him, I couldn’t do so. And for this, I’d credit Hosseini’s master story-telling abilities that exude with poignancy. Hosseini has an exuberant way with words, with all the metaphors and imagery put in as suitably as you please. Some lines from the book to elucidate the same:
- “But despite his illiteracy, or maybe because of it, Hassan was drawn to the mystery of words, seduced by a secret world forbidden to him.”
- “Perspective was a luxury when your head was constantly buzzing with a swarm of demons.”
- “There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”
And some more lines that manage to etch in the reader’s mind with a strong impact:
- “And that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too.”
- “It always hurts more to have and lose than to not have in the first place.”
- “What happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.”
- “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
And the two lines that managed to give me goosebumps:
- “It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything alright. It didn’t make anything alright. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight.
But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.”
- “For you, a thousand times over.”
In an all, what can be summed up about the author is that Hosseini knows how to break your heart bit by bit, eloquently, in a way that will only leave you wanting more of what he has in store to tell. And this debut novel of his essentially stands testimony to the same.
Many of the dishes mentioned here are favourites in the Southern Asian countries.
Kofta, pickle and naan, a favourite combination with our protagonist(s) are some very famous preparations in the South-Asian and Central-Asian countries. Kofta, originally a meatball dish, is prepared in Balkan countries using pork, beef or/and lamb. It also has many vegetarian variants, especially in India, where it is prepared using potato, bottle gourd, cottage cheese and also, banana at times.
Bolani is yet another popular dish, indigenous of Afghanistan, which is considered a type of flatbread, stuffed with vegetables mostly and served with plain yogurt.
There’s also mention of Ferni, which is a rice pudding dessert prepared in varying ways in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
The book could certainly not have missed the mention of the most famous Afghani dish of Qabuli, which is also treated as the national dish of Afghanistan. This dish is not to be confused with the Kabuli chana of India which happens to be chickpea.
Summing up the Eats aspect to the book, the mere mention of all these yum, Afghani dishes gets one hungry and it helped me, for one, to discover a lot of dishes that I look forward to trying and probably also including in some of my Elvish parties. Pretty sure my fellow Hobbits shall enjoy them. 🙂
Tashakor (Farsi for thank you) for reading through this post, dear human! 😀 More, soon!