Unless you are living under a rock, you would know about the mastery of Khaled Husseini as a writer. I think people had a very scant view of Afghanistan before reading his books. For the world, Afghanistan was a battleground that smelled of gun powder and became synonymous with dystopia. But for Khaled Husseini, Afghanistan was home, and so he took his readers to his home, showed us the magnificent pomegranate trees, played hide & seek behind the sand dunes, and told us the tale of two friends.
There are many books that are primarily focused on friendship and love, but Kite Runner is not one of them. Rather, it is a book on ‘betrayal versus loyalty.’ Amir and Hassan – two names, one bond, infinite memories. When I think about the two characters, I can truly imagine them in painful detail. I can see them right in front of my eyes; playing around like the world is still a place worth living. A world without Hassan and Amir is a bit too bland. What would we do without them? I don’t want to imagine a world without them.
But friendship didn’t come that easy to Hassan, a young Hazara boy, who bore the brunt of Amir’s insecurities and cowardice. Religion and culture played a very integral role in carving out their friendship. Amir, a Pashtun boy, had all the powers that he could easily exert over Hassan. Frankly, a lot of times, it felt like their friendship was a one-sided affair. Hassan being adorably fond of Amir; whereas, Amir repelled Hassan with indifference and ignorance.
Hassan seems to be too good to be real. No matter what Amir does, he stays loyal to him. Khaled Hosseini very cleverly shows the definition of friendship for two people who belong to two different sections of society. For Hassan, a Hazara, friendship was loyalty, something that stayed to be the utmost gift, a priority till the last breath. Whereas, for Amir, a rich Pashtun, friendship was an authority, something he could claim with power, and reject when convenient.
Hassan keeps insisting, ‘Amir Agha and I are friends,’ and he does so without any malevolent intent. For Amir, their friendship is something he intends to hide from the world because the world has rules, and the one who doesn’t go by those rules are framed with cruelty. We can see Amir reading stories to Hassan, carve out their names together on the bark of the pomegranate tree, and comfort him in the darkness of a theatre.
The tragedy dawns upon when finally, Amir frames Hassan to get him thrown out of their house because the guilt of not being able to save and stand up for Hassan is too much for him to register. He tries everything to distance up from Hassan, and yet Hassan keeps loving Amir, something that Amir knows he does not deserve. This is where the story truly unfolds – the tangent of loyalty being questioned by betrayal.
And loyalty wins every single time. Hassan not only saves Amir in their childhood, but he also saves him later on in his life, with a letter, when Amir struggles with guilt and regret. Hassan’s letter sets Amir on his path to redemption, where he finally sets himself free of all the past emotional baggage.
And with this, Hassan proves the words that he’d uttered to Amir back in their childhood to be true – ‘for you, a thousand times over.’