With a title that so resembles Khaled Hosseini’s renowned work (“The Kite Runner”), it is impossible to not draw up a comparison. This is especially so when the book in question deals with friendship and fate – themes not far removed from Hosseini’s masterpiece. However, to Sharad Paul’s credit, what he has managed to create is a refreshing read that holds its own throughout.
The Kite Flyers is the tale of three friends – Raman, Kumar and Lakshmi – who grow up together in erstwhile Tamil Nadu. This is a time when MGR is the state’s revolutionary leader and there exists a fierce, almost obsessive attachment to Tamil, the mother tongue, as opposed to Hindi, the alien language with its multitude of contradictions. The three children learn together in a little village-school, taught by ‘Gowri Teacher’, and spend delightful evenings flying kites and enjoying the delicious barfis that Lakshmi makes. In a bizarre turn of events, fate takes them down roads they had never prepared to tread. This is a world of misplaced notions, of eunuchs striving to live in an unfriendly world. This is also a world where messages written on a kite sometimes make long and enduring journeys and the Kaveri river flows with several secrets in her bosom. The tale converges at Cool Cut, a barber shop, but in more ways than one, the convergence is a whole new beginning.
Sharad Paul’s style is staccato; he doesn’t mince words. It is a style that is perfectly suited for the fast-paced novel, involving several changes of scene and protagonist from one page to the next. A relatively short book – almost a novella – it can be easily completed in one read. For a book of this nature, Sharad manages to keep up the momentum and the interest very well. The political backdrop adds several layers to the tale. It tells a story of its own – that of a state and its people. To top it all, the book is intricately laced with a Tamilian flavour, never defaulting on that front.
On the flip side, the story sometimes seems to have integrated too many sub-plots to fit into its length. A forced marriage, a religious rescue mission, violence against women, adolescence – there are several more. This is not to say that the book doesn’t deliver on these accounts but the focus is sometimes perfunctory.
In this age that churns out umpteen books unfailingly – and poorly, if I may so – dealing with college romances, The Kite Flyers comes as a welcome surprise. For its interesting writing style, brevity and sensitive handling of several delicate subjects, it deserves to be read.