The Kitemaker By Ruskin Bond
In “The Kitemaker,” the past is shown to be considerably different from the present in terms of human relationships, the social order, and nationhood. Mehmood is a grandfather who recalls his past life as the title’s kite maker. He worked for the local chief, or nawab, under the now-dismantled hierarchical social system. They resided in a big British colony that has now been divided between India and Pakistan.
Ali was the grandson of Mahmood the kite maker. Mahmood’s business was struggling since the younger generation preferred to watch films than flying kites. Additionally, there was the issue of kite flying space. There was a time when grownups enjoyed flying kites and engaging in exciting kite battles. Mahmood recalls the days when he constructed magnificent kites for the Nawabs. They were dragon kites and musical kites, respectively. In ancient days, the Nawabs patronised kite producers. However, Mahmood was a poor man in those days. He creates kites for Ali, his grandson. He lost consciousness and died one day while he sat thinking of his magnificent old days and watching Ali fly kites. Ali approached him, but the elderly guy remained silent.
Summary of the Story The Kitemaker
The Kite Maker is a moving short storey by Ruskin Bond, a British-Indian author. The story begins with Ali, Mehmood’s grandson, bringing his grandfather, the elderly kite maker, from his reverie after the boy’s kite becomes entangled in the ancient banyan tree’s branches. As he watches his grandson learn to fly a kite, old Mehmood reflects on his youth and laments the loss of ‘the self’ in the tide of modern Indian society’s ‘rapidly changing’ culture. While daydreaming beneath the ancient banyan tree, he recalls his youth as a revered ‘kitemaker‘ in his city, when the art of kite flying was the sport of kings. “Kite-flying was then the sport of kings, and the old man remembered how the Nawab himself would come down to the riverside with his retinue to participate in this noble pastime.” Men nowadays, caught in the whirlwind of sweeping time, have neither time or interest in such pleasures as kite flying. Even children enjoyed spending their money at the movies. Moving in lockstep with the’sweating mass of humanity,’ the city has lost its charm, and the ‘gali’ no longer has broad fields for kite flying, but just cramped streets and deteriorating cement structures. The indifference of his neighbours demonstrates the decay of culture and humanity in their pursuit of wealth. The fact that his kite shop has been taken over by a trash trader adds to the evidence.
However, Mehmood, like the ancient banyan tree, is mature and established in his life. Both are immobile inside the boundaries within which they grew and hence unable to find their place in the present ‘competitive world’– ‘Both were taken for granted — permanent fixtures irrelevant to the loud, sweating mass of humans that surrounded them.’ As a result, Mehmood identifies with the enormous banyan tree, as he comprehends the fundamental interdependence between man and nature. Mehmood, who is elderly and frail, is akin to an older tree losing its last few leaves, while his grandson Ali, who is sprouting with new life, is akin to a mimosa plant. Thus, as Mehmood drifts off to his final fantasy, he finds hope in his grandson Ali and dreams of constructing him a beautiful kite that “would resemble the great white bird of the Hindus—Garuda, the famous steed of God Vishnu.” The ‘Garuda’ imagery adds intensity and pace to the storey, as we not only see Mehmood sweep into his beautiful old world, freeing him from the indifference of modern decadence, but also as a ray of hope for the young generation to tear themselves free from the ‘sweating mass’ like the kite in the banyan tree.
Theme of the story ‘The Kitemaker’
In “The Kitemaker,” the past is shown to be considerably different from the present in terms of human relationships, the social order, and nationhood. An old man in rural India wonders how the world has changed as his grandson flies a kite nearby. Bond uses natural imagery as a metaphor, with an elderly, gnarled banyan tree representing the grandfather and a youthful, spry mimosa tree representing the grandson’s vigour.
Ali, a young Indian boy, plays with a kite while his grandfather, Mehmood, relaxes beneath the street’s lone banyan tree. Ali’s kite becomes entangled in the tree’s branches, and he seeks assistance from his grandfather. Mehmood is too elderly to retrieve the kite or teach Ali how to properly fly it, but he builds him a replacement. Ali pledges that he will not lose this one and departs to fly it.
Mehmood reclines beneath the banyan tree, reflecting on his old career as a professional kite maker. In the past, he recalls, adult men flew kites joyfully. There was more open space back then, and the town was less hectic. Men would compete and wager on the outcome. Even the Nawab, the village chief, would pay attention. Mehmood was well-known and respected for his skill as a kite maker. He once created a magnificent kite for the Nawab, one that resembled a flying dragon. Because that kite was too tough for even Mehmood to fly, he created the Nawab.
Mehmood thinks about how much has changed in the intervening years. The nawab is no longer alive, and his progeny are common folk like Mehmood. He no longer has a patron and is unknown to his neighbours. The speed of life has sped up, and those who live in his community are pressed for time. One of Mehmood’s sons works in a neighbourhood garage, while the other remains in Pakistan. When India and Pakistan were partitioned, he was on the wrong side of the border and unable to return home.
Mehmood is appreciative that his other son lives close since it allows him to watch Ali, his only grandchild, grow up. He takes pleasure in watching Ali perform. Ali, he believes, is comparable to the mimosa seedling at the courtyard’s edge. They are immature and will develop into tall and muscular adults. Mehmood is akin to the banyan tree behind which he rests. Both are elderly, stooping, with twisted bones and branches.
Mehmood is becoming exhausted and wonders if he will dream of the kite he wishes to construct, one that resembles a giant white bird. He believes he should have something to leave Ali. He hears Ali calling him, but the youngster’s voice is weak and distant. Ali returns to the banyan tree and comes face to face with his grandfather, who has closed his eyes. On his beard is a small white butterfly. Ali makes an unsuccessful attempt to awaken Mehmood. Fearful, he flees, pleading with his mother for assistance. The butterfly flies from Mehmood’s beard to the mimosa tree, and Ali’s kite soars into the sky.
Questions and Answers
Comprehension – I
1. What was Mehmood doing when Ali woke him up?
Answer: The boy rushed along the cobbled stones of the little street, where his grandfather sat dozing dreamily in the brightness of their rear courtyard, barefoot and wearing only a ragged shirt. When Ali yelled that his kite had vanished, the old man sprang awake from his slumber and raised his head, revealing a beard that would have been white if it had not been painted red with mehendi leaves.
2. What did Mehmood do when Ali lost his kite?
Answer: Mehmood regretted not having taught Ali how to properly fly a kite. He created a new kite out of bamboo paper and thin silk, which he dried in the sun. A pale pink kite with a little green tail flew by. Ali rose to his toes and kissed his grandfather’s hollowed-out cheek, as the old man handed it to him.
3. Why do so few people buy kites these days?
Answer: Nowadays, few people purchase kites. They were despised by adults, while children preferred to spend their money at the movies. Additionally, there were few remaining open sites for kite flying. The city had absorbed the open grassland that stretched from the walls of the old fort to the river bank.
4. What were the various things that people did when they flew kites in the past?
Answer: Mehmood recalled a period when adult men flew kites and fought epic battles, the kites twisting and swooping in the sky, tangling with each other until one’s string was severed. The defeated but emancipated kite would then float away towards the unknown blue. There was a lot of betting going on, and money was changing hands regularly.
5. What was the name of the special kite that Mehmood made at the request of the Nawab? What happened to it?
(a) Kite flying was a king’s hobby back then, and the old man remembered the Nawab himself coming down to the riverbank with his entourage to partake in this honourable game.
Mehmood, the kite-maker, lived a well-known life in the city. At the request of the Nawab, he once created a highly unusual type of kite known as the ‘Dragon Kite,’ and rumour spread that it contained mystical powers.
It refused to leave the ground on the first try. The discs created a wailing, protesting sound, and the sun was trapped in the tiny mirrors, transforming the kite into a living, moaning monster. The wind then shifted, and the Dragon Kite soared into the sky, wiggling higher and higher. The sons of Mehmood assisted the Nawab in pulling the kite skyward until it lost sight. He never made another one like that. Instead, he gave the Nawab a musical kite that emitted a violin-like sound as it rose in the air.
6. How many sons does Mehmood have? Where are they?
Answer: Mehmood has two sons, one of whom was working in a local garage and the other, who was in Pakistan at the time of division and had been unable to rejoin his relatives.
7. Which two trees are Mehmood and Ali compared to? Is the comparison appropriate?
Answer: Mehmood resembled a banyan, his hands gnarled and twisted like the ancient tree’s roots. Ali resembled the young mimosa that had been planted at the courtyard’s far end. Both he and the tree would regain the power and confidence of their youth in two years.
Men and trees have a strong bond. We grow at a similar rate as long as we are not harmed, starved, or cut down. In our youth, we are magnificent creatures; in our declining years, we stoop a little, remember, stretch our brittle limbs in the sun, and then shed our final leaves with a sigh.
8. What does Mehmood dream of and what is it compared to?
Answer: As the noises in the street became fainter, Mehmood thought if he would fall asleep and dream of a kite so magnificent and powerful that it would resemble the huge white bird of the Hindus — Garuda, God Vishnu’s legendary steed. He would like to create a fantastic kite for Ali because he had nothing else to leave the youngster with.
9. What did Ali find when he came asking about his mother?
Answer: In the courtyard, Ali inquired as to whether or not his mother had returned from the bazaar yet. In response to Mehmood’s silence, the boy approached him and repeated his query. A little butterfly landed on the old man’s flowing beard as the sun slanted across his face. There was no response from Mehmood when Ali placed a little brown hand on his shoulder. In his pocket, the boy heard the faint sound of stones rubbing together.
10. What happens to the kite at the very end of the story? How is the ending related to the beginning of the story?
Answer: In his pocket, the child heard a sound that sounded like marbles being rubbed together. His grandfather’s eyes are closed when Ali returns to the banyan tree. A little white butterfly is resting on his beard. Mehmood does not respond to Ali’s attempts to wake him up. He flees, pleading with his mother for aid. Butterflies flit between Mehmood and the mimosa tree, while Ali’s kite lifts off into the sky. A aged banyan tree represents Bond’s grandfather, while a young, spry mimosa tree symbolises Bond’s grandson’s vigour.