or you will die”
After last Monday’s events and feeling somewhat disillusioned by the work of the international community in Afghanistan, I was looking for something to show me the real Afghanistan and remind me of why I am here. This weekend my wish came true.
Whilst taking a Friday afternoon stroll around the Mausoleum of King Mohammad Nadir Shah to my surprise we stumbled across an open space with what seemed like hundreds of Afghan children riding bicycles, horse riding, eating popcorn and warm nuts, and most of all kite running. I stood in astonishment as I watched this scene around me.
It was the kite running which captured my curiosity the most. Kite running is popular in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan and is the practice of running after drifting kites in the sky that have been cut loose in kite fighting.
Mirwan our professional kite runner
Ever since reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, I have been intrigued by this tradition and was dying to try it out for myself. The kites came in all colours, shapes and sizes. Kite flyers all around were armed with rolls of sellotape hurriedly repairing their kites for the next fight.
the kite vendors making repairs
Soon enough I had my very own kite to fly and stepped forward to take over the control of the thin string which immediately began zipping through my hands. The instant thrill that I felt meant that I let out a little squeal of happiness as I felt the resistance of the wind against my bright pink kite. “Higher, higher”, shouted Abdullah. “Don’t stop moving, or you will die”. I felt a release of adrenaline in me as the kids gathered around to watch what must have been the odd site of a grown woman excitedly flying a kite. I felt a pull against the kite, like a fish struggling against a fishing line, and then suddenly somebody shouted, “You cut him, you cut him!”. I had cut my very first kite, and now I was determined to get higher and higher.
my first kite fight
By this stage the children around me were watching the small dot in the sky with hawkish accuracy. A few moments later another cheer erupted as I cut another kite! I felt at one with my Afghan crowd as we all shared these moments of joy together with no need for language or cultural understanding. We all could relate to this pure, innocent happiness and fun.
I didn’t get much further after cutting two kites before I was cut down myself. However, I was left with Abdullah’s words, “Don’t stop or you will die” echoing in my mind for some time afterwards.
Perhaps kite fighting shows us the importance of keeping up the fight and following our dreams. Because giving up, stopping the fight for what you believe in and not following your dreams is the same as dying.
The sky is the limit.