The Kitemaker by Ruskin Bond
In The Kitemaker by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of tradition, mortality, loneliness, happiness, independence, kindness, pride and change. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of tradition. Mehmood once made his living form making kites. However as he grew older there were less people looking for kites and the long serving tradition that had made Mehmood a living eventually died out. However it is interesting that Mehmood still perseveres with making kites even if it is only to please his grandson Ali. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Bond seems to be highlighting the fact that the landscape has changed. This may be important as symbolically Bond may be suggesting that just as the landscape has changed or the city has grown so too has Mehmood. Though in Mehmood’s case he has grown older. A new generation has come to the city and Mehmood does not really know anyone. Where once he had visitors when he was younger. Now Mehmood is left alone. It is as though he is unknown by people apart from his family.
Which may be the point that Bond is attempting to make. He make be suggesting that with old age comes loneliness. Where previously Mehmood had been popular and known by all. Including the nawab. This is not the case now. It would appear that Mehmood’s days are spent either resting or making kites for Ali. Mehmood’s relationship with Ali is also interesting as he seems to be exceptionally kind to him. Where some might scorn Ali for flying his kite into the banyan tree. Mehmood doesn’t. Instead he gives Ali another kite to play with. It is as though Mehmood has reached a stage where his primary focus is on making Ali happy. It is also clear to the reader that Mehmood is proud of his abilities when it comes to making kites. Even if some of his creations have been a little difficult to fly. However this has never stopped Mehmood from making kites. He has had the ability to adapt when he has encountered difficulties with some of the kites he has made. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Mehmood has also been able to adapt to any changes that have occurred in his life.
Changes like having one son unable to come back home due to the partitioning that occurred between Pakistan and India. Though Mehmood is old he does appear to be relatively independent. There does not seem to be anybody in the story that he is reliant on. If anything Mehmood seems to be his own man. Something that may have come from the fact that he had his own business making kites. If anything the reader also gets a sense that Mehmood is enjoying his retirement. That life is good to him even if at times it can be lonely and he may feel as though he is forgotten about due to the changes that have occurred around him. However Mehmood does seem to accept life on life’s terms particularly when he makes the comparison between the banyan and the mimosa. Symbolically this could be important as Mehmood is comparing himself to the older banyan tree while at the same time realising that just as the mimosa is growing so too is Ali. It is as though there is a cycle in life and Mehmood knows that he himself is at the end of this cycle.
The end of the story is also interesting as when Mehmood dies the reader realises that he has done so peacefully. He has not been a burden on anyone and if anything he has brought joy to people, particularly to Ali. He has lived a full life and seen the city change before his eyes. This could be important as Bond may be suggesting or highlighting the fact that India was beginning to prosper at the time the story was written. Villages became towns and towns became cities. Yet the traditions that Mehmood had carried through from previous generations seemed to have gotten lost as people prospered. Something that leaves the reader wondering as to what price is there to be paid for prosperity. Change can be good but it can also result in the traditions of the past being forgotten about. Something which is very much the case in the story. There is nobody left after Mehmood to make kites for Ali or for anybody else. With Mehmood’s death comes not only the loss of life but the loss of tradition too. Though change is inevitable should it come at the cost of tradition. Should the past be forgotten just as Mehmood is sure to be forgotten.