Ruskin Bond

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Discussion Topic

"The Kitemaker" and its depiction of the past versus the present

Summary:

"The Kitemaker" contrasts the past and present by highlighting the changes in society and individual lives. The story reflects on how traditional crafts and simpler times are replaced by modernity and technological advancements, causing a sense of loss and nostalgia for the old ways.

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How does the story "The Kitemaker" depict the past as different from the present?

The old kitemaker, Mehmood, is much given to musing on how everything has changed. As soon as his grandson tells him that he has lost his kite, the old man asks whether the twine broke, since he thinks that "kite twine is not what it used to be." The kitemaker connects his own decline with the decline in kite-flying. He used to have a shop and was once well-known for his craft. Now, there is no demand for kites. When he was a young man, kite-flying was regarded as a sport for men, who would stage elaborate battles in the air with their kites. Even the Nawab would participate, and it was for him that the kitemaker created the famous "Dragon-kite."

Alongside the changes in the kitemaker himself and in the status of kite-flying, the old man discerns sweeping social changes. He thinks of the days of his youth as "more leisurely, more spacious." There was literally more space in the grassland that had stretched from the fort to the river, an area now swallowed up by urban sprawl. The status of the old aristocracy has also declined. The descendants of the magnificent Nawab who commissioned the Dragon-kite are now almost as poor as the kitemaker himself. Without patrons, the art of kite-making, like many other arts that added color and excitement to life, is dying out.

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How does "The Kite Maker" depict the past as different from the present?

Ruskin Bond’s story “The Kite Maker” presents the differences between past and present in rural India primarily through the nostalgic recollections of an elderly man. Sitting under a tree while his grandson flies a kite, Mehmood reminisces about village life when he was a young man. The story’s title is derived from Mehmood’s former profession. He recalls that life was leisurely and people had time to fly kites. The village also had more open space suitable for that activity.

The local social system in those days was apparently based in a fixed structure, with the village chief at its head. Mehmood fondly recalls working directly for this chief, called the nawab, providing him with fancy kites that were too complicated even to fly.

In the bygone days that Mehmood recalls, the village was part of a large British colony. What was then India included the contemporary countries of India and Pakistan. Mehmood’s musings include missing one of his sons, who remained in Pakistan after Partition. He expresses his gratitude that his other son has remained in India and that this gives him the opportunity to spend time with his grandson. Kite making now seems an unusual activity, and Mehmood appreciates the chance to share it with Ali.

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