MISSION TO KABUL

H Ronken Lynton

As you read the newspapers with their daily stories of the Middle East and Afghanistan, do you ever wonder what Muslim family life is like, with men and women inhabiting separate parts of the home? Or what it would be like to be a woman in purdah? Mission to Kabul starts there, in 19th century India, then takes the protagonist from his comfortable, predictable environment on a life-changing journey. Attempting to protect his younger brother, Mahmoud is jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. This makes him vulnerable, on his release, to being blackmailed into undertaking a dangerous mission to Afghanistan.

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As you read the newspapers with their daily stories of the Middle East and Afghanistan, do you ever wonder what Muslim family life is like, with men and women inhabiting separate parts of the home? Or what it would be like to be a woman in purdah? Mission to Kabul starts there, in 19th century India, then takes the protagonist from his comfortable, predictable environment on a life-changing journey. Attempting to protect his younger brother, Mahmoud is jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. This makes him vulnerable, on his release, to being blackmailed into undertaking a dangerous mission to Afghanistan. Along the way he meets kindness and trickery, danger and luxury, is kidnapped, shot, imprisoned by a bounty hunter, arrested by the British, and surprised by joy. Mission to Kabul is a story of passion, lust, love, betrayal, trust, political intrigue, and growth.

Weaving in and out of Mahmoud’s story is that of his happy-go-lucky younger brother, Hamidullah. Hamid manages to make contact with his employer’s beautiful young daughter, who is sequestered in purdah, with disastrous results.

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  • Mapinlit
  • Paperback
  • 2006
  • 284 Pages
  • 9781890206956

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$17.50

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About H Ronken Lynton

H. Ronken Lynton was born in Minnesota, graduated Magna cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Radcliffe College, and became the third woman on the Harvard Business School Faculty. She and Rolf Lynton, her British husband, went in 1955 to live in Asia and have spent about half of the time since then in India, continuing to go there every year. For years, their base was Hyderabad, the largest of the Princely States, where the Nizam (ruler) and the aristocracy were largely Muslim. In addition to numerous writings in the business field, she has published The Days of the Beloved, about Mahbub Ali Pasha, the charismatic 19th century Nizam of Hyderabad; My Dear Nawab Saheb, an account of Sir Salar Jung, Mahbub’s prime minister, in his relations with the British; Born to Dance, a biography of Mrinalini Sarabhai, India’s most famous classical dancer; and The Sawdust House, a novel of Norwegian immigrants who settled southern Minnesota in the 1850s.

Praise

Mission to Kabul … sensitively portrays men and women who are caught up in political and romantic intrigues. This novel reveals striking insights from a long-time observer of South Asia, and it’s a crackling good story as well.” —Professor Carl Ernst, University of North Carolina

Discussion Questions

Until recently most Americans have known very little about Islam. In view of international developments the past few years, many Americans now think of Muslims as violent and either perpetrators or victims of terrorism. What did Mission to Kabul add to your picture of Islam and/or Muslims?

Did reading this book add to your understanding of women in purdah? What do you now see as the disadvantages of purdah life for a woman? Are these offset in any way by any advantages?

How did you think about Anees in the early part of the book? Did your picture of her change before the end?

Do you think Khatija was a good influence on Anees? In what way was she good or not?

What did you think of Hamid’s behavior when he first heard about Anees? Later, when pressed by Khatija, did he make the right choice?

Several times characters in this book were called “budmash” by some other character. Budmash means scoundrel. Would you call any of the characters Budmash? Who? If you had to pick only one, who would you choose?

Do you think the Minister was justified in his scheme? Explain your reasoning.

Did reading Mission to Kabul change or add anything to your understanding of Afghanistan? Is there anything in the book that helps you understand what you read in the newspapers?

What do you think Mahmoud means by honor? What do you mean by it? When it’s a question of honor, do you think he makes good choices?

Would you prefer Hamid or Mahmoud for a friend? Why?

Does Mahmoud have any friends?

Would you like any of the women in the story for a friend? What would you expect from them?

Muslims pray five times a day: at the start of the day, at starting the day’s work, at noon, at the end of the day’s work, at the end of the day. How does this schedule feel to you? Does prayer at the end of the working day remind you of the Angelus? What other prayers in the early Christian church or in monasteries does the Islamic prescription remind you of? Do you have any habits or can you think of any modern rituals that fulfill the same purposes today?