I was about eleven and my elder sister was thirteen- two of my younger sisters were seven and four.
We were on a mission. We wanted to fly a kite.
Now, the villain, as there is always one amidst such missions was my father- who had somehow smelled the plan and warned us in his father-voice, looking at us straight in our eyes- with his finger pointing towards the sky: ‘No Kites! Stay Away from kites.’
We didn’t know why he wanted to keep us away from kites so zealously, and when dad spoke like that no one bothered to argue or ask, but what we did know was: he would have to go to office and we would be home.
So, in short, the mission could still be achieved without his knowledge or a direct rebellion. My uncle (my father’s younger brother), was visiting us at that time, he sympathised with our desire and agreed to help us achieve our flight into the blue sky. So as soon as dad left for office we all left for the kite shop, which was just a short walk away from home, to buy ourselves our first kites.
The shop was a small one which specialised in kites, somewhat like a museum of kites. It was covered with kites, so much so that one couldn’t even see an inch of the wall or the shop-ceiling. In the centre, behind the counter stood this middle-aged brusque man, with a thick mane of white hair and brown skin, contrasting in this obvious way with the colourful kites- he looked like a dull bodied insect who had suddenly been given these very colourful butterfly wings. The kites on display seemed impatient to get away from him, to be with someone more alive and happy. Perhaps therefore his shop did such good business in the kite flying season- it seemed he had forgotten he was a kite seller or perhaps we only see magic in things when they are not too familiar.
I distinctly remember that most of the clamour there was made by young men and boys- we were the only girls buying kites.
So, we bought two kites- one was pink and yellow and the other was green and blue. We also bought the thread, manjha- and disarmed by our new possessions we walked back to our house, chattering on the way back, our uncle explaining how the wind was nice and gentle and thus it would be easy to hoist the kite.
Just as we were walking back, my sister looked behind because she heard a familiar sound, and as expected we saw our father scooting back on his lambrata. We were not stupid. We knew why he had decided to return from office just after an hour of leaving. A surprise check. He deserves credit for knowing his girls.
Now, so much for courage soaring like kites, as soon as we saw a soft focus him on his scooter steadily coming our way, we threw the kites on the road and flew in different directions to reach home.
Needless to add he had seen us and the kites.
After that most of what I remember is a blur. Although I do remember the damp darkness of the the toilet where I chose to hide. I locked it from inside and sat on the pot, waiting for the sounds to reveal a narrative outside. Post that I remember dad thumping on the door and asking me to open it. Then, I do not remember much.
It was after many years that I came to know the reason. My father had witnessed a young boy fall to his death from the roof of a house while flying a kite, and so, perhaps had decided it is better to keep his girls away from the activity. Adult logic works in strange ways: it has no rationale at times, and is just another name for fear earned from experiencing life. He was sure we would forget we are moving backwards on the roof when flying the kite, and would fall off and break our necks like that unfortunate boy.
Post that episode I never really got close to flying a kite. When I travel to small towns or across highways- I see so many tiny things dotting the sky, if you follow them you often find a group of young boys or middle aged men standing on roof tops and enjoying that feeling, that feeling of being able to hoist something so far away into this unknown blue.
The blue sky. You. Kite. Why do we fly kites?
Perhaps it is a moment of oneness with the unknown, what one can see but not actually experience. A moment of control and freedom. A moment of harmony- when you need to give freedom to the kite but still gently hold onto it, so it remembers it is flying from earth, from you. The kite becomes a kite because of us. We soar because of the kite.
I rarely see a group of girls or women fly kites with abandon and playfulness, for fun, as a sport or evening activity. Today, while sprucing through my old travel diary I found an old note: 21/08/2003- Saw a group girls flying a kite in Kanpur. They are rowdy, boisterous and loud.
I remember, I saw them just before sunset- four girls standing behind one tall girl in a pink salwar suit, who was tugging at the kite expertly- I followed the slant of her hand, the thread and then the kite, far away in the sky- it was a yellow and blue kite- just like the one I had thrown on the road that evening. They all were shrieking something about “cutting a kite” – just then my eyes found a group of young boys on the opposite side.
It was a dual of love.
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