“I am not sure there is enough of a breeze”, I said. “Maybe up there it is ok”, Sudhir replied. We were looking up at the terrace of his building. The yellow kite with a red circle in the middle was struggling to take air and fly.
“See you”, I said as I crossed the road towards my building. The winter evening is pleasant and I feel like lingering. That’s when I really heard the excited voices, kids playing, parents laughing – general mirth in the air. I looked back up at the terrace to Sudhir’s place – Arun, his right arm bent in a ‘V’, was pulling at the kite in short, quick movements, coaxing it to stay afloat, to catch the breeze. The others were in various stages getting ready to fly their own kites – Prabhu was ‘launching’ the kite for Rakesh, the spouses were watching eagerly. Should I join the party? I hesitated.
As I turned back and trudged along, memories of glorious Michigan summers flooded me. We would all get together and fly kites made of cloth and plastic. I had never done it much in India but fell in love with it immediately. There was joy in it – and peace. You can be with a lot of people when flying a kite and yet be alone; the tension in the twine is company enough. “Kites are simple”, I smiled to myself – “or are they?” I ran into DP near the steps to my building. “Not flying kites?” I asked in greeting. “I really want to but I am not so sure after I saw those pictures”, he said, passing by with a pink plastic ball in his hand – a familiar sight in the evenings; his little girl was waiting for him.
I knew what he was talking about; I had seen those pictures too. Some PGPs had written an email, you get so many of them. This one somehow caught my eye and the images remained with me. Suddenly I heard loud cheers – I had just come in to my second floor apartment – I knew what was going on; a duel, someone has made a cut. I slung my bag off my shoulder, not caring where it fell, and hurried back out, up the stairs. I stumbled across the threshold, on to the terrace and looked up to see a crowd of happy faces; looking right at me, no, a little above and beyond to my left into the sky. They were not more than a few feet away but on the adjacent terrace. I felt a little embarrassed to have intruded on their moment and turned away. That’s when I felt a short, sharp sting in my palm. I had somehow lost it in the background; the manja going across my terrace had caught in my hand.
I wandered around the terrace looking into the sky – my thoughts back with that email from the PGPs. They had written about an endangered species of vultures nesting on our campus. The kites were hanging in the sky, bobbing and weaving like a prize fighter from time to time. A lot of birds were flying around noisily. I felt nervous, as if I was anticipating something. How come the birds cannot see, I mused, suddenly looking down at my palm. I sensed someone watching me. A big bird, brown with a tuft of white, was perched on the guard rails, looking at me intently, asking something. And then it was gone.
I started down the steps slowly nodding my head in agreement with DP.
P.S: The kite festival “Uttarayan” is just round the corner on 14th of January, 2009 and every year it is celebrated with great zeal & fervor across Ahmedabad. But the festivities also leave a trail of blood behind. The kite strings are coated with glass powder and cause severe cuts on birds which get entangled in them. Every year, more than 3000 birds are maimed / killed in Ahmedabad alone due to this festival. This includes endangered species of vultures for which IIM A is one among only 4 nesting places in & around Ahmedabad. Courtesy – Help the birds campaign 2009. The images mentioned can be sees here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btzIRCRABd4
P.P.S: Both DP and I enjoyed flying kites on January 14 from the terrace of our building. I am happy to report that no birds were harmed in the process. I did take the precaution of using thread not treated with glass powder and not flying kites early morning and late evening when birds are most active.