Updated: Sep 27, 2020
Photograph by Tammy Pineda
The scorching heat of the afternoon followed by the sudden downpour had made it difficult for the people to fly kites on the occasion of Rakshabandhan. But now that the deluge had stopped, people emerged on their roofs as ants emerge from their castle. The downpour had cooled the evening and cleared the sky and brought some relief to the people. The Trikuta hills and several other hills and mountains that surrounded the plain region betrayed their dominance. As far as one could see from the rooftops, the silhouette of the giant mountains didn't fail to mark their presence. The beautiful sunset had created an ambient atmosphere of trance. Streaks of pink golden rays ran parallel to the stretched silhouettes of mountains. Everyone was taking in the cold breeze of August evening, conscious of the rhythmic movements of inhalation and exhalation. The various plants and trees surrounding the houses had not dried yet. Drops of water persisted on the leaves as morning dew. Just as a snail glides along the path slowly, the dewdrops on the leaves glided down, merged into each other and eventually fell off the leaves into the soil beneath. The aroma of the earth that arose from the merging of aqua and soil stimulated the olfactory receptors of the beings. The people had started appearing on their rooftops from every which house. Some people were here to play the sport; some were to help, and others were the spectators.
Two brown sparrows perched on the parapet undisturbed and took note of their surroundings, contributing to their part as spectators from different species. A purple sunbird hovered over a high bough of a tree and sang a song to summon his comrades to witness the once-in-a-year moment. The initiation of the event started with loud music on the loudspeakers. Pieces of electrical tape were being cut and wound on the fingers lest they get severed by the 'pucca dor' (a string of either plastic or cotton covered by powered glass) which they had specially ordered. The people made sure that the triangle of the thread (kite knots) was perfectly aligned and anchored. They rubbed the dorsal side of the kite on their head and looked assertive as if their weapon of choice was ready to hunt others' down. When the people were immersed in tying the kite knots, a tailor bird referred to as 'darzi' by the locals paid a brief visit to the lawns and gardens of the neighborhood and retreated to its niche stitching leaves to make its nest. The helpers of the kite flyers held the kite from its horizontally opposite corners in their hand hiding their face and traced some steps back making the length of string between them tighten and on the count of three, gave a little push up which was then maneuvered by the kite flyers. A moment later numerous kites surfaced in the vast sky like a swarm of honey bees absconded from the hive. The kites floated in the air like the particles of dust floating in a beam of sunlight that sneaks its way through the windows in the early hours of the day. The aves patrolling the sky could not be distinguished from the flying kites. The sight of this particular evening was fascinating. The sky looked less like sky and more like a vast ocean. An ocean in which the houses, trees and other terrestrial objects resembled the bed of the ocean whereas the aves and the kites of the sky resembled the Pisces of the aquatic life. Afar, some birds deceived the sight of people who mistook them for butterflies fluttering their wings. There was a multitude of kite designs but only two major forms- polythene and paper which the locals referred to as 'momi' and 'kakzi' respectively featured prominently. These two forms hinted at the heterosexuality of the kite species of this parallel dimension.
As the kite flyers made the movement of their wrists and fingers, the kites traced different patterns in accordance with the conductor. The evening scene seemed surreal as clouds surfacing the sky emitted yellow-golden embers of scintillating sun-rays which shimmered like the colours of a kaleidoscope.
Looking at any kite was intriguing enough as it danced, gyrated, whirled and twirled in the blue emptiness. It rose and sank in the deep crevices of the luminous clouds. It shivered, quivered and whispered when the marionette pulled the thread too fast, commanding it to rise up and cut through the resistance of the cold air. At other times it sobbed. Another kite far away resembled a dolphin which rose up to the surface of the water, did some acrobatic spins, flipped and breached the ocean. A group of white paper kites in the east with a warm background of orange tinge resembled a group of dancing dervishes who danced in ecstasy and lay immersed in the divine energy of that spiritually charged evening. There were also instances where small children could not manage to fly their kites in the large space. They only managed to fly the kites within the parameters of their rooftops with constant take off and touch down inkling towards the nestlings (too young to leave their nest) of the kites that knew no limits. At the farthest point to which the biological binoculars could accommodate and perceive objects, rose a kite from nowhere like a renegade nearing a rather high altitude. It rose past the height of clouds closing in on a crack in the sky. As it advanced, the clouds that guarded the opening shifted bidirectionally like the drapes and curtains of a theatre slide sideways on the horizontal rail. Its steep ascent suggested that a little more distance shall grant it entry to the other side of the door, the crack, thus derailing it from the existence that it once possessed. At one unoccupied locus, a pair of the kite was engaged in their public display of affection. They were the lovers that knew no bounds. Like two birds that had been freed from the bondage of iron bars, they celebrated their freedom by hugging, kissing and teasing each other. They caressed each other and played footsie with their strings that remained unperceived to the naked eyes. The diverse sizes, patterns, colours and designs of the kites gave a sense of the vast diversity in the world of kites. Once people had had the control of their kites, and once the kites had touched the sky, the play got exciting. With the excitement filling the surrounding, the hovering clouds increased their luminosity to manifest their enthusiastic part of the performance. Two kites controlled by two people advanced each other. The person farther from the other loosened some of the thread and let his kite near the other kite. The distance between the two gradually decreased. The bout of sparring between two kites was like two snakes fighting with three emerging possibilities. Either one would survive, either both would survive, or none of them would survive. Both the people tactfully controlled the movement of their kites. A little pull on the thread. A little letting out. A fierce pull. A little letting out. The mind game of pulling and letting out the string to control friction between the two lines continued.
During the performance, some birds with parched throat excused themselves to quench their thirst with the water bath set up for them. The kites had now intertwined as two snakes coiled, determined to kill each other. Amidst this ongoing fight, several eagles stood laying eyes on this fight. They knew that their treat was due. In this alternative world, these eagles are the 'kite looters', several small children and boys grouped in small armies or alone, who wait and wait for their chance to loot. They didn't remain still but made movements a little here a little there on unpaved boulevards with, gaze fixed at their prey. Some of them had succeeded in completion of early loots as they hung the kites across their shoulders as quivers. The kite looters did not care where the kite sparring took place. They were ever ready to run and chase the lost possession of an unknown possessor. It did not matter to them, how far from home the chase took them.
The rush of adrenaline to grasp the kite by its thread took complete control of their mind and body. After some moments of the frictional tussle between the two lines, the kite knot of one of the kites loosened inflicting injury to the soldier. It lost control and made mad movements like an injured horse on a battlefield. The kite eventually lost the fight and started to swing and float with the wind like a lost cause. At that instant, the continuous twitter, chirping and singing of the birds got submerged under the gigantic waves of momentary shouts and shrills of the people.
The sunset had welcomed dusk, and a pale crescent moon had joined the scene. The kite looters ran keeping the kite in sight, and without looking down, their legs pursued the target, through the rough and muddy pathways. The street dogs howled and growled as the kite looters trespassed their territories. The kite kept floating to and fro in the air and finally disappeared in the pitch darkness that blended with the momentary dusk. Having had a vain chase, the kite looters disappointed yet hopeful, veered their focus at another mid-air snake fight, at another coordinate in the three-dimensional alternate reality. The music that rented the air so far gave over to the evening prayers of the temple. The two sparrows had retreated to their nest already. A group of birds with glittering necks as if a precious necklace sat on a high-water tank and looked up at another bird with the same necklace that sat on a water pipe, two feet above them. The group of birds with glittering necks gave an impression of the disciples who remained absorbed in the sermon being delivered by the head bird with the same glittering element. The lingering hue of the sky lent enchantment to an observer of this entire play, who lay still in the silence of the darkness on his rooftop and pondered over the action of the controller and the controlled. He wondered how the life of a man was no different than the kites he saw that evening. He wondered if the life of a man, the cycles of nature, the actions of a man and the actions of nature were somehow interwoven. He wondered if the daily happenings in the life of a being were some cues that skipped unnoticed. He questioned the position of a man in this ever-changing world of increasing chaos which he knows not is real or not. He wondered if the people were also being controlled by some unknown marionette just the way they controlled the actions of their flying kites. He thought how the sparring of the kites betrayed the innate nature of the beings of inflicting suffering and deriving pleasure from other's pain. The maddening movement of the broken kite as if it had received a concussion in its cerebellum flashed an image in his mind of the statue of a horse in the city chowk with its one leg up and dawned on him how humans put the lives of others on stake for their mere selfish reasons. He figured out from the lustful stare of the kite looters that a person's desires and possessions are not his only desires and possessions. The greed of successful kite looters who hung the quivers as their souvenirs mirrored the ever-increasing and never diminishing urge of the greed of humans for power, desires, control, possessions and lust. The never-ending feeling of contempt. As he stood immersed in his thoughts, yet another cold breeze bringing in with it the tantalizing aroma of the surrounding paraphernalia took his thoughts in much more profound realms of his subconsciousness. His thoughts halted at the scene of the dangling kite that reflected the desire of a person. The images of the moments passed by, of the person holding the line connecting him to the kite, made him think of how a person clings to his desires. How sometimes holding firm onto one's desires causes pain and suffering to the self unlike the cuts from the powered glass coated thread and how at times letting go of one's desire receptions relief. It was as if the holy day had painted a clear picture before him. He reminisced about the events of the past and the flashes of the lifelessly floating kite, now far away from the possession of the kite flyer, in the dark abyss of oblivion drew the idea upon him that one does not get everything one desires in life.
The act of the conductors of pulling and letting go of string, the act of guessing and gambling the frictional heat between the two lines brought a smile on his lips more akin to realization of the fact that life is a gamble and we are all gamblers.
Also read: I Understand by Meghna Anil Nair
Satyarth Pandita is a BS-MS undergraduate student in Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal. He is doing his major in Biological Sciences. He loves to read and write. He has a keen interest in science, literature and cinema. Many of his short stories and articles have been published in the state newspapers like Daily Excelsior and Springer of Kashmirtimes.
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