Ai-Bo-Kaate!

Happy belated Independence Day! 15 August: A day to fly kites and listen to brash music blaring from rooftops. Now I hate the fact that I sat inside for the whole day yesterday. A little kite-flying wouldn’t have hurt me much (except my fingers).

It never ceases to drizzle on Independence Day here in Delhi. I have never ever witnessed an year when the clouds didn’t grace us. It is one of the mindless chitchats everyone talks about at least once because hundreds upon hundreds kites have to scramble inside every year without fail to avoid the wrath of the Rain, even if for a minute. Only the brave kites made of panni (a thick cellophane paper maybe; I don’t know the kind of its exact plastic) would be flying at that time, of course at the expense of wetting the manja (the cutting line used to cut the kites).

There are many types of kites: gudda and guddi (literally: “male and female dolls”, but just names for kites of bigger and smaller sized kites), pari (doesn’t have a traditional triangular tail but instead a bunch of thin paper strips), Tiranga (tri-colour, of India of course; it is actually a prized kite, heavy and big, which my cousin used to fly at the very end of day) and many more depending on the cuts, shapes, patterns, colours and whatnot. Yep, 15 august was never a patriotic day for me, no sir. But a day of fun and frolic, right up there to Rakshabandhan and Holi.

I am not much into kite-flying since I can’t actually fly one; it needs patience and perseverance to learn it. But the little that I know, I love it; though I need at least another person to give it a headstart (to give a kanni). It is a very tricky thing, you need to judge in advance the direction of wind to make it through the initial stages above the building, wires, poles and trees. After that it is relatively easy to let the kite breeze away with the wind (dheel: to let the kite fly away without hindrance). If you start pulling back your kite, it goes straight in the direction of its nose. That way you can make it zoom up or dive down or make it dance in the crowdy sky.

But this is only how to fly a kite. Real fun begins in pench (to fight among two kites to cut each other). One might have used any kind of thread to fly the kites, but no. They will get cut instantly by other ruthless kites; manjha has glass and other stuff making it quite strong and sharp; avid kite-flyers get their fingers cut but they tape them on and continue in their mission. And when you do manage to cut others’ thread, you shout at the top of your lungs… “Ai-Bo-Kaate!” It is just a way to catch others’ attention that you are, hold your breaths, proud winner of a battle of two kites. I always felt conscious to shout so loud, therefore I didn’t participate in the ritual (that I did manage to keep my kite after a pench was a rare phenomenon in itself) but I enjoyed it. 15 August automatically fills me to say, “Ai-Bo!!” There is so much inside me that wants you to shake you and tell you about what some people have been missing. Wikipedia tells me, ‘Kites in India are called patang and are fighter kites.’ What do you mean? What else is the point of kites?

It is a shame that the kites in the sky get less and lesser each year. Earlier people would start to fly kites in July even. The times have changed since then surely. Now that I was wondering to my friend a day before on 14th August why did we have the next day as holiday. Why didn’t the blue sky indictate the fact to me?! But the truth of the matter is I am only nostalgic of a time mere. Did August bring kites in my mind? No. Did I dismiss the thoughts of flying kites this year? Yes. Did I accept my father’s excited calls to go upstairs on the day of 15 August itself? No. I had passively thought it to be boring. Wasn’t I wrong! Yet the time is long gone now, the day and the kites. People would laugh at the person flying kites after Independence Day. Yet as I sit now and banging on this keyboard, I would love to just grab a kite and fly away with it!

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