Flying kites on a misty December

Lucky Sapam *

Sunset with west hills in the background
Sunset with west hills in the background

Anybody who grew up their childhood in Manipur has a 'kite story' to tell. The ordinary experience felt by anybody surrounding a kite is itself a great way to start a story. In the early days of my childhood when winter comes, it was always the perfect timing for flying kites. The exams would be over and we would be free. Childhood freedom meant absolute freedom. We had nothing to worry about and our minds would not indulge in any deep thoughts about the future or show any sign of worrisome or such.

As we grow up now, we indulged ourselves in self-talk and our minds are busier than ever, even when we think we are free, we are never really free at all. And so, when traits like forgetfulness and seriousness creeps in, that are the signs telling us that we are indeed growing up. I am not complaining though. Ha!

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness"-John Steinbeck. The Cold December wind blew and it blew well. With dry skins and cracked lips the fun was boundless. Before the advent of video games, internet and Smartphones the environment around us were fresh and jubilant. In the morning and in the evening, every locality would be echoed with sound of the ringing temple bells and we would try to sync with the beats and with the chimes of the bells while we played in the park.

In the morning around ten o'clock the intensity of the wind would be low and so the flying of kite was difficult nevertheless we did not stop trying. Sometimes nature play weird games and the kite would fly high in an instant and moments later it would come crashing down like a lifeless object. Life can be compared with the kite at times.

Sometimes we feel we are free and happy but in reality there will be some burden attached with us and we are not really free just like the kite with strings attached with it. In the afternoon we would gather around up in the terrace basking in the sunlight and having lunch. The cold northern wind is blocked by the numerous hills and mountains and yet the temperature would be freezing. With bamboo trees swaying in the background, there would be an old radio player in front on us and we would listen to it tuning to the afternoon English Channel.

In the evening around three o'clock with dusk imminent, there would be plenty of kites flying in from the west side of my house towards the east side of the hills with great ferocity and with immense technicality. The people flying these kites are grown adults having great skills and proficiencies. They know exactly what they intend to do. Area domination is the ultimate goal for any kite flyer. There was no mercy or excuse up in the sky. The sky was always in a belligerent mode. There were allies though.

I still vividly remember my first kite flying experience. It was one afternoon at the rooftop of my house; I was staring at the cloudless clear blue sky where there was a flock of kites flying around. Some kites were made of plastic of different colours, some were made with colourful attractive paper, some had short tails attached to them while others had very long tails. Initially I thought kite flying was only for the grownups and would be difficult in flying so. That was just a myth though.

There are myths everywhere we go and breaking of these myths are never done for the fear of being backfired and ill judgement by the people. The first step is breaking any myth is by questioning them. So seeing the kites in the sky, I wanted to fly one of those but I knew nothing about it. As I was staring up in the sky, my mom and dad came up to the terrace and they saw me staring at the sky with great anticipation. Usually afternoons in my house are quiet with less commotions of movement of people in and around the house. In my upbringing, I was given lots of firm and calculated freedom. My mind was never pressured nor allowed it to go haywire or carefree.

But make no mistake here; I have had my fair share of punishment and other correction methods (if you know what I mean). Seeing me staring the sky, my dad asked me if I wanted to learn to fly kites. With excitement I said yes. He took out some cash and gave me, telling me to buy some kites and also the kite strings. I ran to a nearby shop and asked the shopkeeper for five kites and the kite strings too. That was when the cost of a kite was Re.1 and so for five kites, it was five rupees and for the strings it was twenty rupees.

Having purchased the kites and the strings, I dashed home with excitement and with great eagerness. My dad arranged the strings to connect the kite with rest of the strings, it was a simple procedure yet I couldn't grasp it. After it was all set and done, he waited for the right moment and the right flow of wind to release the kite. When that moment arrives, he released the kite and in an instant, the kite was up in the air. He handed over the kite to me and asked me to take over. I took over the kite, holding the string and pulling it, adjusting it over to let it fly. That's how I learnt to fly kites.

I usually flew my kite from the roof top of my house and that gave me a slight advantage than flying from the ground because of the elevation which by the way was a big factor. I always wanted my string to be the sharpest and the strongest. With various formulations from various places and with a wide range of shrewd inputs from different people, I would try to sharpen my kite string with great care and determination.

In the early days when I started flying kites, I used to mix the fine powdered glass with rice and apply that mixture on the string. But as we know, information spreads like wildfire and it reaches an individual swiftly provided that particular individual keeps his/her eyes and ears open all the time. Constantly we get information about new varieties of formula for strings sharpening. So there are always hectic preparations and arrangements for the perfect formula. The secrets are well guarded by the individual like guarding the KFC secret herbs or the Cola formula.

The Bible says: "A horse is prepared for the battle, but the victory comes from the Lord". The preparation of string sharpening was always for the battle of kite fight where victory was never guaranteed. The process of kite fighting is simple yet requires good calculation and planning. The two fighters will entangle their strings and try to cut each other. It requires skill with well planned procedure to win the fight. The numerous versus of kites between individuals and wanting to win over the others has indeed a deep hidden virtue for later stages of life. It teaches about passion of work, dedication, patience and also healthy, fair competition. Things we take for granted are the ones which come back and hits at us later. Knowingly or unknowingly we learn something from anything we do.

"Socializing with kites"

Learning to socialize with strangers is not easy and can be uncomfortable at times and that's human nature. In our locality there was a boy who did not socialize much with the other boys around. One evening as usual we were flying kites and also observing the numerous kite fights. Suddenly out of nowhere from the west, a kite appeared at my sight and was racing towards my kite for a dual. I took no hesitation in engaging with it.

Before I even start engaging with it, my kite string was cut just by mere touch of the other kite's string. Like a free bird, my kite flew away from me. It was always a sad moment. Any parting in our life is never sweet. But sometimes parting is a sweet sorrow because our emotions and thinking change in an instant and we yearn for a new change, beginning and new challenges.

The moment my kite broke free, I did not lose hope. I knew I could run after and get it. After all, hope drives a man forward but also at the same time hope drives a man crazy. I ran down from the building and raced towards the roads, keeping my eyes firmly on the kite. Kite runner they called, ran wherever the kite flew. Safety was never my concern. Priority in mind was to get the kite only. The kite flew and flew and at last it landed on top on a three storage building.

As soon as I reached the building, there was no second thought of me wanting to know the people living there. I barged in and told the uncle that my kite is on top the building and even before he could say something and I raced towards the staircase and ran straight up to the third floor. Raising a dog is a common obsession for many families; the dog becomes part of the family and is treated like a family member.

One particular trait about dog is the ability to distinguish between strangers and known ones. I did not know that they had a dog. So as I ran up the building, the dog too was running behind me furiously but quietly and I did not know. As soon as I reached the top, the dog started barking vociferously and I began to panic since I have had bad experiences with dogs in the past. I got hold of my kite but my life was on a verged of a dog attack.

In order to restraint myself from an imminent attack, I climbed up to a higher wooden platform and started chanting all sorts of magical and soothing words to the dog to make it calm down. It did not work. At this critical moment, the boy of the house came up and rescued me and I breathed a sigh of relief at last. That's how I became friends with the boy who did not socialize much.

Lastly, before I go.

As I look at the sunset at the horizon in the west hills, the surroundings around me became quiet and picturesque. The birds flew in hurried manner but with calmness. The foggy mist began to cover the environment and so the visibility drops leaving the backdrop breathtaking. People began lighting up bonfires around the street sides to warm themselves. And so, the retrieving of kites began and it was done in a gradual manner. Like a soldier braving a war and returning to the camp, the kite too came home. It was just another day.

* Lucky Sapam wrote this article for
The writer is a resident of Bangalore and can be contacted at sapamlucky(aT)gmail(doT)com
This article was posted on November 11, 2015.

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