14.1.14

Chasing memories

It was always about the thrill of the hunt.

You marked your terrritories and, by purple, you fought to retain them.  If any marauders dared enter your zone, your pack got together and chased them - even if a moment later you were all hissing at each other over the latest prize.

And then, patience.

You waited and waited, and waited, watching every move eagerly, but patiently.  Over-anticipate and you ended up snatching at air. Or somebody's hair (spite, baby).

You watched and you watched, and when one came your way, you ran.  You dodged and you tracked and you ran onto cars and into trees and up on Shouts-Loudly-At-Cricket-Time Auntie's window.  You didn't look down at what you'd stepped into, you didn't look ahead to make sure you weren't barging into somebody (did they not know the chase was on?).  You just looked up, head pulled back as if by an invisible thread, and you watched the thread.  And you kept your nerve and you calculated the angle and monitored the wind direction and you allowed for window-drag and as it got closer, you waited and waited and ... wait for it ... and elbow! and jump.

And if you managed to avoid the pitfalls of being tripped and of wet-ears and shorts-pulled-down (what? beshht tactic) and you got your arms around it and embraced it quickly to your chest, gently but firmly, practicising for your lothario years to come, and you kept it away from poking fingers and tearing hands, then ... well, then the kite was yours. 

The kite was yours.

It was yours and you had it and everybody knew it and they grudgingly, resentfully backed off.  And that moment, that moment was groovy.

(And if you got the kite and all the manjhaa ... oh, baby)

And you were hooked onto it.  And that is why you never learnt to fly kites properly (besides, kites as a proxy for fighting? There was monsoon-football for that. Or marbles. Or hide-and-seek. Or ... anything really). And that is why you never had to buy any kites, ever.  And that is why you would scream louder than the winner of a kite-match, because really, it was you who really knew the thrill.

And that is why you stayed down and stayed low and you ran.  You ran in the holidays and you ran after coming home from school and you ran even when it was too dark to see if it was a kite or a bat.  

You ran.

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It's been so many years since I was in Bombay for Sankrant.

Growing up, January in the city was all about kites. Christmas was gone, a new year was here, and you were still on holidays and things were supposed to be ... easy.  No sports, no games, just kites.

The kids started in the afternoon, and by the evening, the adults had joined in.  Shivering slightly at the nippy sea breeze bringing the last of the winter across, bundled in our sweaters ('beta, sweater pehno') at 18C. Every day would see a few more joining in, slowly filling up the skies with colour and shouts.

We used to make noise from the ground too, egging on vain fliers into battles they didn't want, and gleefully screaming when they lost, and lost their kites.  No sympathy - they had more of those bought kites to spare.  Every day going home to count the day's, and the overall, tally. Some days more kites than books.

Two weeks of kites and thread and kites and thread and then on the main day ... manna from heaven. Run run run ... jump.

(I'm not sure what I used to do with those kites after it was all over.  Maybe I gave them away to anybody who wanted to fly them.  Maybe I stashed them away till one day re-discovering their mildewed remains.)

Today, however ... heck, even 15 years ago, it had changed.  Who had the time for kites?  We had liberalisation, and cable, and even The InterNet.  We had money to make, and worlds to explore, and games to cheat-code on, and people to write to now now.

I would stand at my window, too grown-up to run, too disinterested to fly, watching the swoops and soars and the dheel de-ing and then go back to this world of books and music and art and movies and knowledge that I was discovering.

I imagine it's worse now.  There's probably an app somewhere that lets you indulge virtually.  Maybe the only shouts of Kai Po are from somebody watching the film.

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One year, I'll go back to the city on the day.
And if there's even one kite in the sky around, I'll run.
I will run.

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