Tuesday, February 2, 2010


The last weekend brought an unexpected treat: kite flying. Actually, Makar Sankrat, or Uttraan, or the Kite Flying day is long past, on January 14th, when the sun entered the Makar Constellation. However, this year, on that weekend, there were no prospects conducive to kite flying due to unreasonable cold and illogical winds.

As a child, I remember figuring out my year in terms of the festivals, starting with this one. I remember the blaring of popular movie songs, the fragrance of molasses cooking in ghee and sesame seeds, the usually interrupted cerulean of the sky as a patchwork of kites, kite-tails, even lanterns. I remember the familiar streets from a height, as the day would begin and end on roof tops and terraces, and instead of the hawkers and occasional cars, the streets would be rife with boys running after kites with dead branches, the better to snare them with, my dear!

I never thought that this would be one of the festivals I'd miss; it was never the most favorite one, since I am female. Where I grew up, there was a strong gender differentiation: the girls usually held the spool of kite-thread, while their male counterparts actually flew the kites. It was a truth universally acknowledged that one needed a boy to really control kites, to fly them, to mend them, to balance them, and to shout appropriate expletives during kite-wars. One of the most important things to do during recess was to compare scars borne on one's hands, cuts from the kite-thread which was processed in glass dust. But this was only for the boys: the scars sported by the girls were frowned upon as proof of their unacceptable tom-boy-ish tendencies.

However, as an adult, I find that I do miss flying kites. I find I love the heavy tension of the kite-thread when the kite is high, and the knowledge that it is high because I wish it to be. I love to control a weaving kite with well-timed snatches, to steer it within the air currents, to let the kite-string flow as the kite discovers new heights, to coax and bully it to go even higher than it thought possible. I bear the scars of kite-thread on my fingers and palms with a great deal of pride.

Adulthood has also brought me an added satisfaction to flying kites: I don't care what people think of my femininity or lack thereof. I am too old (and therefore, too invisible) to be judged for exhibiting tendencies that are not stereotypical of my gender. In fact, I hope, the sight of my battling the winds that my kite may greet the sun, could hearten other younger females to try their skill with more comfort because they aren't the only ones.

This month also brought me a physical copy of an anthology which has published my short story, with a check (my first). For about a week, every time I looked down at it, I felt an unbelieving joy, hunger for what my friends and family thought of it, and itchiness in my fingers for fixing it further.

It felt like a high I remember from my childhood on rooftops in the cool dawning. I know once the story is published, I have no control over it, that in effect, the kite-string is cut and beyond my reach. Still, there is a responsibility that comes with the sight of my name in print.

I feel the heaviness of the sky on my story, grounded by my name below it, a feeling as concrete, as nebulous as the illusion of control over a kite buffeted by January winds.


  1. I never even thought that Utaran had its own gender discrimination :-)

  2. I am not saying that it doesn't, I just never thought of of it. I guess, I was too busy flying kites :-)