If you step into the older alleys of Calcutta, just when the sun has tilted beyond the horizon in the western sky, on any given summer day, you will find the light, paper creatures taking over the sky, one kite at a time, filling up each corner of the sky. Restless boys have waited this long, for the sun to mellow and the wind to turn. Now is when they should be out there, taking to the wind, spreading their wings. Out come the ‘latai‘, a reel load of ‘manja‘ , the sharp,thick thread, sharpened further with a layer of powdered glass (the finer the powder the better) and a bunch of coloured paper stretched over arched frames of reed-thin sticks, shaped into diamonds.
Then there is no stopping them, the coloured beings. Little boys breath life into them and let them loose on the southern wind. They take to the sky, soar, swim with the rising currents, soar further and then the game begins. There, from the yellow house roof top, a black and white diamond has turned inwards and is almost at the tail of the green, red and white diamond ‘mukhpora‘. Another pink ‘bogga‘, let loose from the tall building with broad parapets, has already cornered a ‘mombati‘ into surrendering. The riot of colours in the sky is not just feast to the eye anymore, it is a battle field, each battle well strategised and each kite-flier a deft warrior. A big sweep down, a loop and a sudden, strong pull ends a well fought battle. A kite soars up to announce its triumph and the other floats away, suddenly cut loose from its rein.
Down below, in street corners, on unassuming roof tops, from the parks, urchins keep an eye out for a loose thread with a wingless wonder tied at the other end flying away aimlessly, having slipped from its possessor’s grip, all ears to catch a call of ‘bho-katta‘ filling the air. Kite runners ahoy!
I have forever stared at the open sky and admired its winged wonders, on breezy afternoons and on a few occasion, held on to the rein of the wingless being, have felt the tug and soared with it over the dusty gray old city. It is an awesome feeling indeed, the feeling of a gentle tug, a sudden pull and the urge to take to the winds again. I love them, those papery thin winged beings, the kites, actually.