rocks along Stanley Beach, Vancouver.
Victoria Island, British Columbia…a view from a Hippo bus- boat tour of the Island.
India Gate, New Delhi…a homage in stone
Patched, luminescent cobras, owls, kites (Milvus migrans)l on strings serenading lanterns, boxes, circles, squares, rings, rectangles, crowns…. to the accompaniment of drum beats and tribal dance steps.
I was at Delhi International Kite Flying festival ( December 2012) where paper aviators kept pace with the variegated flavor of India Gate grounds….a ‘kite’ tree sprouting snazzy spindles, kites in bamboo, tissue paper, elastic paper and cloth; chintzy bangles and gift items – a concession to women visitors; dancers, hawkers, spectators, school children conscious of their winter uniforms, the silks and traditional Indian salwar – kameez vying for attention with western wear and the awed tourist hounded by persistent photographers selling slice of British- Indian history under the watchful eyes of city cops.
Kites had been introduced (another product) in India by Chinese travelers F Hien and Hsuan Tsang in 4th and 7th. Century and captured the collective imagination of the country. Festivals and public holidays, especially ‘Makar Shakranti’ on January 14 and Republic Day on January 26 are special days when kites jostle for celestial space. International kite festivals in Jaipur and Ahmedabad coincide with Makar Shankranti* festival.
I was always fascinated by the soaring kite and would stalk my four brothers, they refused to let a girl fly a kite, carrying their ‘charki’ (holder for glass coated thread or manjha). It required a certain amount of skill as I had to release the thread avoiding tangles and follow the flyer on parapets and edges as he released the diamond shaped ‘Patang’ or ‘guddia’ over the mango trees. Any sign of squeamishness and I would be promptly banished from the terrace. I did pick up a few tricks, a slight flick can maneuver the direction and outcome, and tried it years later at Surfside beach near Houston, USA where my son had no option but to hand me the string.
Kites followed me to New Delhi and would wait for the aerial ballet of dozens of kites let loose over Delhi skies, confusing the avian population, on 26th January (Republic Day). The ‘cut’ kites were chased by eyes glued to the dipping kite till it would get entangled in a tree or electric wires. The loot would occasionally end in scuffles between groups and the torn kite left forlorn on ground.
Travels and growing children wrinkled kite fascination to movies and novels* and it was an unscheduled visit to the Delhi kite festival that brought back memories of flying paper on sunny winter afternoons.
* The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini * *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kite_Runner
For an Indian man any woman above thirty is a ‘bahanji’ (sister) and any woman above 50 a ‘mataji’ (mother). Here I was belonging to the second group traveling in the county’s national carrier. I desisted from wearing tights, a loose shirt and knee-length boots. After all I did not want to short-circuit the immigration officer. He would waste ten minutes scanning me and then my age in the passport…a ‘mataji’ gone mod.
A flight is known by the food it serves and services offered. Asked for non vegetarian and it was a mistake. The chicken was anything but curried, the bun too solid, pulled and pulled and tore it apart, thankfully saved my teeth. Satisfied my hunger with rice, fat-free yoghurt and yellow lentil to last me for 4 (four) hours.
The plane is half full…tour groups and company largesse crowd from small towns, getting high on free glasses of whisky, calling out to each other across the aisle.
The new airport is humongous. I felt I had never stopped walking from Hong Kong to New Delhi, except for the few hours plane ride. Kept glancing upwards, towards the ceiling, waiting for some mishap. With so much happening, falling bridges and ceilings, one expected the worse. But then as a friend pointed out, it is the national airport.
Visited Connaught Place or Rajiv Chowk. It did look refurbished, new coat of paint and new tiles. Some left over patches are visible and one wonders whether we will have to wait for the next big event or wait for the tiles to disappear to people’s homes. Anything is possible.
The one constant, India Gate, a mute witness to the shenanigans of the inhabitants, still manages to stand tall.