It has been an unusual Sunday for the three of us. We set out at 8.45 am to catch the morning show of Gattu (played brilliantly by Mohammed Samad), an endearing, honest, sweet film about a boy obsessed with kite-flying and the trajectory his life takes. Re stood up and sang the entire national anthem before the main feature, while the two of us were visibly chuffed and looked around to see who was watching (most parents do it). He then chomped on his popcorn, accused Gattu of taking Winnie the Pool’s kite (coincidentally, his latest obsession in books is a story of a kite-flying expedition of Pooh and his friends, each of whom has a kite suited to their character). He uttered sounds of exclamation every now and then and was largely quiet in between.
But the OPU and I were quieter. The movie had us each drift into worlds of our own, overwrought with emotion, nostalgia and loss.
For the husband, who grew up cycling in Greece and Lebanon, playing football in Ivory Coast and Bulgaria, among other countries, the movie was a reminder of the country he missed while growing up, a childhood he could have had, had his father not been in the foreign services, and had he returned more frequently to feel the texture and nuances of the place of his birth. The “saare jahan se accha” song reminded him of the alien he still was, in his own country.
For me, the kite was a reminder of a childhood that was spent largely in terraces or hillocks in our neighbourhood. Always the helper, never the flier, I was the chief carrier of the firki (the receptacle for all the twine that is eventually unfurled in the kite-flying) and the winder of the manja for my brother, Shiva, kite-flyer par excellence in his time. I grew up surrounded by kites. None of them were mine. Some he had bought, with the money he won from trading marbles (of which he had the best collection too). Most of them were kites he had cut (rather katoed) with his practised dexterity and flourish and of course, his razor-sharp manja which he bought, metre by metre, every time he had twenty-five paise to spare. Some were kites we had rescued from trees, gutters, lamp posts and resurrected with tape, bits of paper and home-made atta-gum.
He was my Gattu. He would go to any lengths to fly kites – sometimes run away from school before the last period— so that he could be home just after 5 pm, the perfect time for kite-flying. (Coming home at six—which is when he would have, had he sat through the entire day, would have meant just half hour of daylight for kite-flying and that wasn’t enough for him.)
Saturdays and Sundays were always on the terrace (before his cricket obsession took over). His dream was to have the largest sized firki and all the glass-coated manja money could buy. All our savings went into more kites and more manja. I was eager to contribute. I always was better with money, so managed to save more from birthday loots, and other festivals where one always earned that one rupee, or, if one was really lucky – 11!
Every time I would ask him to let me fly, he would say, “No, you are not ready yet. You still have to work on your dheel” (the practised art of letting the twine unfurl, sometimes holding back, sometimes letting go, and sometimes setting it free entirely). I kept practising, but was never promoted. I did try to do it solo on the sly, and ruined quite a few kites and lost precious twine.
Time passed. I grew into one of those self-appointed animal activists that urged people not to fly kites since they injure birds who very often died by the thousands during kite-flying festivals like Makar Sankranti.
Shiva migrated to the US where he now manages web security for clients and though he is nostalgic about his kite-flying days, I don’t think he does much about it.
But every time I look up at the sky and see a kite flying, I have a vivid flashback of all the kites I wanted to fly but couldn’t. Today was one of those days. Now, spotting a kite will only make it worse. Or better. Maybe I’ll have another chance, another innings where I will graduate to what once was a dream. Of flying a whole kite on my own. May be Re will give me that chance.
And that’s the beauty of some movies. They make everything seem like your own.