Having spent year after childhood year wanting to learn never quite translated into action but January 14th was the day when I renewed my yearly oath of "This year I will coax one of my buddies into teaching me how to fly a kite... definitely most definitely!" By the time, the next Uttarayan/Makar Sakranti came around, there was I again holding on the 'charki' (spindle) while some friend or the other engaged in fierce battles with fellow fliers, my involvement being restricted to the level of a loud excited "Kaipochhe (Cut it)!" or to the menial response to the barked order of a defeated fighter of "Abbey lappett (Hey, wind the thread back)!"
A few charitable souls did try to teach me a thing or two about the magical (at least to me) art of coaxing a glued patch of paper on a stick framework into the air but it wasn't very long before they discovered that they would need extra stocks of kites if I continued with my merry tug-when-the-head-pointing-downwards kite destroying ways. I still looked forward to the kite festival though. The long rows of sunny roofs unmindful of the winter breeze, filled with people, loudspeakers blaring out the latest Bollywood numbers and very liberal amounts of sweet groundnut 'chikki' being spread around offered a great environment to indulge in along with my troop of friends while eying all the girls on the neighbouring terraces (Murphy's Law dictated that there were to be none on the terrace we chose to be on).
Above all, there was the faint promise of redemption, the chance that the hours of patient 'charki' handling would yield something tangible for however brief a period of time. For when in a freak space of time with the sky was clear of immediate competition, the friend who was flying the kite would feel bored by the inactivity and offer me a chance to be the man-in-command. I would jump at the opportunity, to feel the weight of the long line of string leading up to the messenger in the sky. It's wonderful to be in charge of something that distant, cruising the winds and swimming in the vastness that we as human beings will never have such unrestricted access to. The kite it would seem was living the dream and that very string which ran from its straining ribs to my hands carried to me indistinct whispers of all the wonderful things that it could see but could not fully describe. The few moments of blissful navigation lasted only till an aggressive neighbour started homing in on my aircraft. Then once again, the command would switch and I would rushed back to my critical but unglamourous position in the engine room. I didn't mind. Being a pilot or at least imagining myself to be one was always fun, so what if the plane was in Auto-Pilot mode all the time while I was in the pilot's seat.