"Look, Mamma! See what I've found!" cried Raju as he ran to the kitchen from the backyard holding up a quivering square of paper in his hands. Mother came out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a paper towel.
"It's a kite," cried Raju excitedly.
"So it is!" enthused Mother taking in the colourful kite in Raju's hands before declaring, "It's a beauty, all right."
A splash of golden yellow with dark brown drops on it the kite was like a slice of the dawn with a few shadows of night still clinging to it.
"Mamma, who do you think it belonged to?" asked Raju fingering the crisp paper absently.
"Well, I don't know who it could have been but I sure can imagine a story or two which flew it into our backyard," said Mother as she sat down on the steps of the kitchen porch and Raju joined her there.
"There they are!" said Mother, looking into the distance. "I can see a little girl with a ponytail in a mauve and white check frock dancing impatiently beside her brother as he juggles the reel in his hands sometimes releasing some line from it and sometimes winding it."
Raju shaded his eyes as he tried to gaze afar and sure enough, soon he was able to make out some shapes. He saw a boy about his own age excitedly flying a yellow and brown kite. He was in some kind of a meadow with soft grass and fresh flowers blooming on every side.
"What are their names, Mamma?" asked Raju.
"Umm ... let's see, shall we call them Vijay and Pari?"
After thinking for a moment Raju shook his head and said with a slight pout, "No, Mamma, not Vijay. He looks as if he's called Veeru. Veeru and Pari, that's what they are called."
Mother looked at Raju with admiration. "Wow! Of course, Veeru it is!"
Veeru looked at the crowd of kite fliers around him. It was the festival of Uttarayan and people were out in the streets, quadrangles and parks flying their kites. There were so many of them! Veeru and Pari had come to the local festival with their grandfather.
Grandpa, with his twinkling eyes and fund of stories was a great favourite with the children there. Plus he was always ready to help with useful tips and handy acts which were really appreciated during the little crises that sometimes cropped up.
The sky was spangled with a riot of colours. Bright red, brilliant blue, gaudy purple, emerald green and vivid yellow kites swayed and soared decorating the sky with party streamers. Veeru and Pari had named their kite "Morning Light" because of its bright, sunshiny beauty.
Most of the kites being flown there were traditional ones. There was the diamond shaped patang with a tiny tail, the guddi with a single spar and the petkata in two solid colours. These homely kites hobnobbed with each other as they bobbed along on the wind currents. There was, of course the occasional rokkaku which sprang proudly from its reel and swirled away in search of more exalted friends. The kites had their friendships all right in the sky, exchanging nods, smiles and handshakes. More often than not however, they had their tiffs, cutting each other out crossly.
Pari turned her reel this way and that as she had seen the grown-ups do. She wanted their kite to be a high flier like Uncle Mohan's out there. O how beautifully his blue and white kite had sailed out climbing higher and higher in graceful loops.
Pari tried to follow Uncle Mohan's movements with the reel. Just then someone jostled her and the reel shot out of her hand and rolled away. Her kite began to waver and Veeru cried, "Now see what you have done! Our kite is sinking." He quickly picked up the reel saying, "Just you watch me! I shall take it high up."
Grandpa, who had been watching the little drama said, "It's not about how high you fly your kite, sonny, or how many others it cuts that is important."
Veeru forgot to juggle the reel as he stared at Grandpa. "But Grandpa," he cried out, "we fly our kites to cut out other ones in the sky." He was genuinely puzzled as was Pari.
"That may seem so," explained Grandpa, "but that's not how we need to look at it."
Veeru kept tugging at the string of his reel every now and then as he listened to Grandpa.
"Maybe those specks you see high up are actually our inner selves which go up into the air," suggested Grandpa.
"See that red kite over there, for instance?" asked Grandpa pointing towards a leaping flame of a kite which seemed to shoot forth rather abruptly. It looked, for all the world like an accusing tongue quarrelling with its neighbours. The children were thoughtful when Grandpa shared with them that it was probably the angry spirit of the man who was flying it.
"And that one over there ..." he said pointing towards a small kite in the shape of a plate. Pari could make out after straining her eyes that it was cream in colour with a design of strawberries round its rim.
"Well, what of it, Grandpa?" asked Veeru a little impatiently. "It's not even making much headway."
Grandpa shook his head as he urged the children gently, "Have you looked at the boy flying it?"
The boy flying the plate-like kite was a very thin lad in raggedy clothes that were too large for him. He looked as though he hadn't washed or eaten for days.
"The plate he's sending upwards is perhaps his hunger, the food that his stomach is rumbling for," said Grandpa thoughtfully.
Pari felt rather sorry for the boy. She wished she could help him in some way. At the same time she realized that the boy did not seem sad or worried for all his problems and was running around with a glowing expression on his face. He was so happy to be there and flying his precious kite. Really, how little it took to make him joyous!
Soon brother and sister joined Grandpa in imagining these little stories. That yellow kite there was someone's sunshine and the green one skittering down to the ground was the last leaf in another person's life. The beautiful blue one, so pure in its movement, and rising steadily was a prayer straight from the heart. The magenta one with its two flaps fluttering like a butterfly's wings was a hope trying desperately to stay afloat. The crimson one which had shot out into the sky like a rocket was someone's ambition trying to brave the heights with its passion to excel. And so it went, each story more embroidered than the one before.
"What does our kite stand for, Grandpa?" asked Veeru.
"It's up to you to make what you want of it," answered Grandpa.
Both children fell into deep thought.
Veeru offered an idea, "Maybe, it's our dream -- all the things that we want to be! We're sending it out into the world."
Before Grandpa could say anything to that Pari came up with her view.
"Well, I think maybe it's a ray of sunshine trying to cross from our home into another," she offered shyly.
Grandpa looked at both the children in wonder.
"Well, I never!" he marvelled.
As the children turned their attention to flying their kite it gradually skipped higher and higher much to their delight. A quick wind created a current which the kites could ride. "Morning Light" rode it easily and lightly. It shone like a puff of sunshine in the clear sky spreading its cheer like an angel's halo.
Suddenly it noticed a dark bird-like kite coming its way. It sped away from the rival when Veeru tugged at his string just in time. Brother and sister exchanged relieved glances. "Morning Light" rose and dipped in the air fluttering like a flag among a host of other kites, the lifeline of the children as they rambled in the reaches of the sky with it in their eager imagination.
It was so difficult to keep your banner flying high all the time. Veeru and Pari ran with the reel, leant forward, stepped back and crouched at times to juggle their kite and keep it from harm. But try they did for they loved their "Morning Light" as it beamed like a bright blessing over them.
The hawk nosed kite, with the darkness of a storm cloud which had come for the children's kite earlier came towards it again. This time it was too swift for the flustered response of tender hands. And before Veeru and Pari could do anything about it their precious "Morning Light" got cut by "Hawknose" and it fluttered farther and farther away.
Veeru was left holding the reel forlornly and Pari had tears in her eyes. They looked at it for as long as they could see it. They vaguely made out that it dipped and fell over some kind of a boundary wall.
Grandpa comforted them saying, "Now children, don't be upset. Your 'Morning Light' is not lost. Just because you don't have it doesn't mean it's gone."
"Maybe it has fallen into someone's backyard ..." mused Pari looking up at Grandpa hopefully.
Veeru, too began to look a little brighter as he added, "And maybe there's a boy my age called Raju who finds it!"
"And what is more, maybe Raju has never flown a kite before, and this find will inspire him to fly one," suggested Grandpa.
"In this way our 'Morning Light' will bring light into someone else's life," smiled Pari as the three of them prepared to return home.