For us kids, Independence Week was all about buying and flying kites – a happy ritual which we thought was in the past till we happened to get a pleasant reminder
“Shubham…wake up. Help out your brother upstairs,” my mother would say on a sunny morning on Independence Day. The time is childhood. When the only worry on I-Day is to give tough competition to the neighbourhood kids.
Our mother would make us variety of snacks which we would carry to the terrace, where we listened to patriotic songs in the soaring heat. As kids this was our only brush with patriotism. While our parents watched the flag-hoisting ceremony on TV, we were tugging strings and screaming “Kai po che!” — a Gujarati phase for calling victory over the competitor.
I recall how the excitement used to be at fever pitch, screaming of a Big Day. Independence Day was a festival for kids who grew up in the 2000s, and the god they worshipped was a flimsy cane structure with colourful paper. It was a far cry from the current disinterest among children of today’s times. They would rather watch Mission Mangal or play game on their Playstation console rather than head for the great outdoors to take part in a real competition. That’s the harsh reality.
Independence Day for us was not just for a day, but for a month. I remember how my elder brother would be all excited and in high spirits prior to 15th August. He would start pestering my father to take him to Lal Kuan market in Chandni Chowk — the wholesale bazaar of kites in the Walled City.
My father, who also had a knack for flying kites, would readily undertake the journey from Faridabad. I recall a day when my parents, brother and I were on our way on Bajaj scooter to Lal Kuan. A policeman stopped us, because we were ‘quadrupling’ on one scooter. Although the rules were strict, policemen didn’t hand you challans like they do today. They would “settle” the matter. It may be wrong but it was what it was.
After getting stopped by the policeman, my father tried settling the matter by taking out a Rs 50 note from his pocket. However, the cop wanted more. My father refused. He couldn’t afford to give more. Suddenly, he jetted the scooter and we fled the spot.
This incident did not dampen our spirits. My brother frenetically browsed kites of all sizes and threads of varying quality. I, on the other hand, was very nonchalant because I never independently flew kites myself. However, I was surrounded by kite enthusiasts, and had the option of flying one at any point.
In our neighbourhood, kids would start competing with each other a month before 15th August and continue to brush up their skills before the main day. That’s how important and almost sacred Independence Day was to them.
When I went home this Independence Day, the skyline was depressing. I could not see any kites, nor children in the streets. It felt like just another holiday. The weather was cloudy, but there was no sign of rain. This was the ideal weather for flying kites. Had it been 2008, all the neighbourhood kids would be screaming with joy. But that wasn’t the case.
Raksha Bandhan fell on the same day as Independence Day this time. While entering the car to go somewhere, my brother looked at the empty sky for a few seconds, disappointment write large on his face.
Although he didn’t say anything, it was quite evident that he longed for the old thrills that adulthood frowned upon. However, while we sat on the terrace of a relative’s home, a kite came fluttering down. Somebody must’ve won, we said.
Within seconds, my brother and cousin were galvanized into action. They grabbed the kite and started flying the gift from an unknown owner. Some photo-ops, some laughter, and some showing off gyan about kites — the evening became just like the Independence Days of my childhood. That kite saved us from boredom and helped us revisit the past.
These little things make one wonder: Is the old-style spirit of celebration dying? Do we have to rely on unexpected surprises like that kite we chanced upon to fulfil our desire to celebrate Independence Day?