An Essay from Santosh Bakaya’s Flights from My Terrace
It is the eve of Makar Sankranti, and there is a certain lightness in the air, broad smiles on kids’ faces, broader smiles on elders’ faces and broadest smiles on shopkeepers’ faces. The winter chill refuses to dampen the spirits of the shopkeepers. Their shops are festooned with kites, bird shaped kites, aero plane shaped kites, house shaped kites, and mouse shaped kites, more glitz being added to the décor of the shops with kites that glimmer at night.
Even the boutiques and grocer shops have turned into kite shops overnight. Bareilly ki mashoor patang aur manjha [the famous kites and thread of Bareilly] are sold here announces a shop which I am positive was a hair cutting saloon just a couple of days back. Everyone seems to be bent on making a fast buck. Even the vegetable vendor is selling kites. Shops are doing brisk business selling gajak, feni, til and popcorn- the delicacies of Sankranti.
Our wonderful friends Shabir and Salman who broke the barriers of the virtual world and stepped into our real world just a few days back, are with us admiring the sights and sounds of a kite –crazy capital! Relating anecdotes like only he can, rhapsodizing about soul-stirring music, Shabir is passion personified, while Salman, the fascinating photographer that he is, is clicking photographs with a single minded concentration.
We are on a high, as high as the kites. The music of the flying kites and the innovative sloganeering that the air is thick with, can simply not be ignored. The kites are floating like butterflies and stinging like bees. The sky has a certain magical air about it.
“Dheel de Dheel de”, shouts a boy from a terrace, and the tiny boy standing next to him does his bidding. There is positive energy everywhere, even among the drunks hanging around the liquor shop, neighbouring the vegetable shops.
A drunk whom I have been watching every day for the past many days, seems to have had more than his usual share of liquor. His welcoming smile is broader, his nodding of head more vigorous and his clownish movements more comical. This spirit has definitely positivised his body language.
With these colourful images permanently etched in our minds, we head home to a musical evening magnanimously planned and executed by the forever innovative Shabir.
We listen to Talat, Rafi and some wonderful Kashmiri singers. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan regales us with sublime poetry sung in his ethereal style. Iqbal’s verses resonate through his powerful voice and we are mesmerised by this magical musical munificence.
The curtains fall on a day of music and masti, and sleep envelops us.
“Merey photo ko siney se chipka dey sanya fevicol se”. At the crack of dawn we are yanked out of our beds by this ear callousing senselessness masquerading as music! This music could definitely not be the food of love!
I crash- down from the sublime to the ridiculous!
But unmindful of this crash landing, I head towards the terrace where the kites are flying higher and still higher into the blue beyond, some spinning off their rails, and falling to the ground in an ear splitting crescendo of vo kata [there goes another kite], I cannot help but think of those amongst us whose ambitions and dreams are abruptly cut short.
Shaking off such sad thoughts, I again peer into the sky which appears to be dangerously close to an identity crisis. This is definitely not the blue expanse that I have been seeing every day! The blues have turned to bliss-boisterous, booming and brash. It is a riot of moving colours, multi-hued and multi shaped kites criss- crossing each other with a vertiginous rapidity, joyously pulling and tugging at each other.
Peaceful coexistence at its best, all vibrant colours sending out the message of harmony.
This colourfully, chaotic confusion captivates me and my eyes refuse to leave the skies where the kites are grooving and shimmying on. A thousand and one petty and weighty matters bay for my blood, but I keep them at bay. I have more colourful things in mind. The skies are smiling, so why should I brood?
His face lit up like an exuberant bonfire, a boy rushes forth onto the road, his hands full. Two Sadhus standing against a wall watch the goings on in the sky with a detached attachment. Then something happens which makes my eyes and my mouth pop open. My jaw touches the ground.
One of the sadhus breaks into a sprint, no; a dog is not chasing him: he is chasing a falling kite! The spirit of the day has caught him too. This temporary attachment to the worldly affairs seems to have brought a permanent smile to his lips. Then, abruptly he stops under a tree. No, no, he does not stop smiling, he only stops running-maybe struck with the sudden enlightenment that running after kites is not a sadhu’s calling.
Despite the news item that car sales are dropping dramatically I am eternally appalled by the number of cars on our roads. From my terrace I watch the assorted cars speeding on the road in front. Did I hear someone talking of the deterrent value of fuel cost and high interest rates? Well perish the thought!
Oops, before the thought could perish I myself was about to perish! A huge kite came dangerously close to me and tried to brutally slit my throat! An arm went to my throat, and a yell escaped my lips.
No, it was not I yelling but a tiny boy from the nearby house who had just cut short the soaring ambitions of a huge kite. Thank God I was alive to soak in the festive fervour around me.
It is indeed heartening to see that while we are seething in rage over the dearth of gender equality in our country, kite flying is one sphere where it can be seen in joyous abundance.
“Mujhe de dey please”[ Please give it to me] words of a tiny girl, not more than four years of age fall into my ears as I stand near the railing of the terrace.
The girl is pleading with her seven or may be eight year old brother to give her at least one kite.
The boy magnanimously hands over one kite to his sister and her face breaks into such a bright smile which has the potential of brightening up even the darkest interiors of misogynist mind-sets.
With the colourful catch in her tiny hands, she hops away, the smile lingering on her angelic face.
Two boys from one end, two from the other, and three middle aged men run from three different ends and crash! Heads collide, egos clash, voices boom: Maine looti thi pehle! [I GOT IT FIRST]The middle aged man with a stubble shouts, pouncing on the massive kite.
“Nahi maine looti thi”, a nine year old, with all the belligerence a nine year old can muster, screeches.
A tiny girl standing next to a milk booth is suddenly galvanized into action, she runs towards them and before the shouts and screeches can stop, she has added her own victory shout to it. “Wow I have got it”, she yells delightedly and hops away, holding the booty aloft. The men and the boys gape after her. I salute this tiny girl who has stolen a march over the “stronger sex”. Frailty, thy name is definitely not woman! I mutter.
Overnight a tea shop has materialized in front of our house, just next to Hamida’s car workshop which specializes in tubelesh tires. My eyes which were riveted to the announcement tea and snakes sold here are no longer riveted to it. These snakes refuse to charm me, and the snake charmer himself is no longer interested in his snakes, he is also watching the antics of the kite lovers, while the snakes in the cauldron suffer a fiery annihilation! The kites have reduced the snakes to ashes!
A huge kite is slowly descending to the earth, while a few greedy earthlings are casting yearning looks in its direction .Two tiny boys with mammoth ambitions run after the kite and just as they are about to claim the booty, a scooter stops right under the falling kite, and down jumps a grey haired person, snips off the thread of the kite with a chilling nonchalance, hops on to his ramshackle scooter, and zooms off with the catch snugly hanging on the scooter handle!
My heart goes to the tiny boys gaping at the back of the winner! The expression on their faces is heart wrenching-the treasure has been looted from right under their noses!
This winner is definitely a sinner!
The spectacular fusion of colours and of hearts warms my heart and soon our terrace becomes a merry fusion of good cheer, guffaws, grins and giggles as Lalit, my daughter, our friends, Shabir and Salman join me on the terrace.
A kite falls on our terrace; my daughter runs and picks it up. Her shout of BAZINGA rents the air. While this Sheldon Cooper fan admires the fallen but rescued angel, something else falls to the ground!
No, this time it is not my jaw which has fallen to the ground, but a tiny sparrow!! My daughter flings away the kite and rushes to this corollary damage of the overhead war. Very carefully, she picks up the bird, cooing to it, patting it with healing hands ,asks me to get her first aid kit from her room, and while I hover around her giving suggestions, she renders first aid .
Was it my imagination but did I really see the glint of gratitude in the tiny bird‘s eyes?
“Look, mom it is flying”.
I looked up and there it was-the tiny little bruised bird flying along with the kites-no longer bruised and wounded, it had forgiven the belligerence of the kites.
Dr Santosh Bakaya, an academician- poet- essayist- novelist, has made her mark both in prose and poetry. Her three mystery novels, [The mystery of the Relic, The mystery of the Jhalana Fort and The mystery of the Pine cottage] for young adults were very well received in the 1990s. Flights from my terrace, her e-book of 58 essays , published on Smashwords in October 2014, now has a printed version by Authorspress Delhi, India, 2017. Ballad of Bapu, a poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, [ Vitasta publishers, Delhi 2015,] is also being acclaimed internationally. Her essays on Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.have been published in Gandhi Marg, a quarterly journal of GANDHI PEACE FOUNDATION.
She has also been published and interviewed in Cafe Dissensus and has contributed to national and international anthologies – [Colours of Refuge, Resonance, Mytho Manthan, Authorspress India, on behalf of Poets, Artist Unplugged], in Kiew-an anthology of tree poems published by The international Visitor Programme,Phillipines. Many of her poems have figured in the highly commendable category and Poem of the month category in Destiny Poets, a U. K based poetry website. Her poetry has also appeared in Learning and Creativity- Silhouette magazine, in Incredible women of India, in Mind Creative [Ezine from Australia], In Brian Wrixon’s anthology, the online magazine Episteme, published from Mumbai and Setu – a bi-lingual journal published from Pittsburgh, USA, Spillwords.com – an international e-zine of repute, and in PIN [POETS IN NIGERIA QUARTERLY] journal.
She has co-edited UMBILICAL CHORDS: AN ANTHOLOGY ON PARENTS REMEMBERED, published by Global Fraternity of Poets, Gurgaon, Haryana, and also DARKNESS THERE BUT SOMETHING MORE – AN ANTHOLOGY OF EERIE TALES [Blue Pencil , 2017]
WHERE ARE THE LILACS ? [A compilation of 111 peace poems] was launched in 2016 and is getting rave reviews. UNDER THE APPLE BOUGHS , is her latest collection of poems [ 2017].
She has also been a featured poet in Pentasi B World Friendship poetry and was conferred with the Universal Inspirational Poet Award jointly by Pentasi B and the Ghana Government in May 2016.
She received the International Reuel Award for writing and literature 2014, for her long poem OH HARK!, which now forms part of THE SIGNIFICANT ANTHOLOGY.
She is also the recipient of The INCREDIBLE WOMAN OF THE YEAR 2015 award instituted by The Incredible women of India blog.
The Poet Laureate award, 2016 , instituted by Poetry Society of India was conferred on her for her book Ballad of Bapu , her long poem Oh Hark ! and WHERE ARE THE LILACS? [ A COLLECTION OF PEACE POEMS [[2016 ].
The Tejaswani Award was presented to her on International Women’s Day[MARCH 2017] by the Aagman and Literary and Cultural group [DELHI] .
The Literary Excellence Award was conferred on her by Bharat Nirman in July 2017 .