The Independence Day patriotism has weaned off completely. I don’t feel as enthusiastic today for several disappointing reasons, so excuse me if I sound dull in this update of the 65th Indian Independence Day on the 15th.
As is tradition, the colony I live in organised a Flag Hoisting Ceremony, with the rose petals that flutter to the ground as the flag unfolds on its short mast. As is tradition, that started off a day of kite-filled skies, as has been done for the last 65 years of India’s Independence- flying the kites as free as us! So what happens is, all the people get on as high ground as possible, or if they can afford it, as huge grounds as possible, and fly their kites, and since that becomes monotonic after a time, the trend to try and cut each other’s kites’ strings ensues. This string, in Hindi, is called maanjaa. Maan, as pronounced in Tar and Jaa as in lalala… Yeah, the same in both…
Have you ever looked up at the sky and found it a very surreal expanse, like a painted top? Well that’s what changes magically with these kites. Look at the sky for a moment and suddenly it turns into a dome- like the clouds are now painted not on a flat top, but a wide wide dome, and the little kites that dance in it are like those little shiny nothings in a snow globe. It’s a sight. And if I hadn’t left my camera in another town, I could have given you pictures. By all means, if you can, visit India near the 15th of August, and let me know if you’re coming to Delhi.
Anyway, this is what happens basically, besides old freedom songs, martyr songs, nightingale voice shrilly songs blare out from hundreds of loudspeakers and all the roads light up extra special with tricolour (The Indian flag) strings of bulbs on the sidewalks and above the dividers. The camera… I wish…
And even though most of today’s youth is clone-skeptical of anything patriotic or ‘Indian’, everyone joins in to celebrate, maybe because of the mad kite-flying. Oh yeah- another part of it- when you finally cut someone else’s maanjaa, you yell in delight, “Aieee Woooo!”. It’s like a signal to Kite Runners that run, a kite is falling for you to catch. The words literally mean ‘It comes.’ That’s my favourite part. Because I’m master only at sinking kites, not flying them, and blessed with a loud voice as I am, I can shout out in better than many. 😀
This is basically tradition. But what is NOT tradition is young boys bursting out in cacophany, the National Anthem, in the middle of the day and fumble over the ending paragraph so they repeat it all over again, and sigh, again. I wonder how many people stood absolutely still when this happened and for how long. Though I wasn’t a willing accomplice, they were singing right under my house and I jumped and dropped a utensil in the kitchen and gave them the perfect crescendo. Did my bit, it appears. Half a minute later, it seems a friend who got late for this proposed performance came running to find the boys signing off but of course, his entry called for a Redo. Five times, ladies and gentlemen, five whole times these previously cute boys minstreled their neighbours without mercy.
Ah, what else?
Oh yes- the poor pigeon.
See, there’s a problem with kites now. Where the human concentration is higher, the kite concentration increases likewise. That increases the cut maanjaa concentration, because we Indians are master players. So these strings eventually fall on land, and on trees and poles… And so do the kites, in fact, there was once a competition for the picture that showed the max number of kites stuck on a tree….
Anyway, this year, to my very great surprise, there formed a WEB of maanjaas on the ground soon after the flying began. And when I stepped out on my balcony, I found in horror, a poor poor pigeon stuck in an invisible bundle of maanjaas. We got him out, sure. But while it was stuck, its wings were bent in such a painful tangle, and it looked so young and scared that everyone held their breaths. I wish such accidents don’t become as much a tradition as kite flying in the years to come.
Though that hope is a little dangerous, as I tripped twice myself for the first time in my life, and that’s after I walk carefully. Something went wrong… but the people won’t let it continue, I know. The respect for Independence Day is too great for such trivialities to be allowed to occur.
So, Happy 65th Birthday India! And believe me when I say this, India earned it.