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Kite runner

By Nickunj Malik - Jan 09,2019 - Last updated at Jan 09,2019

Just before the advent of my birthday each year, childhood memories came surging at me. It has nothing to do with the date of my arrival — though I loved the simple celebration that my grandparents arranged in their house where I was born — each time I visited them. 

In my Dad’s home there was total chaos, of course, because I shared my birth month with my older brother, which resulted in my parents hosting a joint party for the two of us. It did not please anyone, but by the time they figured it out, we had flown the nest, so to speak. 

From a very young age, my older sibling took it upon himself to indoctrinate certain skills in me that could be considered perfectly worthless today. 

So along with handcrafting a catapult, collecting glowworms, pressing dried flowers inside the pages of an old book and making a swing out of discarded car tyres, he also taught me how to fly a kite. Now, children these days might not even know what kite flying is all about, but during my time, it was right at the top of “a list of things one had to learn to survive in a backyard of a beyond small town”.

While kite flying seemed like fun, getting it off the ground was not as easy as it appeared to be. The wind conditions and the shape of the kite played a big role, but the most important factor was the right technique. 

In fact, there was a complete science behind it, with enough lift and so on to counteract its weight, before it was airborne. 

Also, the cord attached to the kite had to be strong so that it could cut the strings of the other kites flying nearby in the kite-fighting competitions. Kites were mostly made from a lightweight thin paper and the spars from flexible wood, usually bamboo. 

The goal in a kite-fight was to bring down one’s neighbour’s kite by using an abrasive line, which was coated with a mixture of finely crushed glass and rice glue, called “manjha” in the local language. It took a lot of practice and expert precision to manoeuvre a fighting kite, but winning a battle earned the victor the respect and praise of the entire community. 

In all this I was the designated kite runner, you know, the person who ran to collect the trophy from where it fell after being skillfully brought down. 

I don’t know why I was given this job because I was definitely not the fastest sprinter but I had the sharpest vision and could detect a fallen kite from a distance. Moreover, in the true spirit of “winner takes all”, I would proclaim the prize as mine till my brother turned up to over-rule my decision. 

When Beatles, the rock band, released their “Nowhere Man” record in 1965, it took roughly 10 years to reach our shores in India. The minute I heard the lyrics I knew that henceforth the tormented would become the tormentor and over the ages I took full advantage of it. 

Last week I telephoned my sibling on his birthday. 

“He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land”, I sang. 

“Making all his nowhere plans for nobody” I hummed. 

“Doesn’t have a point of view”, I intoned. 

“Knows not where he’s going to”, I continued.

“Isn’t he a bit like you and me”, my brother joined in laughingly. 

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