The children of today need to experience this cultural wonder
I rose from my bed in a dazed state. I sauntered to the window, drew the curtains back and saw a most splendid sight. The sky was a mundane grey, with hints of a crimson glow lurking behind the clouds. The birds had commenced their singing, the breeze had begun to blow and a joyous day was beckoning in the horizon.
Lethargically, I made my way to the bathroom and performed eblution and then offered my morning prayers. A single realisation replaced my state of torpor with one of sheer excitement: It was Basant.
The Basant festival, being the auspicious occasion that it is, instilled a certain childish exuberance within me. I frantically began to run around, waking up my brother and my parents. Despite the annoyance, they had reluctantly accepted my hyper behaviour on this particular day. After all, it was Basant.
I went back to the prayer mat and in a state of supplication asked for favourable winds and strength in my string. Then I rushed to check on my bright and shining knight. He was my champion, my gladiator, my warrior.
A thin sheet of crisp red paper, cut meticulously into the perfect shape, with a simple yet firm wooden skeleton was what it appeared to be. But to me it was so much more.
The dor (string) acted as a conduit between me and my warrior. I conveyed my battle plans to my ‘Red Dragon’ (two idiosyncrasies of my relationship with kites: I always named them and I always talked to them).
The war drums began their tumultuous beat, the armies stood in awe and the enemy trembled in fear as I, the general, marched outside with my stalwart champion in hand. I was greeted by a gentle breeze.
It had become somewhat of a necessity for me to wrap my fingers with masking tape to prevent the cuts and gashes from the string. Most people began the "kite wars" late in the afternoon, but it was a tradition in my neighbourhood to begin at dawn.
I looked up towards the vast skies and waited for the perfect wind to unleash my dragon. As I waited, I murmured a prayer.A vociferous wind carried away my kite and before long it was comfortably soaring with the clouds.
The sky was relatively crowded yet tranquil. It was peace time. Everyone was getting a feel of the winds, of their kites, of the strings and, most importantly, of how good the enemy was. I waved at the children on the roofs of nearby houses. They and I shared a certain exuberance at that moment -- one that can only be experienced while flying a kite.
I was comfortably minding my own business when the first challenger crept towards me. It was a well contested battle. I pulled the dor back and forth, as did he. And with one dexterous move I managed to cut his string and his blue kite came crashing down like a fallen star.
This endeavour was perpetuated and I struggled to consistently maintain concentration. But the staunch desire to win this year is what kept me driven and subsequently led me to be in final two.
By this time my brother and father had joined me on the roof. Their experienced words of wisdom often helped me out of a sticky situation. The roofs of other houses also became inhabited by the families of others. Hence, this great spectacle was to unfold before a large audience.
I was nervous and drenched in sweat. It had been a tedious and stressful morning. Now, as it came to an end, I wanted nothing more than to walk away with, what was the ultimate title at the time, ‘the best kite flyer of the neighbourhood.’
Despite my best efforts, my dragon was slain and came crashing to the ground. I was to recover the kite and, till this day, have it in my room. It is a memento of my memorable times at Basant; it is a reminder that no matter how close to victory one is, it is never guaranteed. It is the embodiment of all the lessons I learned during Basant.
Almost a decade ago, the Basant celebratory festival was banned due to the strings slitting the throats of people and due to the cutting of power cables. In my humble opinion, all efforts should be made towards the actualisation of a "safe Basant" because the safety of everyone has to be ensured but at the same time, the children of today need to experience this cultural wonder.