A child sends a paper kite into the wind. The bright pink diamond joins the schools of colors in the sea of sky blue. Minnows in the shallows, washing with the tide. ‘Tamaso Ma Jyortirgamaya.’ May you go higher and higher, into the light and away from the darkness.
As the sun makes its way north to warm our days, Makar Sankranti marks the decline of winter. The holiday is celebrated on January 14th, and in my home state of Gujarat (where the festival is known as Uttarayan), you’ll find tens of thousands of kites dancing above the rooftops. Traditionally, the kite flying symbolizes the awakening of Hindu gods from their winter slumber. Today, it’s the entertainment at terrace (roof) parties, where everyone’s part of a friendly competition to cut each others’ kite strings.
It’s more difficult than it sounds (or maybe it sounds difficult?), but generations of Gujaratis are awesome kite flyers. Most have practiced every year since their attention span afforded them the interest to hold a string and stare at a piece of paper in the air. And kite strings are coated with tiny glass particles to make the job easier for cutting—both another’s string and one’s own hand. Yikes!
For this wind-inept American gal, up on the terrace on an unusually still day, it was near impossible. I went 0-6. Fortunately, every terrace is stocked with dozens of paper kites to restring when one is cut. Lots are cut. Each time the victor’s roof hoots and hollers, “Lappet!” Reel in your string, sucker! Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. But it’s really great fun.
When the day turns to night, kites are replaced by paper lanterns. The dark sky moves with a thousand twinkling lights, coasting with the night air, carrying the wishes of the hands that let them fly.