04 October 2011

A story about a stray kite on a string-less morning

Human beings accumulate almost as though it is a need. Like breathing.  Some collect wealth, some shares, some gold, some land and property. Some collect stamps, some coins and some memories.  I like books. 
There was a time I collected paper-cuttings of articles I had authored.  I would also occasionally bring home printouts.  I can’t remember when it happened exactly but at one point it became clear that it was not worth the bother.  I figured that since I saved what I wrote in word files it would all be ‘safe’. 
I didn’t factor in carelessness and laziness.  It somehow felt self-indulgent to diligently collect and sort things I had written.  So things got lost as I moved from one work place to another, one computer to another and as diskettes, and later compact discs and pen drives were misplaced or got corrupted.  I haven’t lost any sleep over any of this, though and looking back I think there is something to be said about forgetting. 
There are things that time covers with dust and the inevitable things that come later.  They get buried and forgotten.  Time, however, forces us to wipe off dust and clear out garbage or that which is considered disposable, to be more accurate.  In ou-r house, this takes a long time.  Both my wife and I like to read.  When we come across old papers, we flip through them. The same with letters.  The same with printouts of old articles. 
Sunday was a rare cleaning day and. as often happens, a day for unexpected unearthing.  I was writing my piece for Monday when she came to me with two pieces of paper and a comment: ‘meka harima lassanai’ (This is very beautiful).
It was an article written 8 years ago.  I looked for it on the web, but couldn’t locate it.  I am happy that in the relentless burying that is the passing of time, this piece survived.  It was called ‘Giants fall and kites fly’.  This is how it went (and I am typing it down in parenthesis):
[Two Saturdays ago a kite fell at my feet.  It was early morning and I had just stepped out of the house with my friend Anuruddha.  It is nice to drink tea, alone with my thoughts.  It is equally nice to have tea with someone who is eloquent and funny, and moreover, whose thoughts tend towards the same cultural, philosophical and political spaces.  I like to step outside in the morning with a cup of tea in hand, especially when Anuruddha is around.
It was a clear morning.  Everything exuded the freshness that descends on all things along with the dew.  I don’t quite remember what we were talking about when the air began to tremble with rain that literally came from nowhere.  One moment it was bright sunshine with the coconut trees, the mango tree, the araliya, the jambu and the leave, flowers and grass all sparkling with the newness of a good morning.  The next moment it was raining; large and insistent drops descending like so many silver arrows roaring with a total lack of ambiguity, confidently battering our sensibilities. 
We were too amazed to speak.  We just started laughing. At the same time.  And, again at the same time, we fell silent.  We both saw a kite, strange for that time of day, descending towards the tree tops not too far away.  It came down gently, so very gently, rocking along to its destined rendezvous with the all-embracing earth.  I don’t recall if we gasped or sighed.  I think it was a sigh that escaped not my lungs but my heart.  The same thing must have happened to Anuruddha, for he said, ‘Madihe Haamuduruwo nethi una neda….yodayek vetuna vagei’ (Madihe Hamuduruwo passed away…it is as though a giant has been felled).
A giant falling and a kite swaying in the winds, battered by the rain and yet obeying the dictates of gravity…what a juxtaposition, I thought.  But how appropriate!  I suppose this is how heroes fall.  Or leave us.  I quoted to Anuruddha a line from that week’s ‘King Barnette’ column in the Irida Divaina: ‘Sinhalaye rajjuruwo mala!’ (The King of Sinhale died).  
He didn’t have to say ‘yes’.  We both knew enough about the nation and the stature of the personality, and were persuaded by the same political beliefs to render acknowledgment unnecessary.
Two Saturdays ago, there was no reason to elaborate on a death.  Or a regal personality.  Such a giant was Madihe Haamuduruwo.  Two weeks later, there is still no reason to discuss the extrapolation.  Today I wish to talk just about kites, kite-flying and gentle giants who nourish the earth and its children even when they choose to die.
I remember Saturdays in years so long gone that I cannot name them. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays too. Everyday was kite-day for my brother.  He made kites, he flew them.  He lost them in the trees and in telephone wires. He might have been pained, but somehow I never saw him cry or even sigh. The next moment he would be fiddling about with bamboo, strings and tissue paper; diligently constructing another dream.
A kite is an adventure waiting to take off. Kite-flying is a child’s desire to escape to a different world.  They are stuff dreams are made of.  They teach us that our physical and social limitations are never too strong to keep us tied to the ground.  And, like all dreams, all things in fact, they obey sooner or later, one way or another, the enduring truths of impermanence.  They fall.  Much like how people do. Kites perish, but kite-making and kite-flying lives on.  All it requires is the determination of a child.  All it requires is a child’s creativity. And more than all this, a child’s innocence.
Two Saturdays ago a kite fell at my feet. Two Saturdays ago, it rained in my heart. I did not shed any tears then, but tonight my eyes are wet.  This morning my daughter showed me the tattered remains of a kite that had got entangled in some telephone wires.  She said, ‘eke hadapu aiya eka hondata alavala nethuva ethi neda?’ (the aiya who made it must have not done a good job, no?). How could I answer her? ‘Eya thava ekak hadanna ethi’ (he must have made another), I said.
There is just one tear.  A brush of my hand will wipe it off. Giants fall, Kites fly. Have I learnt a lesson? Should I learn a lesson? Is there a lesson to be learnt? I don’t know. I close my eyes and embrace my child as gently as I possibly can. Tomorrow, there will be another morning. Perhaps there will be another early morning kite-flyer generating dreams for strangers like me. Perhaps the rains will spare him.
Two Saturdays ago a kite fell at my feet. A giant passed away. I do not know why I am smiling, but there must be a reason.]
She is 10 years old and makes her own kites and dreams.  She loses things. All the time.  She delights when they re-surface.  Years later, long after I had forgotten incident, comment, title and sentiment, I put together a collection of poems. I called it ‘Stray kites and stringless days’.  My smile, right now, is wider than it must have been that morning, 8 years ago.  I really don’t know why and am not going to figure out why either. 
All I know is that I hold that little girl even more gently than I did that morning and just as gently as I do her little sister who was only a few days old that day when it rained kites.   



Anonymous said...

Such a delicate write.

Anonymous said...

Fallen human beings cannot never replaced .Kites, always can be replaced .May be its much beautiful with your learning experience ,flying higher than previously made .Sadly , you can't have experiments with human lives.Noble truth comes into play when we try to strike a balance between two.
So delicate writing as always , Malinda.