The Kite Stealer

As a young boy, I was very unhappy. I was not poor, but neither was I rich. My father, like millions of other middle class bread-earners, took great joy and pride for being granted the chance to serve our great nation. To me, he was just a clerk in the East Coast Railways. Years and years of hard work in his dinghy office, his earnest allegiance and fortitude to never accept a bribe, earned him nothing more than a good name among the 250 other clerks and a few white collared officers. My mother was a humble housewife, and there were no two sides to it. She took redundant pride in it as well. I, on the other hand, after 12 years of my existence had learnt that there was nothing in my miserable life to boast about. 
I always had enough of everything, but just barely enough. We belonged to a class of the society, a tier in the financial pyramid, which comprised of two types of people, the dreamers and the fighters. My father belonged to the latter type, everyday he strived to provide for his family. He never desired for anything more. All his life he was a content man. But I was a dreamer. I wished for everything, wove kaleidoscopic dreams every night. Unfortunately, the dreamers were the most unhappy and restless people, for they were equipped with only dreams, but no means to fulfill them. So all they could do was resign to their fates and pretend to be a fighter, happy and proud to be just able to provide for their families. The dreamers embodied one of the greatest paradoxes in the society.
I went to the only English-medium school in the town and so did all the rich kids from uptown, only I didn’t have their freshly ironed attires, sparkling boots, trendy water bottles with tic-tac-toe or themed stationary. I strode into those walls everyday donning one of my two pairs of soiled uniforms with my broken pen in my pocket, dragging my rugged cloth bag behind me, trying to evade as many banters as possible. While they proudly shared their pasta, chips and muffins, I gulped down my modest roti and achaar before any of the scrutinizing eyes caught me. I could never put behind me the abhorrence and disgust that reflected in their eyes while they cast a demeaning look towards me when I wasn’t allowed to play football with them because I didn’t have the ‘right shoes’. All I could do to retaliate was stand there mortified summoning all my strength to prevent tears from welling up in my eyes.
That day I had pleaded my mother to let me go to the local government school, where most of our neighbour’s children went. But she wouldn’t listen and said that English-medium education would make me a babu one day. People attending on me, big cars with chauffeurs, VIPs congregations… (I guess that was the source of my dreamer genes). But her dreams seemed as inane and mocking as the demeaning looks of the rich boys. I lamented my life and I regretted being myself. I indicted my parents for the miseries of my life. I failed to comprehend the significance of life without the fashionable clothes, classy accessories and pricey videogames.
Once every year I forgot all my miseries and set out to conquer the world. It was Makar Sankranti, The Festival Of Kites. Kites were my passion. The fervor I had for flying kites was incomparable. Fortunately enough, I was equally gifted. And I left no stone unturned to master my inexpensive hobby. Watching my kite soar high above, untouched, unrestrained, beyond anyone’s reach, rendered an inimitable pleasure and pride, something I lacked in my life otherwise. It carried me to an alternative world, where I could fly freely with my kites in the boundless sky, while infinitesimal people of the world could only gawk at me awe-struck. The Kite Festival was the day when I had the chance to prove myself to those haughty rich boys.
On the fateful day, I awoke just when the sun was starting to peep at the horizon, emptied half a bucket of water in my attempt at bathing, donned my best pair of clothes, parted my hair neatly and set off to the tapering aisle between the old Post Office and the Town Engineer’s house. Flying kites in an open field is a cup of cake, but launching my soldier into the air amidst that jungle of old dilapidating houses, was an extraordinary challenge.. and every time triumph was enslaved. My game-plan that day was to camouflage myself among those archaic edifices, masquerade my attack on the village ground and vanquish the rich brats there.
My rainbow-coloured minion soared high in the sky, while I steered myself through structural barricades. I knew those lanes like the back of my hand. The countless afternoons I had spent there, sharpening my skills had to account for something. My gaze was following my minion as ardently as a kite watches its prey. I was right behind the Hanuman Temple when I noticed an unpredicted falter in the gait of the bearer of my honour. I tugged at the line, but the tension was gone and it slumped back lifelessly.
What a prodigious blow at my pride… I thought while I watched my fallen soldier vagrantly drift towards the ground. My vision was shrouded by desperate rage and utter shock. Even more desperation struck.. This was the end of my dream to vanquish my adversaries. In my quest for the ‘despicable being’ who took me down, I turned around the corner and the veteran banyan tree confronted me. Under it, was a humongous rock and reclined on it was a four-feet tall, ebony-coloured, shabby little boy, candidly gloating in pride. In one hand he clutched my captured and trampled pride and a humble white kite slung on his other shoulder. I was crippled by a spiteful animosity. That distasteful imp-like creature had made me bite the dust. I was torn between mortified embarrassment and indignant exasperation.
He grinned at me, exposing his yellow stained teeth. Before I could translate my feelings into words, he extended his idle hand and said ‘If you give me a rupee, I will return your pretty kite.’ I glared at him without moving a muscle. ‘I won it, I didn’t steal it. It’s mine now. But I know how much you love it. I have been watching you everyday. I learnt flying kites by watching you. You are so good.. But today I cut your line, ain’t I good..’ I felt like roots had grown out of my feet. I stood there impassively. He went on, ‘Come on.. I know you have 25 rupees, I saw you counting it earlier today. I have had nothing to eat in 2 days. I really want to buy a cotton candy at the Mela. Please Bhaiya give me 1 Rupee.’
In a split of a second, my perspective changed, my eyes softened, and I was gripped by a sudden pang of sorrow and empathy. But the embarrassment was unaltered. He had no tangible assets and perhaps no kith or kin to look forward to, yet he stood there so calmly, appeased at the prospect of a cotton candy. And I had treated him with nothing but abhorrence and loathing. Suddenly I felt like he had stepped into my shoes and I had been looking down upon him through the eyes of those rich boys I deeply despised. We were similar in so many ways, yet there was an enormous disparity. He wasn’t accusing others for his miseries, sulking or whining, instead he was availing his skills to earn his infinitesimal reward. It dawned upon me that the world was deluged with less fortunate people who would kill for a life like mine. I was imbued with the serenity of my ‘kite stealer’ and he taught me that just because I failed to acknowledge what I had, its significance did not diminish.
Since that day I wasn’t apprehensive about being judged anymore. I refrained myself from perusing what I did and didn’t have. I focused on doing my best in everything I attempted. Today 20 years later, I have done pretty well for myself, but when I discern my parents.. aged and senile, I wallow in remorse and guilt for having blamed them for all those years, for holding them accountable for my miseries, while I chose to be unhappy. I have replenished the lives of my children with everything they need, but I sincerely hope they learn to appreciate it. I hope they meet their ‘kite stealer’ soon.

5 Opinions:

nil said...

You know Annyesha, lately, I'd been so perturbed and unsettled about the fact that I hadn't read anything good enough that'd once again teach me something and make me smile at good literature and the magic of fiction turned inside out into an anticipated reality ... you have always been such a Saviour every time I've felt that way.
Thank you.
A beautiful story, yet again and as always :-)

etymofreak said...

Probably the best one from u :P

The West Wind said...

@ Nil: I am glad u liked it :D 'Good literature' is a real big word.. and 'make u smile' thats the real purpose..

@ etymo: Thanks.. Its one of my favourites too..

buckingfastard said...

spinning a story from the threads u see all around u is art but making ur own thread to go out of ur comfort zone to spin a story is beauty...and it is beauty.....

the literature and ur writing skills are good and already praised...but i liked the story coz it was simple and stopped itself before it got preachy

The West Wind said...

@ buckingfastard: Thank u for the kind words.. I try to do something different everytime.. Monotony scares me. And you are absolutely right.. I deliberately tried to not make it preachy.. coz I believe the lessons of life are learnt in silence :D

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