Monday, March 29, 2010

His Name was Lakhan

That boy Lakhanwa who handled the spool was too excited to notice her as he was getting ready for that duel in the sky which they were calling 'Payainch Ladana' and his mates were urging him by a sporty aggression of ''Dheel de na re! dheel de"  (let loose! let loose!) .  She was unable to understand much of what they meant but guessed it to be some kite flying jargon however that was not all that important now.  All she was watching was Lakhanwas's shifting feet and the dexterity with which he was handling the spool.  That evening she had found her first HERO her age because as of now no one but her handsome father was the most eligible candidate. When she was much younger than this, a tiny 'German Wali ' ( the girl from Germany) as her father lovingly called her maybe because of her auburn coloured hair on her fair complexion , she had bowled him over by the most hilarious question ever asked.  Watching him one fine morning getting dressed in his suit and tie and she plonked on his bed chewing her morning biscuit she had quipped  " Papa will you marry me when i grow up?"

That evening at dinner time between the clatter of plates and irritating lip smacking sounds from her uncles she put in another request,  " Papa will you get me a latayee and guddi?". Could Papa refuse his German Wali so in between all the sounds into which was another one that of so many chuckles, the resident peon Heera ji was summoned. Papa then instructed, " Heera ji ! kal Sabjibagh se Munni ji ke liye ek accha latayee aur guddi la dijiyegaa"  ( Heera ji ! tommorrow get a spool and kite from Sabjibagh for Munni ji ). Sabjibagh was this place in the city that had a wholesale dealing with kites and it's accessories.  Heera ji looked at Munni ji with the most affectionate smile ever,  nodded his head in an affirmative and uttered  " Ji Sir! '' and left for the kitchen to join the others for dinner but his chuckles could be heard too.  Papa now paused in his eating and gave another set of instructions.  This time to one of the youngest Chacha (Uncle) sitting there " Phani tum kal jara Munni ko guddi bandhana aur udana sikha dena...gaon mein toh guddi champion toh Phania hi hai...''  ( Phani tomorrow teach Munni how to tie the kite and teach her how to fly it the village Phania is the kite champion I suppose). Phani Chacha meanwhile all gloated and also a wee bit embarrassed by this sudden acclaim  answered this time with an audible, "Haun Bhaiya" (Yes elder brother). Ok so Lakhanwa must be Lakhan, Munni thought as she finished the vermicelli pudding without a fuss. She hated Vermicelli pudding but today it tasted different not bad  at all as she normally felt.  That night after lots of hugs and kisses to the best Papa in the world she drifted to a deep slumber of colourful dreams. Dreams in which she could see the spinning spool and lots of brilliant kites.  Dreams in which she saw herself running in a field of green with the colourful kite behind her.

That camaraderie that developed between Munni and her uncles was a catalyst to her eating, drinking and sleeping kites. No amount of her mother's admonishment on her skin being sun-burnt and she getting too ugly for a handsome boy to marry her, could keep her down.  Who was worried about getting married  now when major milestones were being covered.  Each day a steady progress from tying the kite to getting the kite up in the air,  first with the help of a partner and later single- handedly.  Handling the spool to control the kite and gleefully make them take these twirls in the sky were more important than worrying about the colour of the skin.  Each day after a  hurried snack after school and then hitting the terrace of Sujan Bhawan at 4 post noon when the sun would still be warm could neither dull the enthusiasm of the tutor nor the one that was taught. It was not long when she was finally ready to make that tryst with destiny when she would be the king or rather the queen of the Boring Road skies.
It was the summer of 77 and the schools were closed for the vacations after the final exams were over.  Those days the junior classes had their final exams before the summer vacations which were approximately one to one and a half month long.  The schools would re-open in the first week of July when kids with all things new i.e. uniform, books, bags, water bottles, lunch boxes and pencil boxes would happily return to yet another year of onslaught.  Munni oblivious of everything would have made her demands too of all these including the particular shade of brown covers to cover the text books and notebooks but this time things were different.  When her friends were busy holidaying at their grandparents or elsewhere and others busy with their Enid Blyton's and Nancy Drew's Munni was getting more and more skilled at something which was so much more fun and that was of guddi udana. She had no time to even  give a glance at her English text book or Hindi text book,  the stories of which she would lap up even before the school re-opened.  Maybe that was one prime reason for her to be so distracted in these classes because she always thought she knew it all. So maybe this time her teachers got lucky.

So that particular day in the year of 77,  geared with her kit and her skill Munni was all ready for what she now understood fully as ' payainch ladana '.  Wiping the milk off with the sleeve of her blouse she set foot on the terrace and like a pro inspected the sky.  A solitary one there as of now and it will be a piece of cake when she took it down,  she promised herself.  But just when that kite started stalking hers once again she had the same palpitation, the same fear.  And before she could calm herself her spool felt very light in her sweaty hands.  She now saw her kite sliding horizontally and gradually towards the earth and the tensile curve of the twine falling into a limp zig zag.  She cried out loud  '' Meri guddi kat gayee! Meri guddi kat gayee! Ma! Maaa!!"  Tears hopelessly and shamelessly streaking her face and drops dripping from the tip of her sharp nose to the front of the blouse she ran towards the boundary wall of her terrace.  Her eyes blinded by tears not wanting to leave the sight of her guddi  which was no longer hers now.  Still crying she looked down to see where her guddi had fallen so that she could retrieve it.  Guess what she saw ?  Outside the gates of Sujan Bhawan  stood her HERO whom she had blissfully forgotten as she had forgotten the 26 inch machine that introduced them.  Lakhanwa stood there,  his one hand holding her guddi to his chest and the other flailing vigorously beckoning her to come down and get her guddi.  Wiping her tears and ignoring her mother's questioning " Munni beta kya hua? Chot lag gayee? Ruk toh " she flew down the stairs and within minutes  or rather seconds was face to face with Lakhan who was now neatly rolling the twine that came along with her guddi into a neat criss cross bundle with the help of his little finger and thumb.

If Phani Chacha deserves the credit for her kite flying lessons then Lakhan gets the award for fine coaching about the skills of the duel.
" Aapka guddi kat gaya kahe ki aapka dori Manjha nahin hai '' ,  said Lakhan,  handing over her kite and the twine.( Your kite got cut because your twine was not treated )

''latayee de dijiye hum kal Manjha bana kar de denge",  he again requested hesitatingly ( Give your spool to me I shall bring it back tomorrow after coating it ).

Munni was just happy to get her kite back and without much ado handed the spool to lakhan.  After which he left and she came back inside and went straight to Heera ji to ask what Lakhan meant by Manjha.
Heera ji explained to her how the twine was made ready for the duel by coating it with powdered glass.  This is prepared by making a home made gum of wheat flour into which is mixed powdered glass and the twine is passed all along through this mix as it gets coated. Quite a revelation it was when she learnt that in this process the palms mostly bled if one is not careful in handling the process.  And the twine once ready could easily cut the finger too if one was careless.

The next day 4 post noon arrived after a long time.  She stood near the gate and aimlessly strolled around as she anxiously waited for Lakhan.  When it was 5 and still there was no sign of him she requested Heera ji to go and check at the place where he and his friends pump air into the bicycles.  Heeraji returned with a very dissappointing  '' Ou toh wahan haiye nahin aur uska saathi bolta hi ki ou toh aaj ayaa bhi nahin"  ( He is not there and his friends are saying that today he has not come at all ).  Mourning the loss of her spool and missing the sport she turned around to go inside the house when she heard a loud rap at the gate.  Hopes rekindled she ran  and pushed the gate open to see him standing there panting and gasping but holding her spool which looked full and more sturdy with that Manjha twine. The twine instead of being white looked pale pink in colour and it was neatly tied to a big new colourful kite.

Hurriedly he ranted off the final instructions after handing her the spool and the kite. "Jab doosarka guddi aapke guddi se bhid jayega aur ou apna dori khinchega tab aap DHEEL  de dijiyega "  (When that other kite intercepts yours and you feel his pull at that time let loose your twine) . She was too grateful to him for all his efforts and the extra. She repeated,  " accha thik hai us samay DHEEL doongi "  (Ok i shall let loose at that time).  But she also wanted to do something more so she said, " Thank you!  Lakhan so much ''. This time Heera ji interpreted it for him,  '' Baby dhanbad de rahi hain "  (Baby is giving you thank you).  She was too excited with this timely help and transformation and too much in a hurry to get back her revenge that this time she did not wait to correct Heeraji, " Dhanbad nahin dhanyavaad " .( Correct pronunciation of the word thank you in Hindi). And de nahin  kah rahi hain bolo ( not giving but saying thank you ).

That day she did taste her first victory and she knew Lakhan must be watching her feat and applauding her from far.  And  maybe it was not impulsive of her to choose her HERO that day. Aren't heroes supposed to be chivalrous and rescue damsels in distress...even when it is by retrieving her lost kite and going out of his way and means to supplement her with all that she lacked.  Also most Papa's are best for their daughters but when that daddy's girl is in real distress she can't help but cry out, "MA !! ".  Suddenly i want to meet that tomboy of Boring Road and find out if she can still fly kites with panache and can she now manage to slide, run and gain momentum while she jumps over the seat of the 26 inch like she used to,  way back in the 70's ?

photo courtesy: (solitary colourful kite against the deep blue sky).


  1. This brought back my memories of the 70's. The same spirit so well depicted in this post was very much prevalent within so many of us then. Flying kites and having incredible high tension duels in the sky (Payainch Ladana) and then the thumping heart associated nerves of steel of letting go huge quantity of the Manjha twine through sore fingers (Dheel de! dheel de) got me goose pimples as I read through. I would love to know what happened to the tomboy in your real life story though. Good read… keep it up.

  2. @Tandarin thanks so much for reading and re-living 70's with Munni and since you asked would love to tell you that the tomboy turned into a real female later and did what ladies are supposed to having a happy comfortable life but on seeing Muskaan in the film 'Well Done Abba' wanted to travel back in time and be that tomboy again...oh...soo...badly...

  3. Ah! I cherished it. It left a smile on my face for quite some time :-)

    I had made a hurried post ( after reading the first part of it.

    Did you grow up in Bengal/Orissa?

  4. @Raja Thank you so much for reading Munni's story and the dialect used should have given you a clue na...:)

  5. Very interesting post. Do people still fly kites these days?

  6. @Anirban thanks for reading and of course people still fly kites :)