Vijayan was aghast. Terrifying memories came flooding back as he witnessed the sight before him. He had endured a nerve wracking week of listlessness, starvation and insomnia after that particular incident. Even after three decades he could vision that fateful day in such kaleidoscopic fashion…
The competition was down to three. He was one of them. His hands were bloody and sore after four hours of non stop action. But it was all worth it. If he downs two more, his long standing dream would be realized. He was already at the top as far as number of kills went, but the last one standing was all that counted. He maneuvered his weapon with the skill of a professional, directing it towards the next target. With the familiar feeling of coursing adrenaline he pulled…down went the next one. And, so there were two.
As he lowered his hold in order to relax his muscles he heard an ear splitting scream from down the street followed by a deafening crash. Immediately he pulled, but it wouldn’t budge. Holding on to it, he raced down the street. The sight that met his eyes scared him to death. A motorist lay on the ground having crashed head on with a lorry. As people started to gather around, he caught a glimpse of something familiar entangled with the handlebar. There it was…the one precious thing he cherished, his Kite. He couldn’t believe it. His kite had killed someone. At least, it was the main reason for the deathly accident. When he had lowered his hold in order to relax, the glass coated string or Maanja, as it was called, had cut into the innocent motorist’s hand forcing him to lose his balance and crash onto the oncoming lorry.
Numb with shock, the only thing he managed to do was drop his string and make a dash for his house. The following week was the worst one of his life. Every knock on the door felt like the sound of doom to him. He pictured policemen barging into the house during a relaxed family dinner or the routine after dinner banter and drag him out. How he wished he had heeded his father’s advice and flown his kite from the terrace. But, as always, he had been indifferent towards it. It was only when he heard that the policemen in the area had issued a warning to all kite flyers and imposed a ban on the sport, but were not arresting or doubting anyone for the mishap as it was an accident, that he began to relax a little. But the guilt inside him remained forever.
That was thirty years ago, but still fresh in his mind. Ever since that incident he never got used to the sight of children flying kites, though he managed to put it out of his mind a few hours after seeing someone with the dreaded string.
But this particular day was something different. It was not any other kid. It was his son. With the same fierce passion in his eyes and the skilled nimbleness in his fingers he was flying a kite. A Maanja threaded kite.
He marched over towards the youngster. “You are to return home this instant. And, if I ever catch you playing that horrid sport again, be prepared to face severe consequences”, he bellowed at the horror stricken boy. With that, he caught hold of the Maanja and snapped it into two.
As he lay in bed that night reliving the afternoon’s happenings, he felt a stab of guilt. When he was a young boy, Vijayan had never given respect or even a courtesy hearing to his father’s words. But his father had never gone ballistic with rage even on one occasion. With calm understanding and careful reasoning he had made Vijayan realize the mistakes he had been doing. Even the seemingly unimportant advice of flying kites from terrace had turned out to be a life changing one for him. Still, Vijayan had never confided in his father as to how sorry he felt for all the disrespect he had shown in his younger days. Though he had started following the older man’s words and giving due respect to his experience, he had failed to overcome his ego and open up his heart to his father. Now the old man was no more. He had died a peaceful death two years ago without hearing about the sea of change he had brought about in his son’s perception of life.
Suddenly a warning bell sounded in his mind. What if his own son turned out like him? With such an understanding father also, Vijayan had rebelled for most of his childhood. What would have happened if his father had treated him the same way as he was treating his son now? He would have surely rebelled more, and would have even hated his father. What if his son started to hate him? Vijayan had never exactly been an understanding father. He had always taken the easier route…scold, punish and on instances such as the one today, impose a ban. He never felt the need to see reason. He had failed to understand the finer nuances of fatherhood, even after being under the wings of an almost perfect one. He decided to take the first step today.
Vijayan’s son was lying on the floor staring at the ceiling as he entered the room. There was a look of fear mixed with defiance in his eyes as he saw Vijayan at the door.
“For how long have you been flying kites?” asked Vijayan softly. The boy relaxed a little at the tone of his voice. “Just a week”, he replied and after an uncertain pause added “I was really starting to like it Appa”. Vijayan smiled. His son looked relieved when he realized that his father was not going to scold him.
“Do you have competitions as well? With the boy in possession of the last kite standing being declared the winner?” Vijayan asked.
“Yes Appa. Today was, in fact, one such competition and I was one among the last three”, replied his son with enthusiasm.
“Good. Now, can you promise your Appa one thing?” asked Vijayan.
“What is it Appa?” asked his son, nonplussed.
“Will you promise me that next time onwards you will fly kites from the terrace only and not from the ground?” asked a smiling Vijayan.
He could see the brimming of happiness in his son’s reply. “Of course I will”.
“Does that mean I can take part in next week’s competition Appa?” he asked.
Vijayan could feel the eagerness in his voice; he could feel the joy within him waiting to burst its way out through a ‘whoop’ from the mouth and a close fisted punch of the air. But apart from that, he could also feel the respect in his son’s voice.
“Go for it Son…go for it”, he said. He was sure his father would have approved of it…
He then heard the phrase “Thank you so much Appa” two times…The first one aloud from his son’s mouth…the second one, silently in his own heart…