“Balanava! Look!”, my neighbour called out to me yesterday. Knowing what he was talking about, I grabbed my camera and rushed to the little balcony off the landing, searching the sky. There it was – a speck in the clouds, far in the distance.
Zooming in some more, I recognized Moon Walker highlighted against the clouds.
It’s kite season – the inter-monsoon period when the winds high up in the troposphere are streaming across our island in a dependable, easterly flow – the time when little boys tear down dusty lanes outside their houses to launch their latest creation, and the sky comes alive with diving and dipping kites of all shapes and sizes.
Sometimes launch and landing results in mishaps – kites in trees, straining against a stiffening breeze. But always, by the next morning, they’ve been rescued.
In the evenings, and on the weekends, crowds flock to Galle Face Green – the great urban space at the seaside that has been the playground for the people of Colombo since colonial times. During kite season people even come from out-of-town to fly, and watch the flyers.
When I returned home one evening, high up in the darkening sky, I saw a new kite – larger and higher than any I’d seen before.
Then yesterday, as the smells from the kitchen began to titillate my taste buds, I heard insistent, but unintelligible, cries close by. The kite I’d seen as a speck in the sky the other night was being disentangled from the branches of the mango tree. It’s straining line had snagged on the peak of the roof as it was being reined in after its’ morning flight.
Made of strong nylon and plastic shopping bags pasted and sewn onto a springy bamboo frame, it is a work of artifice and visual deceit, larger than its creator and handler – a wiry man in his fifties. It made me laugh with delight to watch him clambering like a boy over the rooftops, reeling in the captured kite, gathering its diaphanous tail – which wasn’t a tail at all, but highly articulated legs. By the time I’d retrieved my camera, he’d made it to the wall beside my house and it seemed safer to have him use the mango tree as a ladder back to earth. And so I met my neighbour-but-one. He launches from the roof of my immediate neighbour’s garage, and I’d say, like Hanuman and his family, over the years he’s been learning to adapt to the urbanization of his once sparsely populated village on the outskirts of the city.
“Did you get pictures?” he called, grinning at me as he squirmed the upper part of his body through the branches of the custard apple. Leaning way back in a chair, with the tripod balanced on two legs almost on top of me, I had, indeed taken pictures.
Not only did I have pictures of Moon Walker, as I’d christened his distinctive red and white sky dancer, but also of another kite, higher up, which often disappeared behind the clouds. At maximum digital zoom the photographs reveal just how taut their thrumming lines were as they pulled against the wind, far in the distance.
Many thanks to Jake for his inspirational challenge – From a Distance . I know this isn’t quite what you had in mind, Jake, when you set the challenge, but it was too tempting for me to resist using it as a springboard to showcase the kite season. I also to drew upon the Urban theme proposed by the Weekly Photo Challenge this week.