A whole city shutting down so that kids can stand on their roofs and fly kites sounds a bit like a scene from a Pixar movie, doesn’t it? I’ll probably never fly to South America in a house hauled by bright balloons, but I can say I’ve flown a kite on India’s Basant (Kite Day).
Basant is a Hindu celebration of the beginning of spring. School is cancelled in Ferozepur, Punjab, the city where the biggest Basant celebration is held. Even if school were to be held, parents would keep their children home. And I don’t hardly blame them. Seeing thousands of kites in the air, all being flown from rooftop terraces, was whimsy in its purest form.
We had heard about this festival when we first visited Ferozepur, the city nearest the Indo-Pak border. We didn’t think we’d be able to come, but our hosts were able to route us through the city again as we moved from Moga, Punjab to Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan.
We didn’t know quite what was happening as we navigated through an unfamiliar Indian neighborhood and parked, but as soon as we stepped out of the car and were ushered to the third floor of a house, we didn’t much care.
Every roof had a stereo system and loud, thumping dance music. Our roof (and all of the others, I’m sure) had a spread of appetizers, cakes, and drinks.
One of the goals of the day is to “cut” kites. You raise your kite as high as you can, then slice the string into other kites, bringing them to the ground. The last kite flying wins.
I tried my hand at flying a perfect purple kite, and I was, in a word, awful. I don’t remember flying kites being so hard, but I was struggling to keep mine in the air. I’m not sure how Megan, Joe, and Kate faired, but Sarah was a pro. She only dropped her kite when someone (surprise!) asked her to take a photo with them.
This young man, an expert kite-flyer, held some remedial courses for me. I remain fairly hopeless, but I’m willing to work on it. Oklahoma is awfully windy, after all.
Kites cost about a quarter each, and the rooftop we were on said they’d bought around 200 of them, and everywhere I turned I was getting tangled in kite string.
And here’s the whole team. We had so much fun being a part of this festival. Think we can make it happen in Oklahoma?
We drove out of Ferozepur and on towards Sri Ganganagar, and the kites were fewer and fewer. On the outskirts of town I spied boys in wheat fields, alone, flying single kites. Moments like that are when I wish I could ask our driver to pull over for a photo.