Jai Bhagwan’s Kite Store…

Friday, August 12, 2016

“Chal… Jaldi Aaja… Jai Bhagwan ka naya Manja aa gaya hai…” shouted Lucky… “Aur sun… is baari 2 rupay zyaada laaiyo… Patang mehnge ho gaye hain aur Manja bhi…”

(Come fast… Jai Bhagwan (kite store) has got his new stock of kites and string… and get 2 rupees extra this time… the kites and string have become expensive)

circa ~August 1980…

——————–

Lucky, my friend, my classmate and my next-door neighbour – living behind a door below on the ground floor, and an avid leader of the kite flyer club of all of us 10-12 year olds, sounded quite excited…

There was a lot of work to be done… the kites have to be bought, only a few though – to last the morning… because the rest of the kites would most definitely float on to our terrace after having lost their battle mid air with other kites… and as such, would serve the purpose and the right number for the rest of the afternoon…

Mothers needed to be convinced… the Campa Cola needed to be stocked in the fridge… along with the eats and bites that needed to be served hot… Lucky had a fridge at home… my mother was popular amongst my friends for the tongue licking onion pakoras that she used to make…

Sisters needed to be bullied… to get all of this stuff up to the terrace… the more enthusiastic sisters were to be secretly chosen and coopted to hold the kite at a distance to give that initial fillip that would make the kite soar… some sisters were more skilled than others… so, some of the meagre resources that the club had, were to be prudently set aside as bribes for the next set of bangles and ‘bindis’ (the dots that beautify the foreheads of our womankind) for our sisters…

My Murphy ‘Tape Recorder’ needed to be hauled up to the terrace too… along with those two of my most favourite cassette tapes (out of my total household collection of 12 – the rest was family music)… and I needed to park 10 minutes to listen to my father on the Do’s and Don’ts of handling the Murphy…

Murphy on the terrace meant an electrical extension chord and board… borrowed from Bunty’s household 2 blocks away… Bunty’s father needed to be cajoled… he had recently got the extension chord made from the local electrician because Bunty’s 11th Birthday party was held in the park in front of his house… and thus, the invention of the extension chord…

While Bunty was a wannabe, he wasn’t particularly a member of the kite club… you see, membership was by invitation and Lucky did not like Bunty much… but we needed the extension chord…

This year Sonu (Sunil) was our new neighbour… his father was an ENGINEER with a private firm… and as such Sonu was richer than many of us and was quite resourceful… yet those 4 rupees each were to be collected for the Campa Cola and the eats, from everybody who would be on that terrace… including Sonu… and a plan was to be devised how to say NO to Sonu’s offer of 10 rupees contribution to the club and maintain that fiscal equilibrium in the club…

Failing to Plan, was Planning to Fail… we learnt this early last year… we did not plan to wake up early and get to the terrace… as such, Nanhe’s (Sudhir) team started making some very early noise on their terrace a block away… Nanhe’s (the little one) name was quite misplaced… the legend has it that when he was born, Nanhe was small… really small in size, like many of us… and he then started growing bigger the next day on… but his mother found it convenient to call him ‘the little one’ with a lot of love and fondness… also because he was the only boy born to her womb after 4 daughters…

So, we needed to really plan to wake up at 6am… and we needed to plan for this till 11pm the night before after we have planned and done everything else…

———————–

Jai Bhagwan’s kite store was on Tank Road, Regarpura, Karol Bagh… a few blocks and lanes away from where we all lived… Lucky and I had started off for the store the evening before, when Bunty gave us a shout from a distance… he wanted to come along… while I was fine by that, some early symptoms of how I always wanted to create an inclusive environment and take everybody along… Lucky was not in favour of Bunty accompanying us…

“Tujhe hum pe bharosa nahin hai…?”, (you don’t trust us?)… Lucky was blunt…

He always suspected Bunty’s intentions… ever since Bunty had his Birthday Party in the neighbourhood park… and ever since Lucky’s parents convinced him that such ostentation as birthday parties in neighbourhood parks will not be tolerated in their family…

Bunty tagged along… we needed the extension chord after all…

Jai Bhagwan was in his late 50s… had seen the splendour of kite-flying in the new post-independent India… and as such, a business opportunity to set this small little shop up here on Tank Road in the early 50s… when a good part of the summer in Delhi leading right up to the I-Day saw a new emerging religion – kite-flying… his shop was right in the middle of a flourishing middle class residential locale and close to the other shopping streets like Ajmal Khan Road and Arya Samaj Road in Karol Bagh…

And for the last 30 odd years leading up to the 80s, Jai Bhagwan had established his brand… if it has to be the best ‘Manja’ – the glass coated string that gets front loaded to the kite in its initial flight, which habitually cuts into your finger flesh… and the best ‘Saddi’ – the white coloured smoother string that is back loaded so that when the kite is in full flight, you manoeuvre its soaring without having to damage your fingers any further…

Lucky, Bunty and I returned home… after having spent a fortune of 9 rupees for which we got 20 kites… both varieties of the string… and two ‘Charkhadis’ – the swivels which hold the rolled string… we had a budget of 10, but we saved a rupee for any unforeseen expenditure the next day…

Jai Bhagwan was kind… he threw in for free, the ‘Chepi’ – the tape that you used to cover a torn portion of the paper kite… and also 3 band-aids for the 3 of us… so that we put the aid on when our fingers would see the cut in the flesh the next day…    

——————–

We did wake up early the next day… in fact, the excitement did not allow us to sleep… I kept staring at my Favre-Leuba, the family heirloom alarm clock through the night… and its radium dial… staring forward to…

An Independence Day… A Day of Happiness, Freedom and Flying on the Terrace… with Kites… and Campa Cola…

Aibo… Kaate…!

Happy Independence Day…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

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