Bridge of Skies
Of dreams, competition, and survival…
Jan 14. 4 pm. Pune. It was crowded in a festive way. The terraces and the sky were bursting with dancing colors. I found the view impressive. My companions, in turn, found me impressive. They were amazed. How can an amateur excel? I silently enjoyed the adulation of my kids. Sometimes, it’s nice to keep secrets from your family. I wore a mischievous smile as I walked away from celebrations. It was a multilane walk—back to my 7th floor office, and back down memory lane to the 70s … Kite flying is like riding a bicycle. Once you have learnt it, you don’t forget it …
Early 70s. Bhopal. My fascination with patang started early. It was a cherished neighborhood activity. Only marbles had a larger cult following. I was too young to fly or even catch kites. But I was a sincere apprentice. The one responsible for holding the spool (charkhi), assisting the launch, stringing the frame (kanni), fixing damaged kites, tailing rogue kites (poonch), etc. Occasionally, when the kites were stable, my brothers would let me hold the string. Then as soon as a hostile kite came close, I would hastily hand back the reins.
The kites were my friends. I dreamt of them. With eyes wide open. They shadowed my limited rationality. Away from prying eyes, I would often run in my backyard. Furiously flapping my tiny arms. Hoping to take off. That’s how melodramatic the childhood dreams are.
Late 70s. Haridwar. Dad’s transfer changed more than the school and the neighborhood. Haridwar was cutting-edge when it came to kite flying. I unlearnt many things. It was possible to fly a kite without an apprentice. The tails were only for novice flyers. Torn kites were just discarded, not fixed. Running after defeated kites was a cool thing. One didn’t need to be tall to catch renegade kites; an improvised bamboo with a hook accomplished the job.
Above all, I learnt that kite wars were more thrilling than reigning solo. Kite flying was no more about touching the sky. It was about flying higher than other kites. All other kites were enemies. My dreams had been downgraded. The opposite flyer’s failure defined my success.
Mid 80s. Ahmedabad. My first tryst with Uttarayan was in my college days during a visit to Ahmedabad. The energy engulfing the day is difficult to explain. In the wee hours of Jan 14, the entire city seems to descend on their rooftops. Your first kite takes off. It lasts barely a few minutes. Then it’s the turn of the second, third, and so on. Soon, all the kites are gone. But by then, replenishments have landed up in the vicinity. The colors continue dancing long after the sunset.
And behind the darting colors lurks a darker reality. All kites are ill-fated. It matters not how graceful the kite, how focused the flyer—the falling is inevitable. The rock star kite is not the one flying highest, rather the one surviving longest.
5 pm. I reached my office, settled behind my desk and contemplated. Dreams to touch the sky define our childhood. In our teenage years our dreams get downgraded to relative heights. By the time we hit our early adulthood, the goal is to avoid falling. It’s a dreams-to-survival saga. A top-down approach ending in misery! Perhaps a bottom-up approach would lead to happiness?
A soaring kite is a ‘dream’ metaphor. How to flip it? The CEO’s desk held no answers. I got up, opened the window blinds and peeped down. A few Cybagians were on their tea break, marveling at the airborne kites. Maybe, their gaze also captured the open blinds of the top floor office? Possibly, we were looking at each other – they upward and I downward?
Sure, kids need inspiration to look up and dream big. But do we also sensitize them on the dreams of the ones below? Our reality is someone’s dream. So before learning to dream, our offspring needs a reality check—the pain of survival is deeper than the gain of success!
A fighting kite is a ‘competition’ metaphor. I raised my gaze and at eye level were the impressive Kumar Cerebrum, Nyati, and Marisoft IT towers. Hazy at a distance was the majestic Magarpatta SEZ. Together, we house many present, ex, and future Cybagians. Collectively, we evangelized and conquered the global IT market and redefined competition.
It’s tough to succeed out there, we learn that quickly in our teens. But what is not as obvious is that the sky is untouchable. Without relative heights, there will be no desire to leave the ground. Competition with others incentivizes us to collaborate with self.
An Uttarayan kite is a ‘survival’ metaphor. I looked up at the urban skyline. The orange ball had mellowed down. I watched it slide down gracefully, inch by inch. It was on a mission to ground human aspirations, and in the process was recalibrating my understanding of survival.
Sometimes, the sun goes down on our dreams. And we lose our zest for life. But the gift of existence is too precious to be branded as a mere survival. It deserves a more uplifting metaphor. But what can soar higher than a kite? Perhaps our second metaphor—the brightest star in the sky.
The sky doesn’t own our sun. At dusk, the earth takes over. And during the handover, the sun glows its splendid best. Why? Because in those glorious moments, it’s bridging the sky and the earth…
The sky shouldn’t own our dreams either. It should compete with the earth. For, our dreams are more meaningful when they are bridging the sky and our fellow earthlings. Those who get this are not stressed about survival. They are like the mighty sun. One that never fails to rise again each morning!
On that sunrise note, it’s sundown time. But not before sharing the ‘winning’ glimpse at Aroma household from last night…
Innovative commenters (from left) – Sanjeev Arora, Amol Jeurkar, Sunil Jiwnani, Ashwini Kamble, me, Rajeev Dev, Amit Gajwani, Nikhil Bhardwaj