Taking Flight by Megha Nayar

My brother discovers a torn kite in our courtyard today. It must have flown in from somewhere during the kite-flying event last evening. He gets a roll of cello tape to repair the tear. This makes the kite heavier on the taped side, so he sticks a piece of similar length and width on the other side for balance. Our paper hero is finally ready for flight – patched-up and weird-looking but still capable of straddling the skies. 

In the beginning, the kite dodders. There isn’t enough wind to power it into motion, so each time it attempts to take off, it crash-lands with a thud. My brother suggests I help him launch it, so I pick it up and stand in front of him. When he says “Go!” I jump up and release it into the air, as high as my diminutive frame will allow. He handles the spool deftly, managing the thread and the kite all at the same time, his manoeuvres smooth as butter. Unfortunately, his efforts do not yield a different outcome. The device plops to the ground in a few seconds, defeated. Despite its potential as a flying object, it can’t accomplish much when abandoned by the wind. 

We will have to wait, my brother says. Let’s try in the evening, once the breeze returns. 

We go back to the terrace a little before dusk for our final attempt. We are likely to succeed now, I think, looking at the neighbour’s laundry billowing on the clothesline. Birds are returning to their nests in our neemtree whose branches are swaying and leaves rustling. The wind chime on our porch is making gentle clanging noises, as if heralding the arrival of the kite-flying hour. 

Do you want me to launch it for you, I ask my brother. You won’t have to, he says. It should be able to take off on its own. 

I watch as he releases a few metres of string from the spool. He drops the kite slightly and then gives it a soft tug, hiking it up in the air. This time, it doesn’t plummet. It gets a formidable thrust from the wind and makes a rapid ascent, fluttering like a bird. In less than two minutes it is properly airborne.  

My brother asks if I want to hold the thread awhile, but I don’t hear him. I stare at the kite in happy inertia. For the first time in days, I slip out of my near-constant state of rumination and forget all about the rejected visa. In that moment, the kite is more than just a piece of paper in the wind – it is a reminder for me that flight happens when it is meant to. 

Until then, one must quietly wait. 

Megha Nayar was longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2020 and the New Asian Writing Short Story Prize 2020. She teaches English and French for a living, and writes to remain sane. Her work has appeared in Trampset, Variety Pack, Versification, Burnt Breakfast, Brown Sugar, Cauldron Anthology, Harpy Hybrid Review, Potato Soup Journal, Postscript Mag, Ayaskala Mag and The Daily Drunk Mag, among others. She tweets at @meghasnatter.  

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