Sourced from wikipedia :
Makar Sankranti, apart from a harvest festival is also regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It is said as the ‘holy phase of transition’. It marks the end of an inauspicious phase which according to the Hindu calendar begins around mid-December. It is believed that any auspicious and sacred ritual can be sanctified in any Hindu family, this day onwards. Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights. In other words, Sankranti marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season.
While on the path to development are we leaving behind our culture in a cess pool of negligence? Today, the day of sakaranti, as I look towards the sky from the windows of my central Mumbai apartment I cannot help but wonder the expansive blue sky above, minus the dots that once pitched that very blue expanse in a sea of swarming, laced, paper-planes. The kites or guddi or patang as we used to know it has all but vanished, save some enthusiastic souls who climb their terraces on this auspicious day and lock horns with their counterparts in a tussle to win over the skies.
I had climbed the seven stories to get some solace wherein I could read the case of one Salem Sinai, immortalised by Salman Rushdie in The Midnight’s Children only to find four expatriates from US atop the tank- terrace fighting to sail aloft the skies their rocket shaped paper toy. While they had got it all wrong tying the ‘kanni‘ only at the top leaving the kite perilously lurched at the front and unable to scour the skies, a deft manipulation ( with my expert advise ofcourse) they were able to make their way onto the expanse and into the wide blue sheet. It brought the time to a standstill for me as I was thrown back fifteen years trying ( in vain) to induce ‘dhar‘ by using rice, mashed wheat and what not onto the white threads that went in a roundabout along the four pillars that held aloft the verandah in my home.
Some children watched in awe as the kite soured the skies. The firangees were having a nice Saturday with bottles of Kingfisher immersing them in the activity of the day. Even as they shouted ‘ringardium laviosa‘, jumped about their conquest of the sky, gulped down the frothy liquid and whaled in their accomplishment I was at a loss. Around me, a 360 degree view of central Mumbai opened itself up to the Indira Gandhi domestic airport to the north, the shanties of kalina to the south, two deserted apartment high-rises on the east and a cascade of domestic life through the windows of another high rise on the west. A bunch of kids swarmed the south- east corner playing with a oft-used and long discarded football, some scampered stop the deserted water-tank playing catch-me-if-you-can, a middle aged man peered through his half- balcony, a lady dusted the wooden furnitures, another started on the long process of dinner while another sat about watching Star Plus, evident with the glossy and abrupt sequence shifts that could push a head ache in a hurry.
In short, another Saturday in the life of Mumbai complete with the to-do lists of office-goers( which included afternoon siestas for some), evening playgrounds for kids and family time for businessmen. Neither do I know if my
Mumbai ever celebrated this day neither do I care for the same. In a city which prides itself as a magnet which draws Indians from the nook and cranny of India I find it impossible to accept there are not some who haven’t ever let this day take its own special significance.
In an age where being an atheist and agnostic is high brow and intellectual, accepted and desired I do not expect religion to motivate people to let go of this one day and try and sit back under the swath of open skies. What I do not understand is, if we travel seas to immerse ourselves in the local cultures, pride ourselves as widely travelled ones and as jet setters, why in our own country do we scurry when such opportunities knock at our own doors. What is it that we, who were once, known country- dwellers are now indifferent towards the wreak that seems to be emerging in our very own backyard.
In Identity and Violence, Amartya Sen goes about explaining how an individual during his lifetime comes to associated with a wide array of identities, each succeeding the other as and when situation arises with some presiding like demi- gods over the other for some. While we are quick on our feet to denounce and condemn attacks at our culture, gods and traditions it would be interesting to know how many know the constitution of what they defend, how much they understand of those very ‘precious’ identities and what pains they undertake to preserve it in their own glass- houses. With that said, I would be quick to acknowledge my ignorance of the people who do care and who do give a damn.
While I am on the issue of disclosures I should also concede that I am not your front page conservatives, nor am I those page 3 connoisseurs with profiles undertaken by the likes of Mint Lounge, TOI Crest, The Caravan etc. I am your quintessential average citizen who wants to give a damn. You might want to skip the history or the ancient logic but you should be careful while phasing out the actual action. It might seem pre-historic, but it’s important because it helps you understand where you come from, helps you keep intact the nostalgia and pushes you to cherish and promote something which, an antique at present, helps you sit back and reflect, share and reminisce, understand and preserve your root.