I had seen celebrations before. I had seen people getting hammered and rolling on the road at weddings, I had seen people firing endlessly at the sky and letting crackers till old men die of heart attack, I had seen people play party songs at the volume that could intiate an earthquake. But I had never seen one million people on the roofs, and one million kites in the sky, and then, one million sky lanterns floating above, gliding towards the moon, which appeared closer than before.
It was the 15th August. It’s the day we became the slaves of our own countrymen, in place of white-skinned viceroys. In my hometown, you’d see flags hoisted everywhere, and there would be woofers blasting Rang de Basanti song, and the atmosphere would be flooded with the sweet aroma of Jalebis. People would stick to their TV sets, watching Jhankis on DD1.
But in Delhi, you see magic. They celebrate 15th August as if it’s Diwali or something. I was solving a pawn-problem on my chessboard when the KotaBoy asked me to come to the roof.
“Everybody’s there. “He said, and I wondered if by ‘everybody ‘, he meant girls too.
“Okay. “I said and ran after him.
The roof was a crowded place. There were around thirty people spread like pieces of a complex constellation, and as I took my third step towards the denser area, my legs got tangled in a string and I nearly tripped over. And that’s the moment I saw the girls. This Hot Pants Girl ( who was wearing pyjamas for a change ) was too busy clicking group selfies to throw me a glance. So, I looked up, and froze with awe.
Kites. Kites of all colours and sizes, darting around like moths, killing each other and flying high. I swiveled my eyes and found them everywhere. The horizon was thick with crazy kites fighting each other. It seemed like the sky was hosting an aerial war. People stood on their roofs and navigated and maneuvered their kites. Others cheered for them. The girls were still taking selfies, so I went to another end and watched the battle above. It was awesome.
As the evening flowed into night, sky lanterns rose from the roofs. Every house had people lighting one. There were pink, yellow, red, blue and so many more colors – it was like a candyjar to the eyes. In no time, the sky shimmered with one million stars rising above, drifting towards the oversized moon, as if they were going home. The horizon was now studded with flickering lantenrs. The sky lit up like a dream. There were endless fireworks, and everybody watched in awe, and then the girls slipped away.
We stayed there for a while, and then everybody wanted to play chess, so I brought one up. We played and I thrashed everybody.
It feels kind of ethereal to say CHECKMATE under the stretch of glimmering sky.