Monthly Archives: January 2008

rooftop love: kite festival in jaipur

Dear Readers,

I’m writing you from a hood in Jaipur, a city in the northwest desert state of Rajasthan, where the season’s annual Kite Festival, Sankranti, is going full speed. 

Here, in this part of India, neighborhoods are called colonies.  Morning in the colony sounds like eyes first open quiet with old school and new school noise coming to a slow boil, a rising cacophony, a red winter sun.  Scooters kick starting, rickshaws horn blaring, vegetable, bread, and milk, sweet, salty, and silk sellers slicing the air with wares turning their product into prayer calls on early morning rounds.



Sankranti is a festival day when the sun moves out of Capricorn, the harvest comes come, and the households climb up to flat rooftops to fly after kite after kite.  A sky full of glints, winks, cloudlessness held, birds felt, seen again, necks upraised, hands awash in string singing praise, the sky, the wind, these were our concerns today.  

Every rooftop as far as the eye could see, hundreds, thousands, packed with families, steroes, piping hot fried foods, string, strategy, sunglasses, saris, salwaars, akademic brand button downs, shouts from all around: Cut! Patang!

Patang means kite.  And its either yours or mine that’s gonna get cut so lets see what you got in that flick of wrist, twist of arm, cocked back quick like a polaroid picture of a cricket wicket pitcher, lets see you get your kite high flying in a sky just dying to blow you, to blow you, away.

Rooftop love for real y’all.  Music? Hot pakoras, puri’s, samosas, seseame sweets?  Kites by the dozens?  On the roof with a sculpturer family generations strong?  Over, done. Curtains folks, it was a sunset wrap.  Never seen nothing like it. 

You wanna fly?

Okay, first thing you do, is you get yourself a wad, a thick fisted handful of paper black-white, purple-black, blue- red backed kites.  Less than 30 cents a pop.  Its paper, kite shaped, stretched over one up and down length of stick, and one left to right stretch of stick, placed like a “t,” towards the top of the kite, and arched up, to create the tension of width. 

Poke two holes towards the top like dracula fang bites, two holes towards the bottom.  Double up a length of string, push through the top fang holes, loop through the bottom fang holes, bring up the two ends of string into an unequal triangle, do not, repeat, do not tie the not in a triangle with equal sides.  Why?  Your kite won’t fly.  String knotted?  Alright, now bend the kite over your head, to get that wooden stick arched just so.

Now tie onto your kite some of that glass covered string from off the heavy wooden spool, and try and try till the wind catches your prayer and makes that sucker fly. 

Point to the wind.  Listen as it rips.  Plunges, soars, tips your stare up to the sky where luck keeps you naturally high. 

The trick is to strike a balance between keeping your kite in check by tugging it higher notch by notch, and letting your kite fly far and free, your spool of string unwinding into the horizon so your kite can stand tall, up there where the birds are.  This ain’t nothing, one older uncle told me, when i was a kid, our kites flew so high, we used to use binnoculars to find em.

I believe you, old timer, I do.

Here go some text-haiku’s on Sankranti, click on the link to *learn more*. 



Stay tuned for the next installment of “All The News That’s Fit To Flip.” Copy me, hate me, but no matter what, read me.



turning dirty thirty in dalai lama land

 -Dharamshala, Himmachal Pradesh, India

January 10, 2008

Dear Readers,

I am writing to you from the knees of the magnificent Himalayas, where exiled Tibetan’s have come to escape Chinese persecution in their land.  Here, Dharamshala, is where the Dalai Lama calls home. 

I turned 30 today.  No small surprise, but witness, bear witness to a life spent living, with less and less lies.  The sun burst out in sky backed joy this morning after a night of wind.  Last night the wind washed all the rock off the side of my Himalayas.  And laid the rocks thunder shaped, prayer scroll scraped, at the foot of my sleepy slumber bed. 

Wind like I’ve never heard.  Sweeping down, momentum drawn, from skyscraping slopes to plains dotted with village hopes. 

This is my god.  Where Shiv Ji sits and spills out the river Ganga, a stones throw away from where Hanuman takes lessons from the Sun.  These valleys amidst peaks are where clouds go to rebound, arch up into hand claps, hi-five lightning bolts reaching up united over tree lined ridges, monumental tiers dug into mountains, houses steeped in stone, monkeys of metallic sheen and black faces, golden ones call this place home. 

This year I begun awash in wind, rain, sleet, snow, sun, and shine.  Washed clean. 

Keep reading, the next post takes a look at an important development in post-liberation world politics (outside the U.S.).




On and Around the Pakistan-India border: birds flying high, you know how i feel

Dear Readers,

I’m writing to you from the cavernous insides of the Golden Temple complex in Amristar, Punjab. A pilgrimage site for Sikh’s, it is beautiful. A vast square, mirror like pool in its midst, a walkway beset in white marble, crowned on four sides with striking gates, and scores walking barefoot, around and around. In the middle of it all, a golden temple, reflecting itself in the eyes of the head covered seekers and, of course, the water.

From here its about a half hours journey in a gutted out Tata white minivan to Pakistan, via the Wagah border. I was there yesterday, along with thousands of other Indian’s, Pakistanis, and foreigners. We all gathered to bear witness to the famed flag ceremony, where Indian border security and Pakistanis border security posture for the masses, as they take down their respective flags for the day.

Soldiers on both sides, tall, strapping, dressed to the nines. India a military green, red accents, gleaming chaps, a champions belt and plume stiff gorgeous. Pakistan a black flowing kurtha, all black, head to toe, even their plumes, had inches on India’s, mercenaries, desert riders, extra flair, head snaps, plumes this way and that.

Chango dances like this.

Heads kicked high, rooster crow cry, plumes, exhume the truth of the matter is that we are brothers and sisters, both sides. Both sides chanting, Pakistan-Zindabad!, India-Zindabad!, music blasting over carnival in Brazil on the street in heat sized speakers. National fever pitched, sold, and bought, at bargain basement prices. Rooting for our side. Is harder. When it comes to white people and their companies. Easier like this. Amongst immediate family.

At the Wagha border it is gladiator like stadiums on both sides, two gates inches apart one painted with green and white, crescent moon so bright, the other an orange, white, green, wheel. There is a VIP section reserved for important Indian folks and foreigners. The VIP section is closer to the action, cordoned off by baby blue rope, less crowded, less policed. At this junction there are at least three borders in visible operation. The border between Pakistan and India. The border between nationals and foreigners. The border between men and women. And maybe a fourth. A border between the fervent nationalists and the nation-state questioning.

Us vs. Them. Us is. Them.

Looked up from the breath defying guard, who called out positions in long, classical notes, vying for sound space with a man in the crowd who wanted to do exactly what you do, when you call this way, the soldiers respond. When you call this way, the crowd cheers. When you call this way, Pakistan’s soldiers can hear.

Looked up from the breath defying guard into the sky was a plush clouded blue, ever dimming at this sunset flag ceremony, and the birds were laughing above us. Flying free over these arbitrary lines. Natural plumes cut speed through the air up there looked good. Looked free.

Would the British love to see this? The fierce posturing, the rivalry, the chants. Perhaps not, maybe its not bloody enough for the divide and conquer post-partition eyes that watch and steer and guide, for this, Gandhi Ji died. Or maybe there’s plenty of blood, and the wounds are all inside, perception, media, politics, games, influence, propaganda, the people’s plight stays the same. Is this how it was the day Bhutto was assassinated? Or was there, please god, more diplomacy in the air?

What are we watching at this border ceremony?

The truth. About something.

Stay tuned for more, as your favorite political poet keeps her solo journey going through India along the border of Pakistan.