“If you think we are holding our past with sadness, then you are wrong. We hold on to our happiness. Little, little happiness.”
Patang (The Kite) takes us to Uttarayan, India’s biggest kite festival in Amedabad. The kite festival is an event that goes across all the lines that divide: rich/poor, Muslim/Hindu. Everyone spends the day flying and watching the millions of kites that fill the sky. People battle with kites, using strings with embedded bits of glass to cut the strings of their neighbors’ kites. Children who cannot afford a kite chase after the fallen ones. When night comes lanterns are run up the strings to fill the sky with lights.
Jayesh, a Delhi businessman is returning to Amedabad, his childhood home, after many years. He has brought his teenage daughter Priya with him. His mother, sister-in-law Sudha, and nephew Chakka are still here. Jayesh seems to have done very well in Delhi. He left years ago to follow his dream of success. He brings gifts for everyone, but we’re never quite sure if he’s being generous or just showing off his wealth. Chakka is a sullen young man who despises his uncle for having left the family to go to Delhi and find success, leaving the family in modest circumstances.
As the day of the festival arrives, Jayesh is like a boy as he flies his kites and tries to cut the strings of other kites. We see a joy that has probably been absent from his life. There is a certain freedom that Jayesh experiences as he flies kites. This is a day that seems geared to freedom and equality. (Yet Jayesh is not willing to allow Priya much freedom, constantly cautioning her to be more modest in her dancing and dress here than she is in Delhi.)
Jayesh’s journey back to his boyhood home is a reminder of dreams and happiness. He has gone off from the family in search of his dream and has found success and a certain level of wealth. He has a family (although his wife passed on this trip, perhaps because she sees no value in it) and things seem to be very good. But when Sudha asks if he is happy, he remains silent.
Perhaps Jayesh has lost the chance for happiness in his search for success. Amedabad is for him the place he left. Yet for those who remain it is the place where they have always found happiness. Perhaps that happiness is small compared to the success Jayesh has found, but those small joys sustain them in ways that Jayesh can only remember when he looks up at the kites dancing in the wind.