City Wonder – The Kite Flier of Nizamuddin Basti

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The Kite Flier of Nizamuddin Basti

The office peon’s magic hour.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Can you fly kites? If not, be envious of kite-flier Mr Raja. His family runs a tea stall adjacent to an unknown tomb in Nizamuddin Basti, a neighbourhood that’s older than Old Delhi. Above this stall is his house, and above the house is his rooftop, where I’m right now, tapping this piece. Mr Raja is standing next to me, flying his kite. While still in his night pajamas, he is acting like he is the king of his rooftop, fully focused on his kite, which is… where?

In front of him is the roof’s parapet. Next to the parapet is the dome of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Next to the dome is another dome. Beyond is the Basti’s skyline (full of domes). Further, a glimpse of the five-star Oberoi Hotel (it has no dome!). But where’s the kite?

I follow Mr Raja’s eyes and there is the patang – a black speck that I thought was a bird. See, the kite is soaring up there like some slow music, then down, then up, behind a tree, next to a window, coming closer, above the Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dome, oh, an eagle flying past it, the kite very close now but phurrr, going further again.

All this while, Mr Raja is concentrating on the kite. His eyes darting right, left; his right hand yanking the dor; his lips half-open; his forehead wrinkled like that of an India International Centre intellectual.

Who can believe that this kite-flier is an office peon in Nehru Place? The youngest of three brothers, Raja is waiting for them to get married soon so that his turn comes. However, at the moment, the dream bride is not on Mr Raja’s mind – he is again bringing the kite close to Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dome. Look, it is right over a courtyard, but lo, going away again and suddenly… “Raaaajaaaa”.

That’s Mr Raja’s mother. Her call means that the morning is ending, the breakfast double-roti has to be brought, and, oh God, someone has to go to Nehru Place to do a day job. So, patangbazi over. Mr Raja is climbing down the roof; the high-flying patang is lying flat on the roof’s floor, as lifeless as a dead bird.

Time Around 6am Where Next to Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, near to the gate leading to Amir Khusro’s shrine

Full focus

The Kite Flier of Nizamuddin Basti

Where’s the kite?

The Kite Flier of Nizamuddin Basti

Here’s the kite

The Kite Flier of Nizamuddin Basti

Another kite view

The Kite Flier of Nizamuddin Basti

The other side of the rooftop

The Kite Flier of Nizamuddin Basti