Kites of Kabul

Flying High Above Kabul

I turn left into an alleyway which is narrow and somewhat foul smelling from the open sewer, like many alleys in Kabul. I’m thinking of what tasks still need to be done today and wondering how late I am for my next appointment, when suddenly a group of kids will run right passed me.  They seem to be chasing something, looking up at the sky as they run and calling to someone nearby even though I can’t see another person over the tall walls which frame these alleyways.  I suddenly realize they’re following kites, as I raise my face to the sky to see the scores of little specks in the sky.  I stop walking, taking note if anyone is coming who might notice my foreign-ness, and I stare at the dancing kites in the sky with a big smile on my face.

Hours later I’m back at my residence and I decide to go on the roof to see what I can see.  It is the last day of Eid, the very important holiday in the Muslim faith, and as one would expect on a holiday, from high above the city sounded calm. Yet on every rooftop including my own, groups of children are huddled together unravelling spools, squinting at the sky, and mending wounded kites.  Those that aren’t working on something kite related are doing something with their own rooftop pigeons.

I notice the ladder leading up to another rooftop area, higher up then this one, where more kids are flying kites. As a matter of fact I notice many ladders, the primary means for kids to run from rooftop to rooftop, all in the name of kites.  I give a warm nod to each of the kids, who seem surprised to see me at first, and then completely used to my presence.  Even stopping to pose for a picture since they notice I’m using my little compact camera. I climb up next to them. Now, to the casual observer, I might even be in the kite flying business myself, standing next to one taller boy who seems to be running two kites that are flying higher those almost anyone can see.  He motions with his hands and adjusts the spool with lightening agility, looking more like a master puppeteer than a kid with a kite.  As the afternoon comes to a close and the sun passes almost behind the mountains that surround Kabul, the hundreds of kites that cover the sky like birds in formation start to disappear.  My own rooftop colleagues grab the spools and cut the lines, making me wonder where their kites end up. They make for the ladders without looking at me. Just when I feel completely invisible, on my way down the ladder I can feel someone holding it steady for me. “Thank you” I say to the one of the boys in Dari and English, “You are welcome” he responds in his best english. By the time I’ve reached the bottom of the ladder, he and the kite kids have vanished, for what I can only imagine is dinner time. The end of another day filled with paper, tape, and string, another day of ruling the skies.

As I sit back down at my desk with fresh images of kite flying in my head, I get a message from a friend asking what meaning Sept. 11th has for people in Kabul.  I have no big answer for such a question, all I can think of is what a great day it was to fly a kite.