Proxy Love, Proxy War

Zindagi bhi patang hai o pyaare

Chal nikal ghar se pecha lada re

Haar se pehle mat haarja re

Chal nikal ghar se pecha lada re…

Dekh zara himmat hai kitni kaagaz ki kashti mein

Rang patang ke shaamil karle tu apni hasti mein…

(Ravi Chopra’s poetry set to music by Anand-Milind for singer Amey Date in Yeh Khula Aasmaan, 2012)

Not Just the World’s Oldest Toy

For thousands of years, human beings have marvelled at the flying abilities of birds. After many such centuries of wonder was the first man-made flying object developed. This was the kite, created first in China, where they mounted silk on a lightweight bamboo frame, both of which products the region was famous for. Tethered to a person, such a heavier-than-air contraption could be raised above the ground and manoeuvred to stay there for some time. After that invention, their scientists went about improving the humble kite’s structure for better aerodynamics, and later still, the simple toy evolved into multi-coloured designs and complex shapes, including those of animals, birds and humans. They made many other changes. For instance, by cutting notches in the bamboo, the Chinese were able to make kites whistle as the breeze hit them. Such whistles were believed to drive away evil spirits, and so kites took on a religious and cultural significance in Chinese society. It is from here that kites migrated to the rest of Asia, and also to Europe and North America.

Today, kites are flown in dozens of countries, in some of which they have come to mean so much more than just a sport or pastime. The above song uses the kite as a metaphor for life, inspiring us to go wrestle our way out. In Gattu (2012), a black kite tethered to God-knows-whom has been scaring young children. When the eponymous 10-year old finally cuts that kite and takes its possession, he furnishes his friends with energy to think positive, not think failure. More recent examples of films which have featured kite-flying significantly include Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Fukrey (2013), Kai Po Che (2013), and Raees (2017).

But if soaring in the sky and cutting off a rival’s kite are positives, there’s a reverse side to it too, the perspective of the person who has lost his kite in an aerial battle. Thus, in a mood diametrically opposite to the one we saw above (Zindagi bhi patang hai o pyaare), we find disconnected desolation here:

Na koi umang hai, na koi tarang hai

Meri zindagi hai kya, ek kati patang hai…

Aakaash se giri main ik baar kat-ke aise

Duniya na phir na poochho loota hai mujhko kaise

Na kisi ka saath hai, na kisi ka sang hai

Meri zindagi hai kya, ek kati patang hai…

(Lata Mangeshkar/Anand Bakshi/RD Burman/Kati Patang, 1970)

Do remember that the person himself hasn’t been defeated, it’s only his kite that has been vanquished, but the owner of the kite personifies the toy he controls and then proceeds to identify himself with it, as if he has himself been defeated by a human rival. This is really like a proxy war, where the two belligerent parties have not engaged directly, but in a neutral space. In a reverse scenario, we have a Punjabi song in which we see a woman flying a kite with her friends, as she sends indirect overtures to a man, who is flying his own kite with his male friends.

Meri patli patang tera peela-peela rang

Dole mere ang-ang-ang guddiye ni…

Chal naal-naal baadlaan de udiye ni…

(She’s talking to her kite, but the hint is to the man. Roughly translated, it means, “My dear kite, so beautifully slim and bright yellow, you make me swing so…let’s go fly with the clouds”).

(Shamshad Begum/Lyricist not known/Sardul Kwatra/Kodey Shah, 1953)

In the song above, proxy love—the reverse of proxy war—is happening, perhaps because getting a direct no for an answer may hurt the actor’s pride.

Other cultures derive much fun and inspiration from kites as well. In Mary Poppins (1964), siblings Michael and Jane Banks have wealthy but laughter-less parents. Upon this scene, and to the delight of the kids, arrives a magical nanny called Mary Poppins, who proceeds to take the kids on many fantastic adventures. The influenced siblings pitch to rope in their parents into their new world of sunshine and happiness. The film ends with a waltz which offers a paradigm shift in the minds of the senior Banks: that family is so much more important than the pursuit of wealth. During the song, all the Banks go to a festival where everyone is enjoying himself flying a kite.

Here’s the essential part of the song Let’s Go Fly A Kite:

With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You’re a bird in flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let’s go fly a kite
And send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

(David Tomlinson)

Here are some more songs that romance with the idea of kites:

  • Meri pyaari patang chali baadal ke sung (Shamshad, Uma Devi/Shakeel/Naushad/Dillagi, 1949)
  • Ari chhod de sajaniya chhod de patang meri chhod de (Hemant, Lata/Rajinder Krishan/Hemant Kumar/Nagin, 1954)
  • Chali chali re patang meri chali re (Rafi, Lata/Rajinder Krishan/Chitragupt/Bhabhi, 1957)
  • Piya main hoon patang tu dor (Asha, Kishore/Jan Nissar Akhtar/OP Nayyar/Ragini, 1958)
  • Ye duniya patang nit badle ye rang (Rafi/Rajinder Krishan/Chitragupt/Patang, 1960)
  • Tumhaare sung main bhi chaloongi piya jaise patang peechhe dor (Lata Mangeshkar/Shakeel/Naushad/Sohni Mahiwal, 1958)
  • Chunnu patang ko kehta hai kite (Asha Bhosle/Anand Bakshi/S Mohinder/Zameen Ke Taare, 1960)
  • Pyaar ke patang ki dor jis ke haath hai (Kishore Kumar/Rajinder Krishan/Kalyanji-Anandji/5 Rifles, 1974)
  • Patang jaisa hawa mein lehraaye dupatta mera malmal ka (Kavita, Kumar Sanu/Satish/Bhoopi-Ratan/Koyal, 1993)
  • Dheel de dheel de de re bhaiya (Shankar Mahadevan, Dominique Cerejo, Jyotsna Hardikar, KK/Mehboob/Ismail Durbar/Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1999)
  • Udi-udi jaaye udi-udi jaaye dil ki patang dekho (Sukhwinder Singh, Bhoomi Trivedi, Karsan Sagathia/Javed Akhtar/Ram Sampath/Raees, 2017)

Makar Sankranti, being celebrated today, has to do with elevated vision and high aspirations. It is also believed by some to get us a good dose of Vitamin D through sunshine. It is a festival of harvest, of eating sesame sweets and flying kites. With so many positives, you wonder who invented the idiom Go Fly a Kite, which means “Go get lost” 🙂


Originally published on 14 January 2018 in DNA Jaipur, page 13

Featured image on top: from Zindagi bhi patang hai o pyaare

6 thoughts on “Proxy Love, Proxy War

  1. Manek- your kite always flies and soars in the sky, with no fear of anyone challenging it. May it be so all the time and be able to capture all the beauty and history with it’s hidden camera

  2. I forgot to mention the sentence that I re-read “Do remember that the person himself hasn’t been defeated, it’s only his kite that has been vanquished, but the owner of the kite personifies the toy he controls and then proceeds to identify himself with it,”. This is truly brilliant, Manek.

  3. Wah! If I didn’t know your style, I would say this article was “proxy-written” 🙂 – I mean, Manek writing about movies and music post-2000? Welcome, musically, to this century, Manek. Like they say in Punjabi ‘jee aayan-nu’ (welcome!)
    Fascinatingly strung from 2012 to 1953 to 1964 to 1949 to 2017 – from China to India to Great Britain….exactly like a patang on one dor!
    Wishing you and yours a Happy Lohri. May the patang of your imagination keep finding new skies to flit and float in…while being grounded in Hindi film music :). Stay blessed!

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