The tuk tuk arrived to take me to the bus station shortly before sunrise and dropped me off amidst a small crowd of disheveled locals, who kept shooting sideways glances at me as if I didn't belong there. Close to 6am, the alleged departure time of my bus, a grimy white one that resembled the sort you see in photos with excess passengers sitting on the roof pulled up, and the men at the ticket office yelled, "Jodhpur!" I leapt forward and got on. The passenger behind me, a Good Samaritan of sorts, asked to see my ticket, peering at me and then back at the piece of paper. He shook his head.
I descended and resumed waiting. Six am came and went, so I began to worry. At twenty past I approached the ticket counter, where an older gentleman assured me that it would be there soon. Finally, a Volvo like the chartered buses that used to shuttle us between hotel and stadium when I was a cheerleader arrived. The fruit-seller I'd been standing next to indicated that this was the right one. I took my seat, shivering slightly under the blast of the AC. I could have stayed on the other bus, I suppose, but it would have been a much different experience.
I called the guest house when I arrived, which dispatched one of the family's sons to pick me up. I was expecting a car or a tuk tuk, but instead he showed up on his motorbike, waving aside my doubt and placing my small rolling suitcase behind him and instructing me to get on. I mean, seeing as families frequently share the same bike with (at least) two people behind the driver and maybe a toddler up in the front near the handlebars, I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised.
As we wove through traffic he turned and explained that it was the day of the Rakhi festival to celebrate brothers and sisters. And one of the main traditions was to fly kites. When I think kites I think of a former babysitter taking my brother and me to Gas Works Park, where we would run down the big hill to get the contraptions up in the air. I was curious about this kite flying business, because in the middle of a major Indian city there is no such space for frolicking.
Just in front of the guest house was a shop selling kites - most not much larger than an iPad and all extremely fragile-looking; the thin paper stretched tight over bamboo frames. He indicated for me to go up to the rooftop terrace, where there were many boys playing very loud music. Where were all the sisters, I wondered.
I was joined shortly after by some other female guests, but overall the atmosphere was like that of an awkward middle school dance. The boys and the girls maintained their distance, except when one of us wanted to try flying a kite, in which case the boys were more than happy to help. (The kites were light enough that to get them airborne all it took was a toss, some wind, and an expertly timed jerk of the string). The music was too loud to talk, yet the afternoon too early and everyone too sober to dance.
But still, despite the aural seizure induced by our music competing with the speakers on the neighboring rooftop, it was quite a lovely sight to see the sky dotted with bits of brightly colored paper.