A perfect match! Mike's hazel
eyes searched, once more, from his small hand, up along the
line into the Indian mid-afternoon sky. Quartering the
cloudless blue, to where he knew it to be, his slim face
broke into a broad grin. It was a perfect match! The main
diamond of the kite was invisible; the red tassles that made
up the tail the only sign of the kite's
Hi s choice of colour for the
main body of the kite had taken an age; going to the kite
makers street, searching the stalls, asking the owners for
any blues, other than those on show, finally discovering a
helpful kite maker who had more stock coming in that day.
When the paper arrived he agonised for some time over each
colour that Gupta the stallholder
The decision finally made, and
the necessary haggling completed to the satisfaction of both,
Gupta had the paper plus Mike's choice of straight, split
bamboo and the correct fish glue, delivered to his father's
bungalow. The boy's slim body lounged in the curve of one of
many coconut trees that ringed the lake. Letting out more
line to the kite he looked out over the brown water and saw a
ripple spread from a spot out from the
The lake, or tank as it was
called locally, teemed with fish. Out from the shoreline the
small silvery ones that his aiya, Ruth, who looked after him
and the other children in the Haller family, loved him to
catch for her children. She also curried some for him
sometimes. In close were the huge whoppers that his father
had told him not to try to land.
"One day" his father had said,
"I'll show you how to land the big ones. They need a firm
strike to hook and then a fair amount of strength and cunning
to bring ashore," and then added, "We may need to work on the
strength part". This father knew his son all right! That had
been two weeks ago, almost a lifetime for an eleven year old
and, considering his fathers workload at the local airport;
where he held a responsible position, he doubted his father
would ever get away to teach him the skills, or to work on
Looking up to check on the
tassles as they swung amongst the many hawks flying, his
attention was drawn to the temple in the far right-hand
corner of the tank; to where smoke rose, possibly the priests
were cooking their evening meal. Mike had been over there a
few times and there had nearly always been a troupe of
monkeys around, all with their hands out for peanuts or tiger
nuts, those wrinkled, sweet tasting kernels that he had a
taste for. He turned his thoughts to the kite once more, as
he let out more line from the ball in his
Having watched the kite makers
in the market for hours, as they went about constructing
their multicoloured works of art, he knew most of the tricks.
Most of those things that go towards making the perfect
He'd spent many hours, much
patience and great care on the manufacturing of this
particular kite. No one had seen it before its first launch
that afternoon. The balance had been perfect. In the stiff
steady breeze the kite had done all he had asked. Looking out
of the classroom window that morning he'd seen the sky take
on that hue of blue and Mike had thought that mathematics had
never, ever, been as dull or as long. Lunchtime, which he
usually enjoyed with a game of tops or two, was a bore. Time
seemed to have stopped.
He'd hurried the rickshaw-walla
all the way home. Part from the sheer joy of speed, part from
the sight of the funny, running gait the rickshaw-walla had
as he pulled the ungainly machine and the way the walla
jumped into the air, causing the rickshaw to tilt backwards,
making his sister scream with enjoyment. Mostly it was
because of his awareness that the sky was the shade of blue
he'd waited for. A delay that had seemed to be an eternity,
but which was, in reality, no more than two
Why did he want an invisible
kite? Mike didn't know. Maybe it was just to see the line in
his hand vanish upwards, as if from a hook in the sky with
the kite hidden from view, as invisible as he often wished he
were some times.
He knew he was something of a
handful but it wasn't always his fault, things just seemed to
happen around him and because he was closest to them when
they happened, he got the blame.
Take yesterday as an example.
In India, didn't every boy of eleven have a pet scorpion? He
could tell it's age, about six weeks, from the pale colour of
its body and he needed a young reptile if he was going to
teach it any really good tricks. Although he doubted the
scorpion could catch a stick as well as his mothers King
Charles spaniel, play dead or swim in the tank and not get
told off for doing it, the scorpion had still been his
Anyway, his father needn't have
been quite so brutal. Mike wished the scorpion had stung
through his fathers heel as he had crushed his pet, although
he doubted Sidney, his name for the young reptile, would have
hurt his father very much. Anyway, after his father had
explained that even a young scorpion could be lethal, he had
accepted the demise of his pet.
That was the trouble with
India, there was death everywhere.
His first trip to school two
years ago was an exciting one. Travelling in the rickshaw
along the road around the tank he'd heard a gurgling sound
On the bend, hidden from first
sight, stood a huge and very sacred tree to which a local,
who needed a favour from one of the many gods, had sacrificed
a large multicoloured chicken, by cutting off it's head.
Round and round the body went spilling blood from it's
flopping neck, making that hideous noise for what seemed to
be minutes before it fell dead.
His mother, travelling in a
following rickshaw, had nearly fainted and had had to go back
to the bungalow to lay down for a short while and compose
herself. Ever since, Mike had looked for the unexpected,
nearly always finding it. Going to sleep with the sound of
tigers in the distance was a long way from the sleepy
east-midlands hamlet he'd been brought up
A hand on his shoulder brought
him out of his reveries; his fathers smiling face made him
grin in response, especially when he saw the long fishing rod
in his father's hand.
" Alright," his father said."
Let's see what we can do about landing those big
What a dilemma! Three quarters
of the way across the tank with the "invisible" kite and now
his father wanted to show him how to catch those whoppers
close in to the bank. No contest. "Hang on Dad," Mike said,
"I'll just park my kite." And tied the string around the
coconut tree, leaving the remainder of the ball at the base
after looking along the line once more, to see the tassles
His father's fishing rod was
spit cane, with a proper ratchet reel, ledgers and most
significant of all, the hook looked huge. Totally a more
elaborate apparatus than his single length of straight bamboo
with the line tied at the whip end and a small fly spliced
"Ok", said his father, "I
haven't fished this water, so we'll have to see what's what.
Have you seen any sign of the big ones
"Yes", Mike replied, becoming
excited and pointing to his left "Just here," As they looked
there was a swirl of a tail fin, then another. "Obviously the
place!" his father agreed, and started readying the rod.
"What do the small fish feed on?"
"Well Dad, sometimes a fly,
mostly bread balls, but just lately I've used wood lice. Got
quite a few with those."
"I've never tried wood lice.
Aren't they difficult to get onto the hook," he asked, as he
baited up with a large piece of moist
"No Dad, not if you go through
the underbelly." As he took the proffered rod. Mike had huge,
flappy butterflies swooping around his
"Ok son, let's see what we get.
You know how to hold the rod and how to control the line on
the ratchet. Don't you?
As his father asked, he
adjusted his hand so the reel attachment bar was under his
wrist and his hand grasped the rod gently, but firmly, with
his first finger along the split cane, while the butt of the
rod rested under his forearm and stuck out past his
"One thing. I won't have to
cast far." The son quipped.
His father chuckled, "No.
They're right there in front of you "
Becoming serious, his father
said, "If you feel the fish is too big for you, let me know
and I'll give you some help. Now lower the line; about five
feet away from you, two feet out from the
Concentrating now, with his
four feet six frame trembling with the tension, he lowered
the line and watched the hook drop into the water. And
nothing happened! Mike looked at his father
"For the small ones you only
need a fly. This is different. Patience, my son. That's what
fishing is all about. It's a hunters game between you and the
They stood there; the large,
middle-aged aircraft engineer and his son, conspiring against
their prey. Quietly concentrating, Mike realised that there
was something nibbling at his bait. His father heard the
sharp intake of breath and put a hand on his sons'
"Don't strike yet." He
whispered. "Wait a little, he may be just playing with the
bait. If you feel a strong tug, strike hard! The larger fish
usually have harder mouths."
The nibbling stopped. Nothing
happened. Again. For longer this time. "I think that crafty
fish has had your bait. Have a look at the
Sure enough, the hook was
empty. Re-baiting took a moment. "Back to the same place and
let's hope he's still hungry".
Mike swung the bait into the
same spot and everything went into slow motion. The reel
screamed and the line streaked away, parallel to the shore.
No need to strike. The fish had hooked itself. But he struck
upwards anyway, to make sure.
Mike let the line run through
the ratchet, the same way he'd seen his father do it, when
fishing for smaller game.
"Tighten up the ratchet. Before
he gets too much further, try taking him out into deeper
water. Use the length of the rod as
"Thanks Dad". There was elation
mixed with panic and fierce determination in his face. Small
he may be but this fish wasn't going to beat him. Out into
the deeper water the leviathan went, then turned to head
straight towards him.
"Wind him in on the reel as
fast as you can and turn your rod away from him, so the line
doesn't get too slack." The line went taut once more and went
slack. Mike started to reel the fish in as quick as he could,
but the monster wasn't finished yet. Fast to the left again,
then an about turn and, in front of their gaze, almost
broached the surface, showing his huge side as he turned to
head into the deep.
"He can't keep this up for long
son. Just keep control of him for a little while
For what seemed an age the fish
taunted him; turned, twisted, did short runs, laid doggo.
Mike was tiring quite quickly by now; knew he'd have to
either hand over to his father, or let the fish
"One last effort and I think
he's yours ". Those encouraging words brought the reward Mike
sought. With aching wrists, arms and shoulders, he slowly
reeled the monster in to the bank, in the quickly growing
gloom, where his father waited with the
One strike and the fish was
held aloft, in all its glory.
Gold and blue its colour. The
sheen was iridescent. To Mike's bright, wide-opened eyes it
was the biggest and best thing he'd ever seen. He felt his
face would split apart with the width of his grin. Tiredness
gone, he felt on top of the world.
"That is a whopper." Even his
father was in awe of the fish. The son could hear the
admiration in his father's voice. "It must be around four
solid pounds! An absolute beauty! And just in time, the light
is almost gone."
Remembering his first reason
for being at the waterside, Mike looked for the kite, just as
it dipped into the surface of the tank. The evening always
caused the wind to drop. He didn't care. He could fly a kite
any old time, but there was only one, first time, to catch a
fish like this.
Specially because his father
had told him what to do and he'd got everything right, for
once. The proud father handed the fish over to his son;
together they walked across the road to home and a fish