The wind is blowing in the city square. Coils of string are brought out and kites begin to fill the sky. The wind lifts them higher and higher.
Along with the flying kites are the hopes and aspirations of young children
In a corner of the square, a young father looks up dreamily at the sky, most probably transported to his childhood when he himself flew kites or dreaming that his son will one day make such kites.
This could well be a scene from anywhere in Viet Nam where kite-flying is a traditional custom, an art and, more than anything else, a pleasurable pastime for children.
No one knows when the iconic image of a kid playing the flute and flying a kite while sitting on the back of a buffalo entered Vietnamese literature and painting. But it reveals the status kite-flying has in the nation’s collective psyche.
Children make basic, triangular or square kites -- they are not colorful or shaped like a dragon, butterfly, or airplane unlike those sold in shops.
But it is a labor of love.
When they finish making the kite, the kids cannot wait to get them airborne. Often their elder siblings run in the front holding the kite’s strings, hoping to catch the wind that will lift the kite.
The little ones follow, clapping and shouting encouragement. Once the kite is “filled with wind”, the children begin to look for a place to lie down from where they can monitor its flight, squinting against the bright sunlight.
Sometimes a kite crashes down to earth and the little ones laugh at their older brothers, blissfully unaware of their angry faces.
Kids with skillful fathers or brothers are often the proud owners of exotically shaped and beautiful kites.
Families living in the city send their children to the countryside during the summer vacations. The city kids are warmly welcomed and promptly given kites. Otherwise they are taught how to make kites by their grandfather or neighbors.
Thus, for most city residents too the memory of the wind filling kites in the countryside is one of the most beautiful childhood memories.
Parents who cannot afford to send their children to their hometowns take them to parks and squares to fly kites. With materials and time hard to come by in cities, they head for shops selling cloth or plastic kites.
Of course it is not the same as making one’s own paper kite, but it is the next best.
On summer afternoons children in Ho Chi Minh City go to Dong Dieu to fly kites. In Ha Noi the square near My Dinh National Stadium is a favorite place.