By Saif Shahid
Albuquerque, New Mexico
When I had heard the song for the first time, I was wondering how imaginative one needs to be to dream about flying in a balloon. I was alone and lonely - living in a large planter's bungalow in a large tea estate in Sylhet bordering the Assamese hills. Listening to songs was one way to pass my spare time. Though that time I thought it was improbable, I liked the idea of flying in balloon in the company of my beloved. I liked the song so much that I also collected the lyrics of the song.
Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away…
I also dreamt of taking my 'then imaginary love' with me and fly high in to the sky in my beautiful balloon.
The balloons that I had seen so far were small. The ones that we see being used as decoration in a birthday party and so on. There were basically two typles of balloons that I had come across - one was gas balloon that could float and the other was ordinary balloon and we had to usually blow them by mouth. Even the larger ones were small in size and in no way one could fly in a balloon - that was my understanding.
Then I remembered seeing a French movie called 'The Red Balloon' ('La Ballon Rouge' by Albert Lamorisse - 1956). This was a fantasy film of love and affection between a young boy and a red balloon. Though it was a dialogue free film, but none-the-less it won an Oscar for best screenplay. The end of the story was very moving for me and even today I had remembered the story. The reclusive young boy's bullying friends finally 'killed' the red balloon by throwing rocks and stamping it down. The boy was very sad as he couldn't protect his red balloon. Then suddenly all over Paris, all balloons escaped and came to the boy. He held their strings together and flew away in the sky.
Many years later, after I had moved to Albuquerque in New Mexico, I came across the real large balloons which could fly. Albuquerque is the balloon center of the world. Every year, thousand of balloonists from all over the world come to Albuquerque for the annual balloon fiesta in the beginning of the fall season (early October). All hotels get booked and all rental cars get reserved well in advance during this period.
Usually these are hot air balloons. A goldola is attached with the large balloon and hot air is blown into the balloon by burning propen gas from inside the gondola to keep it flying. The direction of winds normally depends on the height where the balloon is flying. With the help of this knowledge it is also possible to fly the balloon in different directions within certain limitations.
I remembered my dream of the youth and asked my 'love', who has now become my wife, if she would like to fulfill my dream and fly with me in a balloon. Without answering to my question, she reminded me that the grass in the back yard had grown and I should mow the lawn first. So, I decided to keep looking at the balloons from a distance and keep my dream alive by sharing this story with all of you.
The present Balloon Fiesta will end this week, but if any of you can make it next year, please share your experiences with us.