Flying high with the Kite Festival
It was one of those lazy, sunny, Sundays when you just don’t want to do anything!
I was lazing in an armchair watching the vast blue sky from my window when I spotted a lone yellow kite swaying in the breeze high up in the sky. It looked so delicate and vulnerable and lost, yet it frolicked merrily in the sky, bobbing from left to right and vice-versa as it played with the wind, high up in the sky.
I walked out to the balcony and traced the thread which had enabled the mischievous little kite to proudly fly high in the skies. The thread rested in the hands of a little boy who must have been not more than seven years. The boy held the thread in both hands as he nimbly guided the kite and held it aloft. The boy momentarily turned and looked up at me. A smile of triumph played on his lips and his eyes shone with the excitement and pride of a conqueror as he majestically controlled the destiny of his kite.
The excitement that I saw in the boy’s eyes took me back in time to another place, a place called Ahmedabad, the biggest city in the Indian state of Gujarat. A major part of my childhood had been spent here and whenever I see a kite, I feel the same rush of adrenalin that I used to feel many years ago when I lived in the city and Uttarayan or ‘The Festival of Kites‘ dawned upon us.
One of the exciting things about India is the different festivals everyone looks forward to, these include Diwali, the festival of lights and Navratri and Dussehra, a festival of dance and music, but for us boys the Kite festival held the most excitement.
As school going kids, weeks before the actual festival which is celebrated on the 14th of January, every year, we used to be overwhelmed by, “Kite Fever”. Returning from school, I used to fling aside my bag, retrieve the kites and the spool of thread from underneath my bed where I would have hidden it, and off I would fly to the terrace and unfurl my kite in no time. The kite with a whoosh as if released from bondage would race into the skies as the sharp thread, called as ‘Manja‘, rushed through my fingers, scraping them. Soon the kite would be in the air as I scouted the sky for other kites who would challenge my kite’s supremacy. I soon espoused a big black kite swooping down towards my pretty red and yellow kite with the intention of severing it from its thread and letting loose in the vast blue sky.
I pulled the thread deftly and avoided the first ‘lunge’ from the black kite and by the time it was back I pulled and pulled the thread in such a manner that my kite was below his and the force of my thread battled against his as the friction of the threads resulted in this battle of supremacy in the skies. I pulled and pulled as hard as I could, I felt the resistance and weight of the black kite, but I did not stop. Soon I felt a slight tug from the air and I let out a blood curdling yell, like Tarzan, as I saw the big black kite drifting away in the air, severed from the thread that held it up.
My red and yellow beauty flew high in the sky swaying in the breeze, awaiting the next challenge.
This was a glimpse of the kind of passion that Kite flying evoked and still evokes in millions of hearts in Ahmedabad and many other places of Gujarat in India.
On the day of the festival, it seems as if the entire city is up on the roof tops, the sky is obscured by millions of kites of all colours, shapes and sizes. Young and old, men and women all are up early and camping on their terraces or rooftops with never ending supplies of kites, Manja and snacks. Loud music blares from millions of speakers, drums beat a victory tatoo as voices turn hoarse shouting, victory cries. Dawn turns into dusk, but still the kites fly high majestically and the kite flyers show no sign of tiredness.
Soon it is dark, and out come the beautiful ‘Tukkals’ or sky lanterns and the night sky is soon resplendent with millions of lights swaying serenely in the wind. As the night advances, the tukkals too fade away and many a tired body retires for the night to dreams of majestically soaring high in the sky. Watch this video of ‘Tukkal‘ (Courtesy: Chintan Mirani)
Gujarat Tourism now organizes an International Kite Festival in Ahmedabad, and this would be a great opportunity for kite lovers and lovers of culture to bask in the lovely atmosphere that pervades all around during the Kite festival in Ahmedabad. It is an opportunity to look up and view your kite high up in the air and feel a thrill go up your spine as a little nudge of the thread in your hand makes the kite dance and way to your commands.
You might have seen kites flying and might be wondering why should you go all the way to Gujarat, India to watch ‘The International Kite festival’. But believe me, this wonderful experience is on a different plane altogether. And to top it you can indulge on Gujarati delicacies like Undiyo, Puri, Til Laddoos and Chikki.
Have you been a part of any kite festival or any such festival where the young and old participate with equal fervour? Would love to know.