Vibrant Gujarat!The kite flying festival is here. 2 days to go. The excitement on the streets is palpable. At every corner, there are people selling kites of different hues, shapes, sizes. Of course, the maximum excitement is always in the city area. Posh areas have people coming out on their rooftops on this day. But, only one out of maybe 20 is flying a kite. The rest are just there for the 'event'- a time to stand on the terrace- look at the neighbours, wave to them, play loud music, do a bit of dancing- something like a 'Kit(t)ey Party', I'd say.
Let me go back in time, to school days. Makar Sankranti used to be my favourite festival, at par with Diwali. We used to stay in our city ancestral home at that time. The first kites in the sky would be visible nearly four months before the actual date(14.01- this festival's date never changes). Of course, it'd usually be kids flying their kites, just like me. Or, kids waiting to catch a cut kite which would come sailing by their terrace(Some people call it 'Gachchi'(terrace)- I never understood why. Any ideas?), again, including me. Kites have different names- let me see if I can recall. The smallest kite is called a 'phuddi'(I know it's an unmentionable term in (?)Punjabi, I think). Then, there were Patiyals, Baajedaars, Chaapats(The kite with a small inverted triangle at the bottom instead of the tail), Aankhedar(Aankh=eye, so a kite with eyes pasted on it) plain colour kites and so on.
(This is how thread is 'made'...these things can be seen right on the streets, with people observing away for hours).
Buying new kites was more of a hassle- because the 'kanni/kinni' had to be tied to make it flyable. While, caught kites had their work cut out for them. But, I digress. To go back to the terrace and types of kites.
The big kites, usually the Chaapats, were kept high up on top of cupboards, so that no-one could take them- they were a pride and joy, to be displayed to people, but not flown. Also, from the cut kites caught(That sounds like a tongue twister), the threads 'captured' would be wound on a phirki(The round barrel with rods on either side) or a 'pinda'(Which is nothing but paper crumpled and made into a ball) or a lachchi (An '8' shaped thread storage, done by winding thread around the thumb and little finger in an eight) and stored for emergency use. By the time January came, the kite collection would reach a cool 100 kites or so, all caught. Flying would be done only occasionally, coz we couldn't afford to buy new phirkis of thread except for the festival itself, and flying with cut caught thread ran the risk of there being a 'datti'(A point where the thread has become thinner than the rest of the line and can break suddenly under flying pressure) in it, which meant the loss of a precious kite.
Sometimes, the next building people on left or right(Our building height was 2 floors more than theirs) would catch a big kite which I missed. And, then would begin a round of bargaining with them- to convince them to sell the kite. Of course, I'd have to dip into hard-earned money for to reach for that ubiquitous 2 Rs or 3/4/5 Rs, depending on the size of the kite, but heck, it was worth it,na, to own a kite of that size?
Then, would come the end of December, and the planning would begin. There were four families of Dad's circle who would come to our Building on 14th and 15th Jan. Two weeks earlier, the plans would be made- how many kites to buy, which and how much thread phirkis(Maanja, as it is called) to get- there used to be just two main types- Saankad 8(Saankad means 'link') and Genda(Now, we have Chinese thread and what not). Genda was the most sought-after, and the most expensive, and we would usually skip that(One of the Uncles was a businessman, and he would have his own phirki of Genda thread, besides the common contributed one) and it was a wonder to see him flying- we used to count how many 'enemies' he shot down, before his kite got cut- it would usually be 40-50 and he would continue flying late into the evening/night.
Another 'major' planning would be, of course, the food- who would bring what- the work used to get divided between all, with someone making Puris, someone making the veggies, someone making Undhiyun, and so on.
2-3 days before 14th Jan, the families would come over and all, including the ladies, would be tying the 'kannis/kinnas' onto the kites.The uninitiated ones would be taught how and given some extra kites to teach them(read' so that others could relax and chat(No TV in those days, either) or listen to radio.
I also had 4-5 school friends who would come over. Let me explain one thing- we had a big terrace- but, not a flat one. No Sir. It was two 'inverted V' shaped metal roofs of the old kind of design, with a flat surface in between. The front part of the V was on the road side, and, there was a small balcony right below(The third floor). The back part of the second V was a direct drop, right into the 'mohalla' behind.(Luckily, no-one ever fell on either side. LOL..though, people in their craze to catch kites often ventured dangerously close to it). We do have a number of snaps of that period, but, I'll have to search for them and scan them(Those were ordinary roll camera days). Maybe some other day.
This post is becoming pretty long...maybe I need to make it in two parts. Will do.
End of Part I. Part II tomorrow. Have a great day everyone, and keep smiling.