Meyrey yaar, patang uraya kar
Kat jaee to gham na khaaya kar
(My friend, fly your kite high
If it gets cut and falls, do not take it to heart.)
Dr Mathura Das Pahwa
Kite flying is a serious sport in my part of the world. Come November, kite shops begin mushrooming all over the city, in anticipation of Sankranti festival, 13–14 January in the new year that is round the corner. Until the actual festival, it is usually the chotus who fly kites, but it is on the two days of Sankranti that the real ustads move in, the kites like puppets in their hands, moving any which way they want them to.
All terraces are filled with people, goggles and caps in place, some handling kites with expertise, some struggling. Some buildings are equipped complete with music systems blaring loud film music as they fly their kites. This year I noticed one terrace having a mike system out of which people took turns giving a running commentary of the kite flying sessions in progress!
Now, it is not just plain and simple flying of colourful kites and looking at them in delight. Kite flying in Hyderabad is a highly competitive and addictive sport. It comes with its own nomenclature...pench means a kite fight, which is the whole purpose of this sport; maanja is the sharp, specially prepared (from powdered glass and other ingredients), usually coloured thread wound in front to cut other kites; dheel means leaving the thread slowly; and then the cry of victory, kaate when one kite cuts another. This is usually accompanied by an orchestra of noise makers, loud shouts and sarcastic hoots!
The sight of the clear blue sky dotted with the colourful ankhedars and naamams, lehengas and langots is a treat to the eye. Sankranti always finds my kite-loving family upstairs, trying hard to make the numbers under the Kites cut column more than those under the Kites lost column of our meticulously maintained score board! Other people are there too, in groups on the various terraces of our building. The unwritten rule is that we do not cut kites being flown from our own building.
Perhaps this is one sport where passionate kite-flyers turn from 20, 30, or 40 or whatever age they are at, to something like 12 or 13, without the help of any time machine! Their body language changes, vocal chords become stronger and childhood returns temporarily. We saw this grandfather proudly carrying his grandchild (about 1 year old) watching and cheering as pench after pench ensured continued entertainment. Suddenly he spotted a cut kite glide gracefully towards our terrace. A childish excitement grabbed him, and he seemed to move back in time from being 60 to 50 to 40, 30, 20 13, 12.... as he began to run to catch the kite, grandchild in arms forgotten. Gleefully he ran, like a little boy, from the middle to the edge of the terrace, trying to grab the kite. In the process, he tripped on the uneven floor and fell, the baby thrown to one side.
Luckily the baby escaped unhurt, and we saw the man limping the next day. He was 60 once again.