Kite Flying on Sankranti Day
Kite Flying on Sankranti Day.
By Dr. Madhulika Pareek-Joshi
This morning my mother, who is staying with us for a few months, called out from the kitchen, "Wake up Madhu, today is Sankranti".
Just the word "Sankranti" brought back memories of my childhood, flying kites. No, it wasn't kite flying really, it was more like kite fighting!
Kite Fighting or kite running as it is popularly called, is a sport that is enjoyed all over India, but especially so in Ahmedabad where I was born and raised. And Sankranti, which is also called Uttarayan, is a special day when the sky of the city is covered with colorful kites all over.
When I was growing up, me and my sister used to look forward to this day. We would plan for this day many days in advance. One special ritual was the ritual of making "manja". Manja is the string on which one flies the kite. Typically, manja is a simple thread, but for kite fighting, we prepared a special type of manja, one which could cut the rival's string bringing the kite down.
My uncle taught me to make a mean "manja". Recipe is simple, really. All you do is grind up some glass - soda bottle glass is specially preferred - and mix it with cooked wheat flour paste. My job used to be to collect shards of Thumbsup and Limca glass bottles, and my uncle would put them into a mortar and hammer them into fine powder.
Once the paste was cooked up, we would take the ordinary thread, string it between trees, and start applying the wheat flour slurry. When the manja was dry, (it would become rather hard) it had to be rolled onto a spindle, to be taken out on Sankranti day.
The Kite fighting rivalries in Ahmedabad are legendary. I remember how we used to be puffed up with pride when our kite would "kill" a rival's kite!! It was almost as if we were some warriors fighting a war! Of course with that "mean" manja, we were prohibited from flying the kite for the risk of cutting our fingers - we could only watch. But once the big battles were over, us kids would fly the kites on normal strings. The kites are small and easy to manuever - like little dancers in the sky, dancing on guidance of my fingers!
I tried to explain all this to my six year old daughter Jaya, but Jaya has grown up in the US and didn't really understand what I was saying. The only kites she knows are the huge behemoth fabric kites that she gets to fly when we go to Belmar beach in summer. That kite is too hard for a small child to enjoy. To really enjoy kite flying, one has to be in Ahmedabad or Jaipur or Delhi on Sankranti Day.
Ps. My brother-in-law sent us some pictures of kite flying which I am attaching here.
Author: Dr. Madhulika Pareek-Joshi
Authors website: http://www.jayateas.com
About the author: Dr. Madhulika Pareek-Joshi is the President of Jaya Teas, LLC. Dr. Pareek grew up in India in a family steeped in tea industry and tea lore. Many of Dr. Pareek’s uncles and cousins are involved in the Indian tea industry and so, although a medical doctor by profession, Dr. Pareek decided to use her family connections for the benefit of US tea customer, by starting a tea company . Jaya Teas, which specialises in teas from India, has been open for business since 2004. Dr. Pareek invites readers to contribute their comments on her blog Chaiwalah, which can be found at http://www.jayateas.com/blog/
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