Keeping alive the tradition
Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan and young star Harshali Malhotra, who featured together in the latest blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan fly high up over the skies in Old Delhi. Not <g data-gr-id="81">literally</g> though! But pictures of <g data-gr-id="79">cinestars</g> are featured on a paper kite.
As the Bajrangi kite drifts up in the gentle afternoon breeze, its movement is keenly followed by 80-year-old Mohiuddin from inside a small room of his house in the walled city area. Said to be one of the best kite flyers in the country, Mohiuddin popularly known as Bhai Mia, has been in the sport for over half a century and had participated in kite flying festivals in Dubai, Bahrain, New Zealand and other countries.
“What you now see in markets are all Chinese kites. They are heavy, do not rise high in the sky and are more popular among children. People who participate in kite flying games on Independence Day,
still prefer the paper ones,” he says.
This is usually the time of the year when people in the city, particularly the walled city traditionally
participate and showcase their prowess in kite flying games.
In Old Delhi where houses nestle cheek-by-jowl along narrow streets, open terraces are ideal for kite flying and provide a beautiful landscape view of the ancient city. Every kite flown by Mohiuddin is fashioned at home and he handpicks all the required materials ranging from the paper, the cross spars besides deciding on whether the kite should be a diamond or a star or some other fancy shape. The professional kite flyer says he fashions his own designs to display at various events on Independence Day every year.
With <g data-gr-id="60">age related</g> ailments, the octogenarian seldom flies now. However, he still crafts several of them for his sons Jamaluddin and Aminuddin who are poised to take forward his legacy. The duo now professional kite flyers operate a business.
From giant kites measuring 400 square feet to a small one measuring a mere 2 mm, Bhai <g data-gr-id="65"><g data-gr-id="84">Miyan</g></g> and his sons have flown a large number of kites. On this Independence Day <g data-gr-id="83">too</g> they have been roped in by DLF Promenade, a south Delhi mall for a kite flying event with Jamal setting his sight on making a record of flying maximum number of kites on a single string.
Tanzeem Hussain, whose family has been into the business of making kites for the past 114 years, says that the Chinese kites are popular among children because they have ‘Chhota Bheem’, ‘Donald Duck’ or other cartoon characters on them.
Every year kites are based on popular new releases. This year though Bajrangi Bhaijaan designs are hot-selling. Other popular kite designs include Modi and Obama <g data-gr-id="68">kites</g> besides the usual series of
<g data-gr-id="67">cartoon based</g> ones. .
Mohiuddin says that kites may change with time but for Independence Day people still like to see the tricolor soaring in the skies. While one can find all sorts of kites in the market, the veteran recalls that he had once upon a time experimented with making plastic kites but discovered that what he made failed to take off in a good flight due to their extreme lightness.
Echoing him is Babloo, a <g data-gr-id="75">kiteseller</g> in the Lal Kuan area of Old Delhi, who says although he stocks up on a lot of Chinese kites, people still prefer those made with paper. “I have been in this business for almost 50 years now. People come and buy these kites but on Independence Day if you look above, you won’t find a single Chinese kite. I really have no clue where they <g data-gr-id="86">vanish</g> but I will change my name if you find any Chinese kite flying high in the sky,” says the hawker.
Babloo says that there is only about five per cent market for Chinese kites, which usually sell between Rs 15 and can go <g data-gr-id="77">upto</g> Rs 350. The design and materials used in these <g data-gr-id="64">kites,</g> <g data-gr-id="63">makes</g> it difficult for flying, he says. While people may not choose Chinese style kites they don’t hesitate to pick up the Chinese ‘manja’ (string used for kites).
“People prefer Chinese strings because it is not easily breakable. But the string is so strong that it injures the birds that hit against it,” says another hawker Mohammad <g data-gr-id="66">Haseen</g>, who sets up his stall a
week before Independence Day every year.
Despite domestically produced <g data-gr-id="69">kitestrings</g> selling cheaper by Rs 50 to Rs 100, the Chinese versions sell more. “People want their kites to be intact and seldom care about its environmental hazards,” says <g data-gr-id="70">Haseen</g>.