When the sky took on a different hue
The crimson and turquoise trail created by daybreak gave way to a clear blue sky which exploded in a motley of colours. As the melody from the quiet-flowing Sabarmati River synchronised itself with Bollywood numbers, the 3km stretch of the riverfront fibrillated with energy. The arena, a veritable human ocean, thrummed with anticipation as spectators and participants matched exuberance to enjoy the city's most-awaited annual fiesta. It was a carnival atmosphere and the spirit of mirth and bonhomie prevailed.
Streets, footpaths and alleyways were a riot of colours as young and old engaged themselves in the serious business of painting and winding endless yards of kite strings. Terraces and rooftops burst at their seams as friends and family indulged in the sport.
Deep in the heart of the old walled city, Ahmedabad's most famed and impressive Jamalpur 'patang' market was a beehive of activity as kite-makers busied themselves churning out countless kites. Many of them were adorned with cartoon characters and portraits of iconic personalities from the world of sports, tinsel town.
The 29th edition of the International Kite Festival in Gujarat got off to a flying start on the 8th of the month, and continued its spectacular journey through to the 14th, being officially held in 13 other towns and cities of the State.
A lone autorickshaw at the inaugural venue caught the attention of crowds as it stood festooned with balloons and kites in flamboyant colours. The inaugural ceremony which saw as many as 2000 students from municipal corporation schools of Ahmedabad perform the Suryanamaskar, was set in motion with salutations to the Sun god.
Kitists from 31 nations rubbed shoulders with their Indian counterparts from 11 States and fought each other in space with the most extraordinary kites in a medley of sizes, shapes and motifs.
The Przemyslaw Lasecki couple who owned a kite manufacturing company in their native Poland, looked forward to IKF every year. The event gave a huge boost to their passion and profession as they got an opportunity to interact with kitists from various parts of the globe.
For sari-clad Saule Varskeviciute and Giedre Aleksandraviciute, and Kasttis Prakapavicius from Lithuania, Gurjarat's IKF was nothing short of an Olympic platform. They were equally at home with spicy Indian food which they relished with much gusto.
It was nostalgia all the way for the trio of Jewish brothers from Israel who had spent several years of their childhood in Kolkata. Pani-puri was as alluring as kite-flying itself for this family of brothers who lived out memories of growing up each time they participated in the Gujarat event. The skies of Ahmedabad turned into a veritable mosaic as designer kites of infinite variety made from an assortment of materials ranging from paper to cloth to plastic soared, swooped and performed their own acrobatics, to the rhythmic, now-gentle- now-howling winter wind of the city.
At times, there seemed to be a battle of wits and skill between these crafted masterpieces and the natural denizens of the sky, as avians threatened mock ambush of the 'intruders' flying in their territory. Triumphant shouts of 'kai po che' rent asunder the air as revellers cut and brought down several soaring beauties.
As I craned my neck to see the kites ripple, flutter and cross paths, I was no longer a silver squinting across a chasm of years at fading events. I delved into a treasure chest of memories and morphed into an infant-teen using an exuberant sleight of hand to negotiate the 'manjha' through the maze of similar others high above.
My goal was focused – to protect my plain and simple, square kite from spiralling down to an untimely demise.
At the venue I switched between watching the gymnastics played out in the skies, and browsing the umpteen stalls displaying and selling handicrafts, fashion accessories, ethnic ware and snacks, Rashmi Munshi's fancy umbrellas in flashy colours and designs caught my eye. The youngster who is equipped with a postgraduate degree in Psychology greatly warms to the opportunity provided by the Kite Festival for artists, artisans and craftsmen to showcase their skills and talents.
The delectable aroma of 'undhiyo' and crisp hot jalebis, Gujarata's trademark Uttarayan combo, was irresistible. As I leisurely savoured these palate-tickling delicacies, the skies of Ahmedabad took on a different hue as dusk drew its cloak over the city. Floating paper lamps illuminated sky and space, and merged with the dwellers of the Milky Galaxy to create ethereal splendour. Even as the twilight merged into night, the streets of the city were choked with traffic and celebrations continued in full swing as if there was no tomorrow.