There are people who immerse themselves in a book or go shopping in their leisure hours. And there are those who fly kites. But the emergence of high-rises and reduction of open spaces in the city has ensured that kite flying – once a social activity – has become a thing of the past. Except in the Walled City which has many kite-flying zones and where you can still see colourful kites floating in the sky every evening.
If you are missing those terrace kite parties and if you yearn for the days of kite-flying competitions, it’s time to head to Haveli Dharampura in Old Delhi. The newly-restored mansion, overlooking the majestic Jama Masjid, offers you a chance to experience kite-flying with the added attraction of high tea every Sunday evening. We suggest that you go with family or friends to make it a proper picnic. The high tea menu consists of Purani Dilli delicacies – lassi, chaat, dahi puri and kulfi.
If you are new to kite flying, there is staff at the property to assist you.
Sidhant Goel, who restored the property with his father, MP Vijay Goel, said, “My father is passionate about Old Delhi culture and has held multiple kite-flying festivals here. When we were deciding on what sort of events we can have in the haveli, he was keen on kite flying. We have hosted people who used to live here in Chandni Chowk but who have moved to NCR and foreigners who have seen kite-flying in photographs and Hindi films.”
While the weekly event lasts for around three hours, on Independence Day, you can spend the day at the haveli. That’s the day when kite fights are in full swing here. Veterans are out on rooftops trying to bring other kites down by entangling them. Popular Bollywood kite songs play in the background.
“Soon we plan to have this event twice a week. When the weather is pleasant, we will increase the frequency even more,” said Goel. It is believed that kite flying in South Asia traces its origins to China. “During the Mughal empire, it became a popular competitive sport,” said Mohammad Nafees, 50, a kite flying enthusiast. “When India got independence, a kati patang (a kite that is cut down and falls to the ground) became the symbol for freedom from the British. Since then, mass kite flying has become a ritual of sorts in India, particularly in Delhi, which was the seat of the empire.”
He has memories of flying kites from dawn to dusk in parks surrounding Jama Masjid. “Those who were more adventurous would go running to India Gate for competitions,” he said.
In the run-up to August 15, people from all over the city throng Lal Kuan, the biggest and oldest kite market in Delhi, less than one km from Haveli Dharampura. Traders here source kites from Lucknow, Allahabad and Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. The cheapest kite costs `2, a decent one `10.
As a child, Sandeep Gupta, a Chawri Bazar resident, used to fly kites for three to four hours every day. He could snap 10-15 kites with just one kite or hold his own in the sky for more than an hour. He won many local competitions.
Gupta said the game still has a following, though it is decreasing every passing year due to various reasons. “People are becoming busy, and unplanned construction in the locality has ensured that it is difficult to predict wind direction,” he said.
There have been incidents of people getting electrocuted and of power outages due to strings getting entangled in electricity wires. Campaigns by animal rights activists have put many people off kite flying as many birds get their wings cut.
What: Kite flying
Where: Haveli Dharampura, Gali Guliyan, Old Delhi
When: Every Sunday (till Aug 15), 4- 6.30pm
Charges: Rs 1000 plus taxes