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Flying solo

Just ahead of Sankranti, one of the oldest kite makers in the city talks about the dying pastime and efforts to revive interest.

art and culture Updated: Jan 10, 2013 19:16 IST
Amrutha Penumudi

Traditionally, Makar Sankranti marks the harvest day, but for kite maker Asif Khan, it’s the busiest time of the year, when the sky will be be dotted with kites in myriad colours.

Thirty-year-old Khan belongs to a family that’s been making kites for about 150 years now. Originally from Lucknow, the family moved to Mumbai around 40 years ago. Their shop in Bandra (near Lucky Hotel) is very popular, especially now, and is so colourful, it’s impossible to miss. But Khan says, “Things are not how they used to be. Earlier, people used to fly kites all round the year. Now, with the internet and cell phones, who has the time for them?”

But Khan soldiers on, doing what he does best — making spectacular kites: from the regular rhomboid pieces to the ones shaped like butterflies and those themed on Spider-Man. “We still get requests for specially designed kites. We make the giant-sized ones (the largest kite he has made is two metres long), which look good, but obviously don’t fly too well. We even make kites for TV and film shoots,” says Khan, who had supplied kites for a couple of scenes in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999).

Khan and his craftsmen are still trying to preserve their art and teach it to anyone who might be inclined to learn. Part of their efforts will see them conducting a workshop at High Street Phoenix.

“It’s something we like doing. We’ve also been invited to schools before, to teach kids how to make kites. It’s a lot of fun,” he says.

Flying lessons
Kanni: The knot that ties the kite to the manja
Firki: The reel of the manja
Langar: A lasso-like sling used to retrieve kites stuck in trees or electric poles
Dheel: To let the manja out
Lapet: Opposite of dheel; to reel in the manja. Also used as a victory cry.
Kai po che: It literally means ‘I’ve cut your kite’. Used as a victory cry after a duel.
-Sumedha Deo

Attend Khan’s kite-making workshop today at the High Street Phoenix courtyard between 3-5 pm