As fest nears, youth gear up to fly high

With Makar Sankranti round the corner, kite-flying enthusiasts in the city are all geared up with different varieties of kites and kite strings (manja). While professional competitions at kite clubs is the ultimate way of celebration for some, local informal competitions provide thrill to many.

“Earlier, people would kites as it was a part of the tradition. Today, it is more for the competition,” said Shashikant Sapkale, 18, Thane resident, who spends every Sankranti on his neighbour’s terrace, cutting the kites flown from the surrounding buildings.

As cotton strings snap easily, Sapkale and his friends plan to keep nearly 300 kites at their disposal on Friday so that they don’t lag behind. “Every time we cut the kite of an opponent from an adjacent building, we celebrate by teasing them. The scores are tallied in the evening and final winners are picked,” said the engineering student.

Local kite cutting competitions usually last from 8 or 9 in the morning till sunset. Neighbourhoods often arrange for a DJ or stereo systems to keep the atmosphere cheerful.

For most revellers, kite-flying this year will be a three-day festival spilling over into the weekend. This would mean more betting for 22-year-old Raj Shah, whose neighbours and friends crowd every inch of his Vile Parle building terrace to compete. “We fight kites from other buildings, but bet amongst ourselves on the success of each new kite that goes up,” said Shah, a chartered accountancy student who bets as much as Rs 700 on each kite.

Unlike Shah, Bhargav Pandya’s passion is to preserve and expand his collection of kites that he has conquered. The Borivali resident is just 15, but claims he has won more than 50 trophy kites in the past 10 years. “The competition in my housing society is quite tough because we use glass-coated manja,” said Pandya, whose bare hands are now numb to the cuts of the string. “I don’t mind the pain, because this festival comes just once a year.”


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