On the bustling Mathuradas Road in Kandivli, a 15-feet gigantic kite is put up on a tree a week before Makar Sankranti.
The silver kite is the area's first sign for beginning the preparations for the harvest festival, to be celebrated on Saturday. Soon kite sellers line the entire street with their multi-coloured kites and strings.
"This year, kites from Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh have been preferred over the Chinese butterflies and dragons. Even the Chinese manjas (kite strings), which are thick and sturdy, have been replaced with local ones from Bareily," said Romit Nathwani, owner of PP Patangwala, which puts up the giant kite on the Kandivli Street. "While high prices are the main reason for the plummeting sales of the Chinese goods, environment-conscious kite fliers have decided not to use Chinese kite strings in an attempt to save birds," he added.
On Saturday, the sky will be criss-crossed with kite strings, to mark the beginning of the harvest season in the country. Kites with images of Anna Hazare, Katrina Kaif, Sachin Tendulkar and Kareena Kapoor will soar the city skies this weekend. "Anna Hazare's 'anti-corruption' protests, Katrina's 'Chikni Chameli' act and Kareena's 'Chamak Challo' avatar embossed on the kites, are the flavour of the season this year," said Qureshi Salim, owner of King Kite Centre in Bandra. "However, the demand for the Anna Hazare kites died out with the failed protests. We sold more than a thousand Anna kites before the protest fast organised in the city, but now we have huge stocks in our warehouse," he added.
The rise in prices and fewer takers for the traditional designs have affected their profits, but the city's patangwalas remain undeterred. "The festival is not a profit-making venture, it is a part of our tradition," said Muqem Khan, owner of SS Bareilly Kite Centre in Bhendi Bazar.