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Flight of the season

HT Style takes a look as the city revs up for the annual kite flying festival.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2006 02:55 IST

In a few days from now, the sky will be a riot of colour as the city prepares for the annual kite flying festival. The markets are also awash with colours, compelling even novices with no prior experience to buy their own flying machines. We went in to the bylanes of Mohammad Ali Road to check out what was available.

We were not surprised to see that China had made inroads into this segment this year. There were huge colourful kites with Chinese motifs made of nylon fabric and kites that could be folded to the size of a stick. We were particularly intrigued by kites that were shaped like rockets and those with camouflage and batman prints. “These kites will not sell very well here. They aren’t hardy enough to win over other kites in the competitions,” predicts S M Khan, one of the oldest kite manufacturers and dealers in the city.

Kite flying is all about wining over the other kite by slicing its line. This is where Chinese kites fall short of the mark. Indian manufacturers say Chinese kites are not selling well because of their inability to fly high, and one cannot manoeuvre them as easily as Indian kites.
The traditional kites in India are made of tissue paper and thin bamboos sticks. Almost all Indian kites are diamond shaped with a central spine and single bow. The differences lie in the many patterns and colours. With the increasing variety of materials being available, the manufacturing industry has started using gelatine paper, plastic, and metallic foil.

The shiny designer kites definitely attract a lot of buyers but the ones interested in some serious dog fighting will always buy the more conventional kites.

There are more than 60 varieties available in the market. Those made of metallic foil and parachute material are virtually indestructible. The usual variety includes calendar and greetings printed on the metallic and plastic kites. You can even customise your kites by writing your own desired text. Khan tells that he had printed his son’s wedding invitation on kites, so that people will preserve it forever. The made-to-order variety is gaining positive response.

At the shop, we saw kites promoting everything from world peace to a new tele-series. Alongside the diamond shape kites we also saw eagle and butterfly designs.

These fancy designs cost you anything between Rs 40 to Rs 500. The traditional kite still retails at 40 paise per kite. Since the Disney troop is in the city, Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and Donald Duck designs are also expected to make big bucks. “Kites with cartoon characters are quite a favourite among the kids,” says Mohammad Malik Ansari, another shop owner.

Potential buyers include children, adult enthusiasts and some professional kite flyers. “There are customers who buy 250 kites at a time and also those who settle for only 20. Some just come to buy their favourite variety of manja (string), ” adds Ansari.

The other props you need before embarking on your kite flying adventure are the charki (the spool), and a plain thread to tie a kanni (bridle). These days, you can buy plastic charkis instead of the traditional wooden ones. Tying the kanni involves a lot of skill and this is something you must learn even before you enter the kite fight. The Chinese manja is a great attraction this year and the cheap cost is their USP. The Chinese manja will cost you between Rs 60 to Rs 300 while the Indian variety will cost you Rs 100 to Rs 500.

Every year, each shop sells about 75,000 to one lakh kites, but sales this year are expected to go up to 1.25 lakh and above.

First Published: Jan 10, 2006 02:55 IST