Thrills of kite-flying

As my kite soared high, so did my imagination. To me, flying it was akin to piloting a plane.

As an 8-year-old in Tiruchi in the 1950s, I developed a passion for kite-flying, then a popular pastime among youngsters. Evenings would find me standing radiant-faced on the wind-swept terrace of our home, intently manoeuvring a multi-coloured, tailed kite high into the sky under the admiring gaze of my brothers.

As my kite soared high — sometimes it became just a speck — so did my imagination in flights of fancy. I fantasised that I was sailing with it towards the azure sky past the fleecy little clouds scuttling along. To me, flying a kite was then akin to piloting a plane. Getting it airborne is easy enough if there’s a fairly strong breeze, but keeping it aloft requires some skill, especially when the wind suddenly peters out.

Once as my kite cruised high above our town, I was dismayed to see a hawk attack it repeatedly and shred it, mistaking it for prey! Fortunately, I could buy a replacement from the a family living nearby who crafted beautifully designed kites for a living. I was one of their regular customers.

Invariably, there would be competitors on the terraces around me, eager to outshine my kite with their own intricately crafted creations — some sporting caricatures of human faces or animals or fancy names like “Sputnik”, “Hi-Flier”, “Raptor” et al. “Raptor” was aptly named, for its skilled handler would make it dive into other kites and disable them!

An apparently lovelorn youth used to fly a kite over his girlfriend’s house, bearing the telltale message, “I love you.” This drove the girl’s irate father to pepper the kite — mercifully not the swain –— with his air-rifle whenever it dipped or fluttered low over their home!

Kite-string cutting was then keenly contested by men, often for monetary bets. A mixture of finely powdered glass and paste would be coated on the twine used, making it razor-sharp. Thus when the ‘doctored’ twine was deliberately brushed against another, it would slice the latter sending the kite into a tailspin.   This practice was banned later due to the obvious risk to life and limb.

Hopelessly bitten by the kite-flying bug, I soon initiated my son into the sport. With his active participation, I painstakingly made well-balanced and colourful kites for him and taught him the art of flying them — a pastime he mastered and thoroughly enjoyed right through his teens.  

Fast forward to the present and I find the wheel has come a full circle. Nowadays, I’m busy fashioning kites for Liya, my 5-year-old granddaughter who is absolutely thrilled to fly one. Her face lights up with sheer joy as she tugs the string and the hissing kite soars high, swept away by the wind. Watching her indulgently, I wistfully relive my own halcyon childhood days of kite-flying.

It’s certainly a relaxing pastime affordable to all — and one that’s delighted three generations of my family!

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