14th January may be just another day for most people in the world. But not in Gujarat. For 14th January is Uttarayan (Makar Sakranti) – the festival of kites. There is a state-wide holiday on 14th January in Gujarat. As a child, I loved this kite flying festival. There are no pretensions and no religious formalities to it. No wonder I loved it. It is a day of pure enjoyment.
The evening before and the morning of kite flying festival
Day before the festival, we buy the kites and stay awake till late to make them ready-to-fly. The next morning, it isn’t the alarms that wake us up, but our bubbling excitement. Even though it is still dark, the latest hit songs of the year start blaring from the CD players. Needless to mention, there is nobody to police the noise pollution. Mama insists on me and my sister taking a bath and getting dressed in proper clothes before we step out on the terrace. But my little brother proves too quick for her. He runs up to the terrace in his pyjamas but with his kites and string generously laced with tiny glass shards, manja (specially ordered by my uncle in Surat).
There are loud noises of ‘kaypo chhe’ (your kite’s gone) reverberating in the atmosphere. It is fun with all types of beautiful kites providing a colourful panorama against the blue sky. One flies the kite; the other holds the manja supporting him in this competition. For today, just for one day, the entire population of the city is found on the terrace wearing sunglasses and caps. After a while, we take off to friend’s places, I mean terraces. The meals are a giant feast comprising mouth watering foods from many homes – fafda, jalebi, undhiyun, lilva ni kachori, til laddoo, etc. Ummm…I am salivating already.
Nighttime kite flying
The dusk falls but we hold onto the last rays of the sun till we can see no more. But it isn’t the end. After a couple of hours, we meet again. This time, the kites are white and there are delicate sky lanterns (tukkals) tied on the thread that look like a fiery necklace against the ink black sky. Oh, it’s so beautiful that you need to see it to believe it. It is only while sleeping that we see the cuts and feel our aches. But these are happy pains. Memories of a good day!
It was another time, another life. Now I want to re-live the experience through my little daughter. I wish to take her to Ahmedabad during Uttarayan so that she could experience and appreciate this unparalleled event of kite flying. And learn to fly kites too.