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Sydney, Australia
My musings and meanderings on childhood - mine juxtaposed with that of my kids'. Everyday incidents and images from our life in Sydney turn my thoughts towards my own wonder years growing up in Bandra, Bombay, India.

11 March 2008

Go Fly a Kite!

I was at a bookstore, reading the jacket of Khaled Hosseini's ‘The Kite Runner’, which got me thinking about kite-flying in Bombay back in the day…

Quite close to the home where I was born was what we called “backroad”, a dingy sort of area on the way to the Bandra railway station. There was an unspoken rule that it was off-limits unless accompanied by an adult. So, of course, I snuck out there on my own. The drawcard? The kite shops. Hundreds of colourful kites on show - diaphanous diamonds of delight.

The patangwallas (kite makers) toiled away for the height of the kite season – the Hindu feast of Makar Sankranti on January 14. In their dark beehive shops, they’d dexterously glue squares of vibrant tissue paper onto the kites’ bamboo frames while besides them sat dozens of firkees (spindles) waiting to be spun with manja (thread). The pink variety was quite harmless compared to the kala manja. Coated with powdered glass it was deadly enough to slit your throat…

Kite flying was essentially a boy-thing; us girls were mere spectators. Across building terraces and school playgrounds you’d see them - posses of boys aged five to fifteen, ready to do battle with their kite-flying adversaries with dreams of conquering the big blue yonder. This fight-unto-the-death was open to anyone with a bit of spunk and a kite to fly.

The runt of the litter had the menial tasks: holding the kite aloft, ready for take-off instructions from the leader; unravelling bits of manja; doing patch-up jobs on torn kites with scraps of paper and gum paste, that sort of thing.

Which left the ‘big boys’ to duel it out till the final cut. Up, up and away the kites would fly, dancing and dashing, swooping and soaring across the sky. Suddenly, their masters would swoop in for the kill, cutting their opponents’ manja with a swift tug of the firkee. One by one, they’d fall from grace, plummeting to the earth in their kamikaze descent. “Kati Patang! Kati Patang!” the chokras would yell, racing through the narrow gullies to claim the spoils. The winner emerged - the only kite still flying high.

The vanquished and the victorious. Holding on and letting go. Rise and fall, ebb and flow. Lessons for life…


  1. Hey Alison,

    I think you have a wonderful writing style, love your choice of words, the aliteration, the sensitivity, it's all there. And it's great that you have a blog where you can voice your opinion. Hats off to you,


  2. supari talao was where i flew my kites....with my big wodden firkee...


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