Kites rise highest against the wind – not with it, Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister had famously said. Churchill did not have had Uttarayan – the festival of kites – in mind when he made the comment, but this is one festival that Gujarat waits for most eagerly. The skies are filled with kites of different sizes and colours, with cries of Kai Po Chhe and Lapet reverberating for several days.While the origins of flying of kites during the festival are not exactly known, there are several little known aspects of kite making.The kites, which cost anywhere from a couple of rupees to a few hundred rupees, have parts from Kolkata and Pune, while the thread with which they soar high into the skies come from Bareili.At first look, a kite appears like a simple colourful paper, put together with a couple of sticks, but there is much more to it. There is a proper mechanism and method to make kites. For a professional, it takes about 10-12 minutes to make a kite from scratch (This reporter wasted three papers and even broke three sticks in an unsuccessful attempt to make one).Families, some of who are engaged in making kites since several generations, can mainly be found in localities such as Jamalpur and Khanpur in the Walled City. While kites are flown in Gujarat only during Uttarayan, many families are engaged in the business of kite making throughout the year. And most of the kite makers are Muslim families, which would include a young child to a nonagenarian granny.The assembly line model, used for making automobiles, is also used in making of kites. There is one person whose job is only to cut the paper, and another whose job is to paste the vertical stick. Another one pastes the horizontal stick, and other who attaches the tail. And lo and behold, the kite is ready to soar high in the skies.Bilkish Bano, 80-year-old resident of Jamalpur, has been making kites for as long as her memory serves, and has taught four generations of her family to make kites. Bano says she learnt the trade from her parents, and has continued the cycle of teaching.”When I first came to Ahmedabad after my marriage about 60 years ago, only Muslims were making kites. I started kite making in this family,” she recalls.The octogenarian remembers her younger days when she used to make 2,000-3,000 kites in a day, and earn Rs20-30 for the effort.”Now I can make 1,000 kites and earn Rs200. I start my day at around noon, and it goes on till 9:00 pm,” she divulges. Bano simple attach a bamboo stick with the already cut and shaped kite paper. The remaining work of the kite is done by other family members.Bano’s great granddaughter Kekasha Shaikh, is also a part of the kite making process. Her role is to paste bamboo sticks on kites with her little hands. The seven-year-old says she learnt the art of kite making by watching her family members.”I like to make kites, it is fun,” Kekasha says, before claiming that she is the fastest in the family in terms of making kites.Interestingly, in view of business dynamics, women make kites all round the while, while the men get engaged just before the arrival of the festival season.”I am helping my mother in making kites for past two months. This is the peak business season, but for almost two months after implementation of GST there was no work,” Nasir Hussain, 22, a resident of Jamalpur, says.When not making kites, Hussain is in tailoring business.”No one has taught me how to make kites. I have been seeing how kites are made since I was a young child, and have learnt it automatically,” he adds, while admitting that he did make mistakes in early days.In Kalupur, we visit the home of Sabina Mansoori, another kite maker. In her forties now, Sabina was born and brought up in Mathura, before shifting to Ahmedabad eight years ago.”My brother used to work here and had a well set business. But after my bhabhi’s death, he went back to Mathura and I came here along with my husband and children. This year the business is not like previous years,” she says.Salim Patangwala, a third generation kite maker, as well as wholesaler, gives contract for making kites to other families.”To make kites, we bring material from different places. The bamboo sticks are bought from Kolkata, while the colourful paper comes from Pune. The thin thread, which is stuck at the borders of the kites, is produced locally,” he says.Patangwala says that his kites are sold in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, and several other cities in the state ahead of Uttarayan, while the supply is to places such as Delhi, Lucknow, Meerut, among others in the remaining months.At Patangwala’s kite unit, Danish Ansari, who came from UP six months earlier, earns Rs300-350 a day. His role is to stick the paper that forms the tail of the kite.While Ansari is a relative newcomer to the trade, there are people who have been doing kite making since ages. Munir Shaikh, who is 32 now, says he is making kites since he was just four. “I make kites round the year. Over the years, I have gained perfection in my work, and now I am a professional kite maker,” says Shaikh.So when you take to your terrace this Uttarayan, do think of the numerous people who were involved in its creation, and the effort that goes into making them.ANATOMY OF A KITESquare paper (Main body) Thin thread (for border finish) Thadda (A bamboo stick which is in the middle, backbone of kite) Kaman (Bamboo stick on the top of the kite in arrow shape) Chippi (Four small patches of paper) Patta or Puchh (a triangle shaped paper at the bottom)

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Rising spirits with kites