With Makar Sankranti around the corner, kites are up and high in the sky; caution is key, though, as one gets ready to celebrate
ON JANUARY 15, the Mumbai sky will be filled with a 100 plus kites, as Makar Sankranti is observed in the city. For Mangesh Tare, Dadar resident Makar Sankranti is always a day at Shivaji Park with his friends. He says, “From the time I was a kid in school, flying a kite and cutting as many manjas (threads) as I could, has been a passion for me. The sheer thrill of the competition and the fun of the experience make me look forward to the day, even today. I still am as joyous as a child when it comes to kite flying.”
UP IN THE AIR: Show kites are the main attraction for many enthusiasts in the city. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Kamal Parekh, businessman has inculcated a love for flying kites in his son. The Malabar Hill resident says, “In our colony, the Sunday in the Makar Sankranti week is kite flying competition day. We come together as families to have fun as we cut the manja and bring down opposition kites in the process. I like that the young and old come together to enjoy the festival in our area.”
KITE RUNNER: Flying kites brings great joy to young and old alike. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
His son Paresh adds, “This year, my college friends will also come to join us in our colony. Very few people celebrate kite flying in Mumbai; the festival is more a Gujarat event. Our area tries to make mini-Gujarat a reality. Many of my friends do not even know how to fly a kite. I will be teaching them to fly kites and how to effectively cut the manja. Handling the manja is an art and the technique associated with it is important while flying a kite.”
JOY OF FLYING: The tradition of competitive kite flying as part of Makar Sankranti festivities is a part of the Indian ethos. Pic/Sameer Markande
On Sunday, January 11 show kites will be on display at Wadala’s Ajmera Ground. Kite maker and designer Ashok Shah says, “This year, a new three dimensional (3D) boat kite, an inflatable frog kite and a 100-kite train are part of the new designs for 2015 Makar Sankranti. We don’t use manja, but instead use braided nylon thread to fly our kites. This doesn’t injure birds and is safe to use.”
ROAR: A tiger kite with a 3D look is part of modern show kites. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Cuts and bruises
Since manja — the thread used commonly to fly a kite — is made of a combination of ground glass and soluble paper glue, it can cut through surfaces including the skin. Kala Ghoda resident, Yazdi Malu suffered an injury to his face due to the manja last year, while riding his scooter.
Malu says, “A street kid was playing as I was riding near Reay Road, I felt the thread get entangled in my windcheater and slide up. Within seconds I suffered a cut to my face. Thankfully, my neck was spared and I live to tell the tale. I was bleeding but the cut was not deep, so I went home, put cream and did some dressing. I then went to the doctor for a check up to prevent infection.”
Andheri resident Indraneel Sadadekar also suffered a similar injury last year, while riding his bike along the Western Express Highway at Goregaon. He says, “I was wearing a helmet, but the thread still managed to cut my chin. I was bleeding profusely and the manja was stuck around me. I then rushed to a nearby doctor who had a look at the injury and did some dressing. This year around Makar Sankranti time, I am very careful. I wear a scarf while riding my bike as a precaution.”
Kite flying enthusiast Samar Tope says he uses gloves to fly his kite to avoid injury. He says, “I ensure that my kite or manja doesn’t hurt anyone, so I opt for an open space to fly kites. Also, as a young boy, I had suffered a cut due to the manja while flying, so as a precaution I use gloves.”
While many people in the city fly one kite on Makar Sankranti for religious and traditional significance, the trend is dying out. Shah says, “Sankranti is not a holiday and many people do not know how to fly a kite, so celebrations are different now. I teach people to fly kites as well as how to make a kite at my workshops. I do my bit to keep this sport alive.”
A similar attempt is being made by Shayzaday Abbas, captain of one of the teams of the Golden Kite Club at Babulnath. He says, “I fly kites at various show events and matches in the city. The only people who fly kites today are street children. The middle-class doesn’t have any inclination or time to fly kites. It is a sad state of affairs. I try to do my bit to encourage people by teaching them.”
Deepak Kapadia who is also from the same club says, “We are planning a kite making and flying event around Makar Sankranti. People don’t fly kites as much as they used to earlier and as a result they are drawn to these workshops. Many children learn to fly their first kite here and the joy we bring people is immense.”
The flavour of the festival may have changed over the years, but the joy of kite flying remains constant. Makar Sankranti as the festival of kites lives on through the communities and kite flying clubs in the city.
Dr Pradeep Gadge of Breach Candy and SevenHills Hospital has this to say:
>> The most common injury is cuts on fingers due to manja or kite line, especially the glass coated ones that are normally used. These cuts are deep and take a long time to heal.
>> Some patients get friction burns which take almost over three months to heal.
>> The cuts are razor sharp and deep, which means that stitches are needed after the bleeding is controlled.
>> The laceration due to a cut to throat can injure the trachea (wind pipe). This can cause laceration of the neck muscles over the carotid artery and the sheath covering the carotid artery.
>> If the carotid arteries or jugular veins are injured there is high chance of fatality.
>> The injured person should be rushed to the doctor for first aid like taking tetanus toxoid injection, dressing and if needed suturing (stitches).
>> In case of a cut to the throat, don’t waste time. Take the patient to a nearby hospital immediately as any injury to the carotid arteries or jugular veins can cause huge blood loss and prove fatal if timely action is not initiated.
More about Makar Sankranti
>> Is a harvest festival which is the only Indian festival celebrated on a fixed calendric day of the solar calendar.
>> The day marks the transition of the Sun into the Zodiac sign of Makara Rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path. The day is also believed to mark the arrival of Spring in India.
>> People offer thousands of their colourful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. The act stands as a metaphor for reaching to their beloved God, the one who represents the best.
>> Laddu of til made with jaggery is a specialty of the festival and in Maharashtra it is called Tilgul.