High on the environment

Updated: Jan 15, 2020, 10:13 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

The festival of kites is back. Celebrate Makar Sankranti the eco-friendly way with tips from Mumbai's kite makers

Ashok Shah. Pic/Manjeet Thakur
Ashok Shah. Pic/Manjeet Thakur

Last year, a 29-year-old engineer was killed while dodging a kite on his motorcycle on his way home to Wadala. Plus, nearly 70 birds were injured due to flying of kites in Mumbai. Although the cause of harm might lie in both, the Chinese and Indian manja, the thread coated with glass powder, the decision to cause that harm is entirely upon humans.

For, being eco-friendly not only entails using products that are sourced responsible but also those that don't have a negative impact on our natural ecosystem.

A kite-making workshop in France by Golden Kite Club
A kite-making workshop in France by Golden Kite Club

In the Hindu calendar, Makar Sankranti is a festive occasion dedicated to the deity Surya. And kite flying is an integral part of it. Here's how you can take measures to enjoy the activity while being environmentally conscious.

Fabric change

"In the past, kites were made using large leaves, gum from trees and thread. And about 2,500 years ago, the Chinese would make them from rice paper and would use bamboo sticks as the frame. The use of plastic is fairly recent," Ashok Shah shares. The Dahanu-based kite designer has gone on to make innovative kites — a giant Superman as well as an artificial diamond-studded one of Lord Krishna and Radha.

Shahzaday Abbas
Shahzaday Abbas

Shah doesn't use plastic and instead picks ripstop nylon that is a lightweight, airtight fabric with a rod made out of fiberglass. But since this material isn't easily available to households, he suggests buying a piece of waterproof nylon used in umbrellas instead. Another option is Chinese silk. "Bamboo can be used for frames up to 20 inches. As the size increases, so will the use of hi-tech materials," he adds.

Nisarg Shah
Nisarg Shah

Paper tales

Nisarg Shah of Borivali-based kite design brand Fly360 says that the kite industry has evolved over the years according to the changing tastes of consumers. "It saddens me that children are absorbed with their mobile phones and don't go to their terraces to fly kites anymore," he says. But Shah also maintains that for a positive attitude towards the activity, it is time for the manja to go. "This is our tradition, yes. But it used to be biodegradable, too." He advises a DIY approach:

Paper tales

  • Pick a newspaper and cut it into a perfect square. Use broomsticks to make a frame.
  • Make glue from cooked rice to avoid using an adhesive. Boil it and dilute it in water according to the consistency you desire. Use a cotton thread to make it fly

Paper tales

Learn from the best

If you don't want an amateur-looking kite, Shahzaday Abbas of city-based Golden Kite Club advises considering readymade kits. "Waste material may not give you the desired aesthetic. We conduct kite-making workshops and have even organised them in Europe," he shares. The club specialises in two kinds of kites — Indian fighter kites made of tissue paper and bamboo sticks as well as non-fighter kites that comprise spinnaker, spotted on ship sails, and carbon rods.

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