I wanted to visit Baroda during Kite Festival. As such I visit the place at least once every year my wife’s younger sister stays there. But for a long time we have not been there during Makar Sankranti (14th January). This year we decided to visit Baroda to see the kites flying on 14th January.
I did not want to see kite festival organised by the Govt. for the tourists. I wanted to see the common people of Baroda enjoying the festival. Their enthusiasm, joy, craziness etc. is mind boggling. The whole week of festival was like holiday with sporadic presence of employees and students in the offices and schools/colleges.
The day I reached at my sister-in-law’s place in Baroda, I saw that her son Yash, a first year Engineering student, had a room full of kites and twine. It looked like a mini kite shop.
Here people buy kites by “kodi”. One kodi means 20 kites and average buyer buys at least 5 to 8 kodis. It also requires twine/thread specially prepared. That is also purchased in meters. Yash had purchased 5,000 meters of specially prepared thread.
Here are the glimpses of the kite flying fever in Baroda.
We reached their on the previous day, so decided to visit the bazaars and kite shops to witness the fever of kite festival.
We too were tired and hungry after spending couple of hours of walking in Bazaar enjoying the enthusiasm of sellers and buyers of kites, goggle, bandage tapes ets. So we went to a restaurant for mouth watering Gujarathi Thali, without which your trip to Baroda would not be complete. We went to Amantran Restaurant in Alkapuri area as their thali is quite famous. (though their toilets were not so clean.)
Thali contained Chapati, Biscuit Bhakri, Daal Dhokli (really tasty), Samosa, Idada (white dhokla), 3 vegetables, Gajar Halwa, Puran Poli and fruit salad. It also had usual papad, chutney, salad etc. No wonder, I refused to go anywhere else but back home for an afternoon nap.
In the evening I went in the vicinity of our relatives home where special thread was being prepared. They mix fine glass powder, colour etc. in the adhesive and apply that mix to the thread and allow it to dry. Glass powder stuck to the thread gives it a sharp edge, so that when kites cross each other in the air, it can cut the thread of the opponent’s kite, making him lose his kite. This also cuts in the fingers of the kite flyer making it bleed at times. Hence before flying a kite, it is essential to stick white adhesive tapes (normally stored in first aid box) around the fingers to prevent it from cutting wounds.
The thread thus specially treated/processed is tied around a wooden or steel spindle, which is held by an assistant standing next to the kite flyer. Normally the job goes to the younger brother or sister, who keep whining for a chance to fly the kites. Now you get metal stands to hold the spindles so all the brothers and sisters can fly kite without each others assistance.
On kite festival day, we got up about 6.00 a.m. and could hear the noises from neighboring houses. Yash was already up and had shifted music system and few dozen kites and spindles of thread on the terrace of our house. By 7 a.m. the Sun was up and also few hundred kites were in the air. There was a light morning breeze, just appropriate for kite flying.
All the terraces of the neighbouring houses were occupied by their owners and their friends and relatives. On such occasions, it is always more the merrier. Boys and girls, old and young, all were on the terrace enjoying kite flying. Each one had brought their music system on the terrace and it was playing old and new Bollywood numbers.
We had our breakfast on the terrace consisting of Khaman and crisp Chinese style samosa.
Within first half an hour Yash had cut over half a dozen kites and also lost same amount of his own kites. When you cut somebody else’s kite then you shout at the top of the voice and when you lose your kite, just collect your remaining thread and go for the next kite to fly. It was easy to lose over a dozen kites in an hour.
Then the kites cut in the air would be flown far away and group of small boys would run after them on the streets to catch it. Many such kites were falling on our terrace also and we collected many such kites and added them to our kitty of around 200 kites.
Around 11 a.m. the breeze stopped and kite flyers could not fly despite their best efforts. So we just came down.
We had more guests for lunch. It was consisting of a ‘Undhiyu’ a delicacy of Gujarat, with Sev spread on the top of Undiyu , followed by Jalebi sweets.
After lunch, we again resumed our kite flying on terrace. By now the breeze had started and the frenzy of flying of kites, cutting others’ kite and losing our own kites continued unabated till sunset.
After sunset, people started flying the burning lamps. Dozens of burning lamps floating in the dark was a great scene to see. Thereafter, crackers started. It illuminated the sky with great colours. We had also brought crackers to burn. We came down around 9 p.m. exhausted to take my dinner and rush to the railway station to catch my train back home to Mumbai.