Following their family tradition, the kite makers of Old City share their joys during Sankranti

On a forgotten lane of Yakutpura in the Old City of Hyderabad, Rahima Bi sits in her two room house, surrounded by red, blue, green and orange kites. She is giving finishing touches to the kites which will be sent to her brother's kite shop near Charminar. With Sankranti just around the corner, this is the busiest time of the year for the kite makers, when people throng the narrow lane near Gulzar Houz lined with rows of kite shops on both sides.

“We have been in the kite making business for the past 35 years. My mother used to make kites and then I took over,” explains Rahima who sells the kites wholesale to various retail shops around the city. She says during this time, she makes over 1000 kites per day on an average. She sells a bundle of 100 kites for Rs 180.

There are many families in that lane of Yakutpura and surrounding localities that are engaged in kite making. It is mostly the women in the family who are involved in making paper kites of different sizes, designs and patterns. “We mostly stick to traditional designs of kite making,” says Sayeeda Fatima, a mother of four children who learnt to make kites from her mother. “It has been our family business right from my grandmother's days. In between household chores and managing the children, I make the kites. My work keeps me awake till two in the night. Sometimes, I involve the children too, once they finish their homework,” she explains.

After Sankranti, there is a brief lull in the business and they resume their work only in March. Even though they make the kites throughout the year, there is a dip in the rates after Sankranti. “In the period between January and March we ready the materials for kite making,” explains Sayeeda. While most of the materials are available in the Old City, sometimes they get the paper rolls from Indore.

It is from these homes that the kites move to the retail shops in the Old City. From Rs 2, the prices of the kites could go as high as Rs 50. Amidst the colourful hand made paper kites are also the fancy plastic kites which are sold at lower rates. “The manufacturing cost of paper kites are less,” says Mohammad Ahmed, one of the kite sellers. “But the quality of the paper kites is much better than that of plastic ones,” he says.

In fact, the plastic kites are bought from cities like Nagpur, Kanpur and Ahmedabad. Even though Chinese kites have flooded the market, people still prefer buying paper kites.

“People buy Chinese kites for display. It is the paper kites which are good for flying,” says Venugopal Agarwal, another kite seller. Along with the kites, are the quintessential manja which generally comes from Bareilly.

The kitsch kites with faces of popular film actors and sports stars adorn the shops. Salman Khan from Bodyguard or Ajay Devgn's Singham or Dhoni and the Men in Blue have all found a place on these fancy kites.

With stiff competition from dealers outside the city , these kite makers are working hard to keep alive a family tradition. Their real reward comes on the day of Sankranti, when the blue skies are dotted with numerous colours amidst loud shrieks and laughter. That joy and festive spirit is all their making.