“My son will never know the thrill of flying a kite... the rush of the wind and watching the kite dancing in the skies,” says 40-year-old kite seller and maker A. Sathyanarayanan.
He is one of the few remaining kite sellers in the city, but rarely gets an opportunity to sell what is left of his stock.
In between serving customers at his bunk shop, he retrieves a bunch of colourful kites, four containers full of marbles and a pack of tops from a dusty corner, and proudly displays them.
“I started selling kites when I was just 15. I used to buy bundles of kites from a shop in Parry’s Corner and it was the trader there who taught me to price the kites. When I started off, one kite cost just 25 paise. Now it costs Rs. 10. But our trade has almost died now thanks to the police ban,” he says.
Class VI student Khader Sharif’s eyes light up when he sees Sathyanarayanan’s kites. But when he asks for one, the kite seller reminds him of the ban on kite flying.
“It’s been a long time since I flew a kite. But now, I cannot because the police are very strict about the ban,” says Sharif, before running off with a box of coloured matches to play with on the occasion of Eid.
The police banned kite flying in the city following multiple incidents of fatalities due to ‘maanja nool’ (kite thread covered with tiny pieces of glass) cutting motorists’ necks on city roads.
This ban was also upheld by the Madras High Court. Attempts by the Chennai Kite Manufacturers and Sellers Association to get the ban lifted did not succeed.
Also, the art of kite flying has been neglected by today’s youngsters, who prefer to spend time with gadgets.
Narayanan, another trader who has been in the business for several decades, says the fault does not lie with kite makers or sellers but with shops that sell ‘manja nool’.
“Earlier, we would conduct kite-flying contests but such things are not allowed anymore. People who depended on the trade have moved on to other businesses,” he says.
“I wish the government would permit kite flying, at least on the beaches,” he says.
The few remaining kite sellers in the city struggle to sell what is left of their stock