Delhi

Once Delhi's favourite hobby, kite-flying is now passé

Sunil, member of kite flying club called 'Union Kite Flying Club', showing off his family collection of kites at Chawri Bazaar in Old Delhi on January 07, 2015. Photo: Meeta Ahlawat   | Photo Credit: Meeta Ahlawat

Kite making and flying seem to have lost a bit of their charm, barring days like Basant Panchami, Makar Sakranti and Independence Day.

“It is a tussle between paper and manjha in air.” That is kite-fighting according to veteran kite-flyer Ram Dulare Gupta, who started and runs the city’s oldest kite flying club — the Union Kite Club.

A pass-time largely associated with Old Delhi, kite-flying enthusiasts are fast dwindling in numbers. Lack of open spaces leave little scope for those lazy Sundays once spent over this pass-time.

The government, he says, could not care less about their demand for more open spaces.

The 75-year-old started flying kites when he was just six and went on to win the first all-India tournament in Lucknow in 1967. He started the Union Kite Club in 1956 with just six members.



Gupta is now confined to the second floor of his Chawri Bazar’s residence, the top floor of which is filled with cartons and cases of kites as old as him.

The karigars who made these are no more and sadly the art could not be passed on, says Gupta.

Two of his four sons — 39-year-old Manish and 42-year-old Sunil — proudly show off the vast collection of kites and spools, including kites made of silver and the ones with which various tournaments were won.

The two have not just inherited the collection, but also the skills to manoeuvre kites from their father. They also run the club, which has 10 members and won the all-India tournaments in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2012.

Gupta also has a carton-load of kite-flying stories.

In 1962, he went to Calcutta for a match. A good player, he was approached by a man who wanted him to play a match with a group of sex workers.

“I was shocked, but politely declined saying I only play matches with other clubs,” he recalls.

Both Gupta and Sunil, who are very good at kite-flying, recall a match they played in Moradabad. The men in the audience placed bets on them, and one of them ended up making Rs.1.5 lakh!

“Later, the same man invited us to his house,” says Sunil.

In places like Lucknow and Bareilly, people sometimes gamble by placing bets during kite-flying matches. There have been instances when some competitors agreed to lose the match. It is like match-fixing in cricket, they add.

Many years ago, kite-flyers could do so at Shanti Van or the Ramlila Maidan. However, they are now restricted to Nirankari ground in Burari in North Delhi.

“Now if we go to Rajghat or the old hangouts so to speak, there is a risk of the kite or the manjha falling on and injuring two-wheeler drivers, etc. So the government has banned it,” says the veteran kite-flyer.

Another issue the kite-flyers these days face is the price. Sunil recalls how a kite, which used to cost Rs.2, now costs Rs. 40, and the prices of manjha too have gone up from Rs.100 to Rs.1,500.

“The government never thought about regulating the prices of these items,” says Sunil, who also makes kites besides running a printing press.

The family also rue the fact that the present generation is far too busy playing with their mobile phones instead of taking interest in a hobby like kite-flying.

“Computers and phones hold their attention these days. Now they do not come to the terrace on a Sunday to fly kites.”

Sunil adds: “People should fly kites. It is a good exercise for the arms, plus it improves sight. You need to focus real far in the sky, you see.”

Gupta’s sons, who chose to remain bachelors, know there is no one after them to look after the club. However, they are sure it will never close.

After the chat, the Guptas get back to preparing for another tournament, scheduled for February 4.


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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 4:14:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/once-delhis-favourite-hobby-kiteflying-is-now-pass/article6783828.ece

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