Thursday, December 13, 2007


Kite-flying was an exciting winter ritual of my childhood. The crystalline sunny days were perfect for flying and fighting kites.

You fought another kite by letting the string of your kite slide along the string of another, high above the ground. As the kites moved to and fro, friction between the strings eventually tore one string. The detached kite glided to the earth on its own will, a crowd of cheering children chasing it for claiming when within reach.

The winner, meanwhile, continued to fly his kite until another challenged him to a duel.

What made one kite a winner over another? Maanja - the application of a thin but gritty paste over the length of the thread. Once dried, Maanja made the thread tougher and sharper, enabling it to rip another thread with a lesser Maanja. Expert kite-flyers had secret formulas for Maanja which included crushed glass and sand. Today's kids also use shirish (resin?) and ground tapioca, but sand has fallen out of favor. (Come to think of it, sand always yielded a lousy Maanja, but we had few alternatives.) Use of color was not so prevalent in my childhood as it is today.

Kites have been driven out from the center of congested, claustrophobic Dhaka, but step just a little outside, and you will find the ritual in full swing. I caught this kid on the edge of the city, purple Maanja still wet, going for the maiden flight.

2 comments: said...

Love the pic - the color, the color contrast and that expression!


ulysses said...

Hi Rehan,

Thanks very much for the compliment. Cheers!