‘On a bright summer day a ten year old boy is on the terrace of his house with his father. He wants to jump around with excitement, but is somehow controlling his enthusiasm. With sparkling eyes he is looking at his father who is equally happy to teach his son an art which he mastered in his youthful days. The hot temperature is somehow neutralized by a slow, steady wind which is also an assurance of a smooth flight of their kite’. This story is shared by many of us and it is reminiscent of a time when traditions and festivals were celebrated with zeal and gaiety, when social networking meant getting together with your friends and family and when kite flying was still a huge thrill for the youth of Jammu, especially in the old city area.
The months of July, August and September used to be the prime months for kite flying in Jammu and the two holidays of Raksha-Bandhan and Janamashtmi were the un-announced championships of kite-flying. On these occasions, friends and cousins used to get together on roof tops and set up their own kite stations for all day long and the bright day sky appeared to be filled with colourful stars of different shapes and sizes. Many enthusiasts would start collecting kites and the flying-string (dor) way before these festivals and kite sellers used to set up shops in the old city area during this season, which sold only kites and dor. Gone are those days and gone is the passion people used to have for the sport. Though kite enthusiasts are still there, but their number is declining day by day. So is the case with the business community dealing with kites. One such shopkeeper Rajat Gupta said, “We have seen a tremendous fall in business in last three-four years, our sale per day should be around 5000 rupees which has fallen down to around 700-800 rupees. Today’s youth prefer whatsapp and internet over kite flying”. Another shopkeeper Monu Sharma basically from Amritsar, whose ancestors are in this business from about a hundred years said, “I have grown up seeing kites being made in our homes, we are a community of about seventy houses and everybody is in this business”. When asked about the changing trends of this tradition he said, “The business which used to be at a high point during these three months, has succumbed to maximum ten to fifteen days”. Same is the case with traditional dor-makers who come from different parts of country like Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana to set up their business in different parts of city like Panjteerthi, Parade, Gole Market, Satwari etc. Their numbers have decreased to more than fifty percent with the introduction of factory-made plastic string, commonly known as “Chinese dor’ or “gattu”. “Everybody wants the Chinese dor nowadays because of its factory made finish. Our livelihood depends on it, but we are thinking of doing some other job now” said one such dor maker in Satwari area. Even the kite flying enthusiasts are finding it hard to take out time for this childhood passion of theirs. “We only get time for kite flying on holidays like raksha-bandhan and janamashtmi, life is very busy now,” said 22 year old Shiv Verma. A 12th standard student said, “My elder brother is quite an enthusiast; I myself fly kites but not that often as with school and tuitions there is no time left for kite flying”. One young businessman Jabar Singh opined “it’s not only with kite flying; all traditional holidays and practices are losing sanctity with passing time”. A kite flying enthusiast since ages, 64 years old Suresh Gulati said, “I have stopped flying kites only 6 years ago, due to my brain surgery, but still I miss it and it’s sad to see young people today don’t have time for it, even my grand children are not that enthusiastic about it. Not only choices of people have changed, but the cost of living has increased so much that ordinary people nowadays can’t afford to celebrate festivals the way they wish to do it”
This centuries old tradition like other traditions is slowly fading from the city and its fast moving life. City’s younger lot, who used to eagerly wait for this season and festival, to setup tents and music systems, call friends over for kite flying, now gets so much entertainment within the four walls of their air-conditioned rooms that they don’t want to get out in the sun and get tanned or catch flu. People still like to celebrate festivals and spend quality time with family and relatives but their modes of entertainment are changing. They prefer going to malls, cinemas and restaurants over traditional practices like kite flying. This custom of kite flying is just a single thread among many others, which when weaved together form a sheet called culture, but if one thread in the sheet goes loose, it slowly starts to tear apart and when it does, something is lost, the question is how important it is to keep it well. A question creeps in one’s mind that whether you will see any kites in the sky in coming years?
This question was answered by a shop keeper with a confident smile, “I am very sure that love for kite flying will never fade completely from this city” and your faith re-affirms itself when sometimes you see a kite-runner in his fifties flying kite on his roof top and competing with kids lesser than half his age and shouting the ritual slogans of “chal gai yaa” from the top of his lungs, a strike of exuberance exhilarates in you and you know that this bug of kite flying is resilient enough to survive for more time and it will see more flights in coming future.