Saturday, August 17, 2013

Manja Makers

Jammu. July 2013.

My first experience with kites was in Srinagar. It was a failed experiment. I tied a pangot thread to a kanni and ran around, pretending it was flying. That was the last summer.

I really learnt the art in Jammu. But it was a different art. In Srinagar, it was a leisurely sport. You just tried to fly it high. But in Jammu, kite flying was like learning to fight a war. The art of this war required you scream, run, fight and capture. You need the right weapons. The perfect threads. The Manja of rough thread with the sharpest of glass. For short plays. You could even make it at home, powdered glass, glue and flour. Or you could use thread with more smoothness. Surtis. For longer plays. You need the perfect kite. A tactical Guddi. Or a mighty Gudda. A bhoot is perfect. You need to learn to read the cane backbone of the kite. Is it hard? Is it soft? Should the thread be tied near or a bit further down. You need the perfect crew. Someone to give the perfect Kanni. You need to learn to read the wind. You need to learn read the signal's from your enemies. Is he challenging you? You need to know when to pull the thread and when to let go. You need to burn the skin. Blend in. Sweat it out. Watch the skies. It is all an art. The only real art I know.

In fact, I even mastered the highest level of it. At the peak of my prowess, I could even lapet-in a lost kati patang. Sometimes two.

And I did it all but never ever even buying a Manja. My Manja was always put together from the threads that came in with the kites I looted. A Manja both Smooth and Sharp. With threads of colours red and greens. And blue and grey. And yellow and white...

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