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With the setting sun, the sky comes alive with fireworks and tukkals (lanterns with a candle in them). These lanterns (called Chinese lanterns , since they are imported from China) are actually banned since they are a fire hazard, but i could see thousands in the sky that evening, I have never seen the sky lit up thus. It was a beautiful sight, though dangerous. In addition to these lanterns there were fireworks being let off from the terraces. Then it was time to take leave of our gracious hosts and walk down a short distance to Manek Chouk, the night food bazaar. 


















It seems every one who had come to the old city had the same idea that night. There was hardly space to move, leave alone sit down and have a leisurely meal. Thus ended our Vasi Uttarayan day!

The supporters are quite feudal in nature and support the victory of who ever is flying the kite from the terrace they are on, never mind if they don't know him or her from Adam (or Eve). Their job is to make all kinds of noises once the victor has finished his/her victory cry, the louder the better, and make faces and gestures at the losing party. At times, and i put this down to bad training and the absence of an orientation programme, the supporters do this mechanically and when in fact the neighbouring terrace kite flyer has cut their terrace kite - inviting dirty looks from the vanquished. "We need to do something about this auto response syndrome - a loser-whose-kite-had-just-been-cut remarked. Why are they here and who invited them?"
This happens when the supporters are not paying attention and are amusing themselves by taking selfies:

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After a successful stint of supporting, and when your allegiance is beyond doubt, one gets promoted to the critical role of the firki catcher. This is an important role and one has to ensure that the thread is given immediately on demand, at the speed desired, without knots or jumbles (Goonch), and remains always stationed at precisely 14.23 degrees to the left of the flyer ( if he is a right hand flyer) and precisely 2 feet away. This becomes difficult since the flyer is moving around always, trying to jostle his kite in a winning position. As and when the flyer has manoeuvred his kite in the position desired, he (she) commences their cutting approach, in which the thread is pulled quite fast, making a messy pile on the floor- it is here that a distinguished firki catcher gets an opportunity to prove his mettle. She (he) would have to wind the thread as it comes cascading down, without it making a messy jumble ; without - and this is important - taking her eyes off the battle. In this case, if you observe closely, the kite has just been cut ( the thread has become slack) and though the firki catcher has followed all the rules, she would come in for a drubbing. " You did not allow the thread to come as fast as i wanted at the critical moment" - thereby once again proving that the Boss is always right.

A skewed win - lose ratio normally demands a rethink in the war strategy and all hands (except the low rank supporters) are involved in this complex exercise. The valour and prowess of the flyer is shown by the cuts he has on his fingers ( due to the ground glass coated thread-called manjha) and the number of bandages he sports. It is also important to sport a i-don't-care grin as it gets the "oohs" and "aahs" of the girls you want to impress. ( What is with girls and their kink for all things gory?) 

uttarayan: kite flying festival

As can be expected, there is a competitive air, in addition to the festive atmosphere and success are heralded by a piercing victory cry -loud and fierce enough to give Tarzan, or for that matter, the Vikings an inferiority complex). The losers, mutter about the poor quality of the thread, the bad kite design, or anything and everything relevant or irrelevant, including what they had for breakfast; except of course their kite flying skills.

The lung power exhibited is inversely proportional to the size and weight of the bellower. Please excuse my tardiness for not attaching an audio file so that such calls could be documented for future study.

The losers, as explained before have a quick "defeat analysis session" and once they have arrived at the culprit (in this case a sad song that was being played through the music systems deployed in the terrace); they quickly assemble another kite, put in a peppy number, and make a solemn vow not to rest until their "insult" has been avenged.

UIttarayan is a festival to celebrate the northwards movement of the sun ( said to be a positive period) and this period of approximately 6 months starts on the summer solstice, January 14th.

Uttarayan in Ahmedabad is special since the festival is celebrated by kite flying. While kites being flown on Uttarayan may not be unique to Ahmedabad, what makes it different is the sheer enormity of the celebration, the participation, the competition, the food, the atmosphere, the joie de vivre ( english words have failed me and hence switched over to French - i trust you get the message)

We decided to go to the old city on vasi uttarayan ( vasi means stale and vasi uttarayan is the day after uttarayan) Ahmedabad is broadly divided into two areas bisected by the river Sabarmati. The east area which (predominantly) consists of the old (walled) city and the west which is the new areas. Kite flying is a delight in the old city, where hundred of thousands of people descend, nay ascend to the rooftops and fly kites with the objective of cutting the string of a neighbouring kite flyer.