The Telegraph
Thursday , January 16 , 2014
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Bad weather, weak wind, absent CM, kites beat odds to roar & soar in skies

The fog was thick, the chill was pricking and Nitish Kumar was missing, yet kitists had a day out at the Sabbalpur Diara during the daylong kite festival organised by the government.

On the day of Makar Sankranti, most things remained unfavourable for kitists and kite patrons but people did not pay heed to the adverse situations. They just partied with their friends, family and their kites.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar chose not to take part in the state’s one of the most-awaited festivals because he had a video-conferencing session on an anti-corruption drive.

The kite festival, which started at the sandbar on Wednesday, was however, more about chaos than fun. People even fought among themselves when the tourism department distributed kites and spindles for free. Around 200 kites and spindles were on offer. Since the department officials started distributing the kites and the spindles around 4pm, people by then grew restless. The moment they started distributing, a chaos followed.

However, all was not bad with the festival the entire day.

A tinge of Gujarat could be seen at the festival with middle-aged Mehul Pathak, an internationally renowned kitist based in Ahmedabad, flying his custom-made kites. The “kite man” has been making his presence felt at the festival in Bihar for the past two years.

“There is no wind. It is cloudy and cold sans any wind. Hence, the bigger designer kites won’t fly. We have been trying since morning but the weather is not favourable. The smaller kites, which are common across the country, are flying. The bigger ones need good wind. I hope the skies clear out and wind start blowing,” Pathak said around 4pm.

Mehul added that his team had participated in the kite festival in Gujarat on Tuesday, when actor Salman Khan and chief minister Narendra Modi was seen flying kites together at the venue.

“We were there. In Gujarat, the kite festival is very popular. Since kite flying is very common across India, professional kite flying should be promoted. My team is always there to spread the word. As far as Bihar is concerned, the state government has done a wonderful job for the third consecutive year. This means that the state loves kite flying and wants to promote it. This is commendable,” Mehul added.

There were 15 designer kites, from medium sizes to huge ones. However, they remained grounded despite their stature because of lack of wind.

Ashok Shah, a companion of Mehul and also a professional kitist from Mumbai, said professional kite flying was a serious job.

“There are kites like the flat ones, which have sticks attached for support. Then there are inflatable ones, which do not have sticks but need a lot of wind. They are of different shapes and sizes. Some are made of ripstop nylon fabric, a cloth material that is imported and costs $15/m. The cost of the designer kites can range between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10 lakh,” Shah said.

However, towards the afternoon, a gush of wind followed which excited the duo. Some of the rare kites took flight, people cheered and applauded but again they took a nosedive when suddenly the wind went on to take an afternoon nap.

“I fear water but took the pain to come here in a rickety boat. The sandbar is a great place and if managed well, it can turn out to be a good tourist spot. However, I see that the kites and spindles meant for distribution among the people are still lying with the organisers. When I asked them, the representatives said that the tourism department officials, who are organising it, have said that the formal inauguration will start only after 3pm. The weather is bad and I fear it will be dark very soon,” Rohit Kumar, a resident of Digha, said.

Among the crowd, there were some lucky few who had brought their own kites.

“It is so much fun out here. It just reminded me of my childhood days,” Kankerbagh resident Sushant said, as he handed over the spindle to his five-year-old son.

An official of the district administration, who was managing the event, said the hustle at the diara would continue because a musical bonanza would be organised on Thursday.

“The tourism department has come up with a full-fledged arrangement here for the people. It’s a great place to be with friends and family. The administration has full-proof security arrangements and it would continue till February end,” the official said.