Tag Archives: Kites

Changa Chet!

This afternoon the sun was high and warm, with just enough breeze to get a kite into the air. In preparation P and I wound the nice Lucknow string around P’s old wide wooden spool and took another kite up to the roof.

P quickly got his kite up into the air, and soon it was soaring high above the neighborhood. Half a dozen other kites were also up in the air, mostly too far away from us to “fight.”

“When I was a kid there were hundreds.” P said, bating the other kites to try and come after him. He spotted a black kite struggling a few houses away. “Maybe I should go after that one.”

“What if it is a little baby flying the kite?” I asked.

“There’s no mercy.” He said, again smiling, but steered his kite away and over towards a light blue/gray kite launched from another roof not too far away. As the blue/gray kite climbed higher, it made its way closer to P’s. The kites circled each other several times, dancing in the sky.

“When you cut the string of another’s kite you are supposed to yell ‘changa chet!’ which means ‘kite is cut!’” P explained.

He pulled up and tugged hard on the kite and his string ran straight into the other kite with a force that visibly shook the blue/gray kite, even from such a distance. P’s spool started to pull and the string began unraveling rapidly.

“I guess we have to see who wins the fight.”

He pulled and then loosened, pulled and then loosened, and then the blue/gray kite started fluttering down out of the sky.

“CHETTTT!” P yelled to the teenager holding the kite-less string on the high cement roof a few houses away, “My first win in ten years!”

P looked around for another kite to fight but the others were too far off. “Do you always have to fight them?” I asked.

“What’s the point of flying if you don’t have the competition?” he answered. This type of kite flying was quite different then the few kites I tried to fly as a kid in the park, the point was just to get the kite up in the sky and watch it float in the breeze. There wasn’t really any technique or skill involved, like this kite flying. Every time P let me hold the wooden spool I’d again get the kite in a dreaded death spiral. I was content just to watch and cheer.

A few little kids had watched the kite fight and started to chant, “Baba Che, dhago chod.”

“What does that mean?”

“This kite design is called Baba Che. The kids are calling out to us, ‘Baba Che, release more strings!’ They want us to fight someone so they can get the kite that falls.”

We let it fly for a while more, then P reeled in his kite, alive to fight another day.

Vijaya Dashami, Now Go Fly a Kite!

Today is the first day of the fifteen day holiday Dashain, one of the largest festivals of the year. It’s the day that jamara is planted, and when kids take fragile paper kites to the roof.

After Mamu’s morning puja in the prayer room at the top of the house she planted the family jamara seeds. She had explained last night that one of their neighbor’s used to work at the palace and would bring jamara back from the king, so for many years the family didn’t grow any, but they started again last year.

It has been busy in the house, with many people coming and going. Daddy has been busy handing out packets of invitations for visitors to take back to their section of the city and distribute out to people P’s family knows. Although the household is buzzing with activity, P and I have felt relatively lazy. We have been sitting around, chatting with visitors, sitting on the roof and watching all the activity in the neighborhood, and helping Daddy call and contact guests. This morning I helped Mamu chop onions, mushrooms and tomatoes for the noon time meal.

There has been a lot of rain, at least for a little while each day, but this morning was sunny and warm, while looking out the window P spotted several kites flying, and with a boyish enthusiasm declared that he wanted to fly kites as well. He started searching the house for spools of string and thin paper kites to take to the roof.

I remember a few years ago someone left a copy of The Kite Runner at our house, and P picked it up. He’s not usually a reader, I’ve teased him that he’s been reading the same Jarrod Diamond book for five years, but this book he quickly got into, putting it down every now and then to reminisce about flying kites in his own youth, fighting kites with neighborhood children from the roofs of other houses. Once the book transitioned from the main character living as a boy in Afghanistan and making and flying kites with his friend, to a young man living in America, P quickly lost interest and tossed it aside. He never did finished it.

So P dug through the cupboards until he found a spool of thick string and grinned, “this is very good string, from Lucknow.”  He was about to yell out to the man cutting the grass (by hand with a curved sickle knife) to ask if he could run to the market to buy some kites, but Daddy said there were some stacked above the suitcases in the bedroom. P reached up to grab them, and pulled them down, lifting a cloud of dust.

We went up to the roof, and found a spot between the drying laundry. P tied the string to the nicest looking kite and thrust it up into the air. There really wasn’t any wind, but P started pulling and twisting, sticking out his tongue and biting his lip with concentration. When the kite caught some air and lifted, P’s smile spread across his whole face, “I’ve still got it.”

P got the kite fairly high into the sky, and explained we could potentially fight with other kites that we saw floating above several other houses. He asked if I would like to try, and I took hold of the spool. I didn’t have it for more than thirty seconds before the kite started dropping and spinning out of control.

“What did I do wrong?” I asked, as P grabbed the kite back and tried to rescue it from its death spiral. “I tugged and pulled on the string like you did.”

“I guess it takes skill and practice.” P answered, a bit of pride shinning through his voice.

It took him a few moments to wind in the kite and get it under control, just as huge rain drops started to splatter on the roof indicating another shower was on its way.

P pulled in the kite, and I grabbed the others, and we helped to take the laundry in off the line before it was soaked.

Maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow.