Kites Return To Our Skies

An old habit has sparked interest among Fijians amid  the COVID-19 crisis.
17 Sep 2021 15:57
Kites Return To Our Skies
Avinesh Sajjan (left), with son Darren at Ritova St, Suva

It brings back a lot of nostalgia for Avinesh Sajjan as he sits on the rooftop of his home in Ritova Street in Suva.

The weather had been kind for more than a fortnight. The blue skies in the day turned into the perfect afternoons.

The sun on a tilt and refraction of the sunlight gives it a warm glow which slowly turns orange. The wind has been kind as well, making it just right to ‘slack’ the roller.

In his hands, Mr Sajjan, 41, has a homemade kite roller, with an impressive string length that stretches a few kilometres at least.

On the end of it, a diamond shaped kite, the kind children draw.

“This brings back a lot of memories. For a while, there was no one flying kites. I can recall as a child growing up in the 80s and the 90s as a teen, we actually had a kite season,” Mr Sajjan said.

“We made our kites, lined up the strings with manja (crushed glass mixed with either dough or rice and the string ran through it) so we could kite fight. Right now, I am flying with clean strings.

“And we had the smaller children lining up to be the chasers. They would chase after the kite that got cut off.”


Kites are back

Mr Sajjan is not the only one busy flying kite. In other areas, it has become serious business.

Every afternoon in suburbs like Samabula, Caubati, Newtown, Valelevu, Narere, Nakasi and parts of Nausori, enthusiasts are flying their kites looking for a good fight.

So much is the intensity of the kite fights, that a few competitions have been organised with prize money.

At Samabula’s Komo Park, it is an everyday affair; even a points table for a kite league is being formulated.

An area near the Laqere Market is another kite flying hot spot.

So, competition is now intense that a fight broke out last week between the competitors.

The objective of the kite fights – to be the last kite flying.

And during the time of the pandemic when most sporting activities cannot take place, people have found something old to keep them busy in the afternoon.

People have been lining their strings with manja so as soon as strings touchen, the tension and the glass coated surface cuts the opponents strings.

According to historians, the origins of kites can be linked back to 2500 years ago, probably in China.

But kite fighting is said to have originated in India.

The head-to-head combat rules are straightforward: the winner is the last kite flying.

And it is probably something which the first indentured labourers brought with them and passed it on to the next generation.

It is a contagious affair and now most Fijians are into it.

Ready-made kites on sale.

Ready-made kites on sale.

A legacy passed down

For Mr Sajjan, the past two weeks have been busy.

He had initially made a roller by doing it the easy way. He punctured a hole at the end of a plastic bottle for the swindle and wrapped strings around the bottle.

Realising that his 11-year-old son Darren was showing interest, he took it a step further. He designed the kite roller with his son.

The two had themselves a project which they finished. Mr Sajjan then bought ready-made kites to ensure the kite was steady.

Now for the past two weeks, Mr Sajjan and his son have been on the roof top of their home flying their kites.

“I have not been in any kite fights yet. But believe me when I say, I will not turn one down when another kite pops up in my flying area,” he said.

“When we were teenagers, I used to cycle to Ono Street in Samabula. My manja string and best kite. We used to fly from Komo Park in Samabula.

“Soon there would be four, five other kites up. One from Bureta, one from Fulaga Street, one from another area.

“Everyone with their long strings. We would fight in the air and then chase after the fallen kites. Many times, the owners of the fallen kites would want their kites back, but the unwritten rule has always been that whoever catches a falling kite, it is theirs.”

A home-made kite designed by Shalendra Prasad in Nadi.

A home-made kite designed by Shalendra Prasad in Nadi.

Training an apprentice

Mr Sajjan, for the past two weeks, has also been teaching his son the fun things he used to do while growing up.

He agreed that children currently would rather be sticking inside playing games or being stuck to a YouTube channel.

“We have been doing things and this has taken me back. These days we must chase the children outside,” he said.

“When we were young, mothers used to come looking for us in playgrounds or at a friend’s place. Sometimes they would be coming with a stick in their hands to remind us that we need to stay inside.

“It was not only kites. There were marbles, tops, all kinds of sports, even a communal game of hopscotch.”

A kite enthusiast in Nadi.

A kite enthusiast in Nadi.

Kite fever

Dhiren Singh, 46, of Valelevu, for the past three weeks, has been rushing to get home. The sole reason – to fly his kite.

“I can’t wait to reach home. The first thing I do is take my kite out and look for a kite fight,” he said.

“I guess during a time when everyone has been cooped up inside their homes, the kites are a good release.”

The same can be said for Vishal Reddy of Narere. He even came close to an altercation with a neighbour after his kite string was pulled.

“I get passionate about it. The other week, I took part in a kite fight competition, which a few friends organised, and the winner walked away with $200,” he said.

And because the kites have been flying, the younger generation have been interested as well.

Mohammed Khan of Makoi said he bought a homemade roller from a man in Nadawa for $15 for his grandson.

To some, the kites are a nostalgic experience but in doing so, it has in some way provided a sense of normalcy during this pandemic.





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