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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Why Hyderabad kitemakers are not flying high this Makar Sankranti

This time, however, ‘patangula panduga’, as the festival of kites is popularly called in Telugu, has not turned out the way the traders wanted.

Written by Rahul V Pisharody | Hyderabad | January 13, 2021 8:30:09 pm
Manoj Singh, of Manoj Patang Ghar in Dhoolpet, Hyderabad. (Express photo: Rahul V Pisharody)

In the run-up to Makar Sankranti, one of the major festivals in the region that falls in the beginning of the year, those involved in the making and selling of colourful kites and manja (threads) in Hyderabad were excited to start afresh. The dwindling number of COVID-19 cases in the city, as against an earlier predicted possibility of a second wave of the coronavirus infections, boosted their hopes as the year 2021 began. This time, however, ‘patangula panduga’, as the festival of kites is popularly called in Telugu, has not turned out the way the traders wanted.

Craftsmen usually start making kites meant for sale during Sankranti soon after the end of the previous year’s festival making it a round-the-year activity. Mohanlal of Narsing Traders near Puranapul in the old city has been selling kites since he was 10-years-old. Now 75, he says the COVID-19 pandemic, months-long lockdown, and the lack of sufficient modes of inter-state transport have added to a shortage of kites in the market and pushed the prices up by nearly 30 per cent.

In 2020, unlike previous years, craftsmen started making kites only in June after the lockdown was eased. (Express photo: Rahul V Pisharody)

While demand for kites is still high, as people cherish flying kites from their terraces and rooftops, he says paper kites are short in supply and the market is flooded with colourful plastic kites which are non-biodegradable, while banned nylon manja continues to be available illegally.

“Kite flying during Sankranti in Hyderabad is a tradition of over four centuries. Noble families used to send invitations to their counterparts for kite flying competitions as a friendly gesture to improve their relations. While it is not the same anymore, the tradition continues among common people even today,” says the nostalgic kite-seller, sitting in front of his nearly 100-years-old shop, while engaging with his customers.

Lockdown impact: Supply low, demand more

In 2020, unlike previous years, craftsmen started making kites only in June after the lockdown was eased. Owing to the pandemic, lockdown, and transport difficulties, he says bamboo sticks and paper making kites did not come from Assam and Mumbai, respectively. “We used to make kites throughout the year and yet face a shortage in supply. This time, we were shut for three months and the available stock itself is less. At the same time, the demand for kites is more because it is a popular recreational activity in which families can indulge in while on their respective terraces as earlier,” Mohanlal says.

Mohanlal of Narsing Traders near Puranapul in the old city. (Express photo: Rahul V Pisharody)

“The market is slow. There used to be only four shops here 80 years ago when we started. Now, there are over 400 shops, and all are almost empty on the eve of Sankranti,” says Satyanarayan (55) of Satyanarayan Patang Ghar, pointing towards the street. He is a fourth-generation trader and the biggest wholesaler of kites in Dhoolpet. One of his nephews, G Rohith, adds that all the paper kites readied for the festival were sold out much before the festival this year.

“This time, because of COVID-19 lockdown, we didn’t get enough bamboo sticks from Indore and Kolkata. We made fewer paper kites and all are sold out. Moreover, we have not had our regular customers from districts across the two Telugu states this year. Due to lack of supply, the rates are higher now,” he says.

 

Echoing similar views, Manoj Singh, of Manoj Patang Ghar in Dhoolpet, says the shortage in supply of raw materials has made them costlier now and after many years, he was forced to hike the price by one or two rupees a kite. “We usually make around 20,000 kites all through the year. We would have made around 6000 fewer kites due to the lockdown,” says Manoj, who acknowledges that the market is slow but is equally confident about his loyal customer base.

Fancy plastic kites flood markets

A retailer near Mangalhat, Naval Singh (55) says the local market is overflowing with plastic kites from Bareilly, Delhi, Kanpur, Agra, Ahmedabad, and Jaipur, etc. “The sale is not bad this year, but those who used to purchase for Rs 1,000 are buying stuff worth Rs 600. The market is slow. We see fewer customers compared to previous years,” he says.

Naval Singh pointing towards a kite printed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo (Express photo: Rahul V Pisharody)

However, pointing at a kite printed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo, he says the demand for plastic kites is also due to the colourful cartoons and photographic images printed on them. Themed on recent movies, matinee idos, popular politicians, and cartoons, a good number of them are imprinted with awareness on COVID-19.

Agreeing that plastic kites are more in number this year, Manoj Singh too says these kites should be banned as they are non-biodegradable. His shop, nearly 100-years-old, is known for its quality of kites, each of which is personally checked by 48-year-old Manoj himself. The kites are made by his family members. including his wife, older brother Dheer Singh and his wife, and a nephew.

Manoj, however, is not threatened by the huge influx of plastic kites.

In the last few days, Hyderabad police have made at least six arrests after they were found in possession of synthetic manja. (Express photo: Rahul V Pisharody)

“We sell paper kites to only top traditional families of Hyderabad and they continue to buy in large numbers. This is because of the quality and reputation of our family. Those who have grown up with our paper kites can tell the difference when they fly plastic,” he says. While kites of any size are available in the market, Manoj Patang Ghar sticks to kites of sizes – number 5, number 6, half-pound, and one-pound, which are prices at Rs 12, Rs 10, Rs 16, and Rs 25, respectively.

‘Banned nylon manja still in demand, available also’

Rohith points out that despite a ban on nylon or synthetic manja, a majority of customers have been enquiring about its availability. “When you are flying kites using cotton manja and if your rival has a nylon manja, you are most certain to lose your kite in a free fight. That’s the reason for the demand,” he says.

In the last few days, Hyderabad police have made at least six arrests after they were found in possession of synthetic manja. A complete ban on the manufacture, sale, storage, purchase, and use of nylon manja for kite flying was ordered by the National Green Tribunal in 2016. The Telangana government imposed a complete ban on the procurement, stocking, sale, and use of any non-biodegradable manja in January 2016.

Manoj Singh adds, “These synthetic threads have been in the market for the last 20 years. Everyone knew these were not only non-biodegradable but also dangerous for birds, animals and human beings alike. It is like ganja or any other stuff banned but available.”

Rohith says the government should ensure no nylon manja is manufactured in the first place.

Cotton manja that is available now, according to Mohanlal, is no match for the nylon manja. “People buy cotton manja only because nylon manja is not available. Initially, the synthetic manja used to be called Japanese manja. Once it was banned in Japan, China started making Chinese manja for the Indian market. Since that was also banned, factories in Delhi are manufacturing it now. Only if factories are shut, the supply will stop,” he adds.

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