Out of the mighty sports of Aminjikarai, I was fascinated much towards flying kites. Anything related to kite is a form of art and for every sport, there's a season. I remember, mostly the quarterly exam leaves in September was the period, when people choose to fly kites. In Aminjikarai, I stayed in one of the high rise apartments. From our terrace, I could see Chetpet railway bridge, Perumal temple, Pazhaniappa theatre's rear end etc., If I climb the water tank [ Sometimes, I didn't know how to get down :) ], I could spot out Anna nagar tower. Terrace is the actual place for this sport.
There were different kinds of kites - 25 paise ones are the cheap ones [ 1 sq ft size ] and has less life. Bombay kaathadis are medium budget ones with a triangular tail. The highest classic range is Baanaa kaathadi [ looks like trace paper - see the above photo ]. The sound it makes was so majestic, when the kite perces the air. Baana comes in different designs [ ஒத்தக் கண், ரெட்டைக் கண் [ the above photo has rettai kannu baana ] , நாமம், Star, crescent ]. The perfect thread for flying kites was "Maanja". There are different types of threads too [ busku nool [ பார்சல் கட்டுவாங்களே ! ], paai nool, twine nool, maanjaa nool ]. Maanjaa nool is the best form of thread for the expert level of flying kites, but a dangerous one. In Thirukurall, there's a saying about "நூலாருள் நூல்வல்லன்" - Maanjaa is that நூலாருள் நூல்வல்லன் [ காத்தாடிக்கு குறளா .. ஸாமி.. உன் ஹிம்சை :) ].
The sport doesn't end with just flying the kites. We were supposed to get into deal [ kite fight ] and cut off the opponent's kite [ that's the reason we use maanjaa ]. There's a separate gang which runs behind the kite flying off which got cut from the deal. There are kids who just run through the streets just following the kite which goes in 'off'. The folks jump any kind of terrace [ appave parkour :) ]. The most complicated part of preparing a kite was making the 'soosthiram' ; a triangular grip which holds the kite with right balance. [ illainaa side adikum ]. Only experts could do that job [ ணா ணா.. சூஸ்திரம் மட்டும் போட்டு குடுணா ]. Also, the novice fly the kites with tail and the experts don't. We the small kids were like camera assistants just holding the string, when the senior takes a break. [ இத்த புட்றா.. தோ வர்ரேன் ].
The preparation of Manjaa itself is a big process. They get colour powders, glues, eggs, crushed bottle powder [ mostly soda bottles ] and some chemicals. It goes for 2 or 3 days to coat the thread with maanjaa paste, dry it up and roll it. The shape of the thread bowl itself looks majestic and so big to carry. Somehow, I felt using the bobbin [ raatai ] for flying kite as not a native method.
We also had a local gym in our neighborhood where all the teenagers join and looking at the arms most of the times [ For them exercise means dumb bells ]. I had a senior friend named Venkitu. He worked in a local company in night shifts mostly and spends free time with me. I get friendship easily with a person who is hard to get friendship with [ Moody fellows mostly ]. We bought a "Banaa" kathaadi one fine day and started flying it high with manjaa nool. We didn't make Maanjaa but bought it from outside. The whole afternoon and evening we made several deals and cut the opponent kites easily. The practice is that the kite has to be brought down before the sunset so that one can safeguard it. Out of curiosity, we spent more time flying it and it was getting dark at that time. We were about to bring back the lucky kite [ rettain kann baana ]. Those were the days that any terrace was filled up with TV antennas. [ இங்க வைக்கறேன் ட்விஸ்ட்டை :( ]
Somehow, in the dark evening just before landing the kite, it went and stuck to the antenna. It was torn - I couldn't digest that sight; I could have accepted even it went off on a deal [ வீர மரணம் ] . After that we didn't fly kites that aggressively. That was my relation with Bana kathaadis, during my Chennai days.
- To be continued..