Kite Flying in India Q & A – Part Two: Hot and Cold

KAP Jasa – kite team Slovenia has been a part of the International Kite Festival Gujarat 2024 for the fourth time now (check out our reports from 2023!), but our adventures in India did not end there. Half of the team went to the beaches of Goa to get some well-deserved rest, and then went on to the heart of Karnataka, flying kites in kite festivals of Belagavi, Nipani, and Hubbali. As we get a lot of questions about a lot of stuff that happened (or may have happened, or did not happen at all), we compiled them in this multi-part Q&A session (find Part One here). Enjoy!


Yo KAP Jasa team!

Must be hard flying kites in that Indian heat, amirite? Pulling strings in the hot sun – I did that once in the desert, never again hahaha

Stay hydrated mates!
Stanisława Tarkowski, Kenya


Yo Stanisława!

Well, yes … and no.

It’s true, it can get hot in India, and the semi-arid climate of Gujarat and Karnataka (combined with dust and smog in the air) sucks all the moisture from everything. Even the sacred Sabarmati river flows like molasses. Rule No. 1 of kite flying: have at least one bottle of water on you all the time.

Shade. Very important.

Not like Aji, who was fighting the God of Wind in Hubbali for the whole day – and won! – but in his quest totally disregarded the heat and it was only for Gregor (at first) and others (later) who turned into water-bearers for our never-surrendering knight.

Master Aji inspects a giant lifter kite

The Great Hubbali Fight happened only because of an Indonesian team mix-up that left Aji with four or five huge cobras but without a lifter kite. Such a thing is never a problem on a festival, as kiters usually have more than one pilot kite, and with Aji being one of the best kite flyers in the world, kiters were lining up for the honour of having the master borrow their pilot.

“AJI!!! WHERE IS MY LIFTER!!!?”

At first we thought it was either a thunderstorm or or a plane crashing right on the kite field in Belagavi, such power had the voice of Jass, member of the cool kite tribe from Odisha. Jass is loud when he’s whispering, so when he’s screaming across the field, the Decibel scale turns into the Richter scale.

“What? Here it is, I will bring …”

“NO!!!! KEEP IT!!!!!” the good people of Belagavi and the surrounding countryside (and half of Karnataka) heard him roar.

“Okay …”

The Pink lifter (top right, circled) lifting the cobra

“KEEP IT UNTIL HUBLI!!!!”

Now the people of Hubbali 100 km to the southwest were directly warned that Jass and his lifter and all of us will be coming. The legend says the echo of his voice is still travelling around Karnataka, scaring little children and shaking the mangoes from the trees.


Aji tried to avoid the Thundering Voice of Jass, so when we came to Hubbali, we stepped in and asked if he’d like to try our Purple Trilobite as a lifter of his cobras. He gladly accepted, and so began the Great Hubbali Fight – the trilobite is a good lifter, but the pink Peter Lynn Boomer lifter rip-off from Odisha is better, and the winds in Hubbali were less than favourable.

Aji and Gregor during a deceptive breeze

“Aji, there is no wind.”

“…”

“Aji … here, have some water.”

“Thank you!”

The Great Fight started in the morning. The kite field was on the small side, so Aji found a cotton field just beyond our mess hall and decided it woud be a good place to fly his enormous cobras there. The first cobra went up just before lunch, but since Aji never surrenders, he put three more on the kite line, and our trilobite had enough, gently coming to the ground amidst the puffy cotton balls.

Repeat.

A series of pulling the trilobite up and the kite coming back down under the hottest sun imaginable ensued, and it was the most insane sight ever. Aji – and Gregor, and a truck driver, and a couple of passers by, and other kiters – were fighting the Great God of Wind himself for hours, pulling the line, trampling the cotton plants, tying the cobras, disentangling the line, checking if no kids were entangled in the line (they sometimes were) … And just when the heat was about to overcome us all, a cool thing happened:

The Purple Trilobite of Slovenia finally caught some wind up there, pulled as hard as it could, and the cobras of Indonesia rose above Hubbali!

Yet again, master Aji won.


So yea, Stanisława, flying kites in India can get hot. But it can get cold too … For example, the Freeze of Belagavi, that was cold as hell. And it involved the merry kite tribe from Odisha again.

Belagavi kite festival before the Freeze

Jass and co. got a Midi Manta kite in Ahmedabad, and were eager to try it in Belagavi. There was only one problem – the wind. But this time it was not the absence of it; there was too much wind, especially for a second-hand manta when you fly it yourself for the first time.

“KABIR BHAI!!!!! KABIR BHAI!!!!!! PUUUULLLL!!!!!!”, echoed around Karnataka.

The manta is a delicate creature, happy only in a very narrow wind speed window, with a complicated and sensitive bridle of too many strings to handle. If anything is amiss, the manta won’t fly properly. And a too strong wind will turn it into a ferocious beast.

The angle of the line of manta is completely at odds with all other kite lines – a crash in the making

“BHAI WATCH OUT!!!!!!”

Part of the fun at a festival is a kite crash. The field is small, the sky is crowded, and it takes just a little distraction – or a sideways gust – for the lines to entangle and the kites to fall. When that happens, it can cause the whole festival to go down; a kite crashes into another, that crashes into another, and another, and in the end the ground is covered in colourful fabric and laughing kiters.

That trilobite shouldn’t be upside down … but it just had a near-manta experience

So when the angry manta went out of control and mowed down half of the field, we laughed, we disentangled the lines and launched the kites back into the sky.

But then the manta came again. And again. And Again.

And then a nice little rainbow Rokkaku suddenly flew away, its line cut by the crazy manta. And, unfortunately for the Odisha team, it was a Rokkaku of Peter.

The rainbow Rokkaku that “got cut” …

The air froze.

Could this gentle teddy bear of a man even get angry? Yes!

Because the rainbow Rokkaku wasn’t alone up there – he was carrying the pride of the Colors in the Sky Kite Club, Toos and Koos!

Toos and Koos in happier times

Some will swear to this day that in the eerie silence they heard Aji mutter “No technique, no technique” under his breath.

Odisha tribe ran as fast as they could after Peter’s Rokkaku – they got it back safely, and Toos and Koos were recovered unscathed too – but they came back slowly knowing they were to be faced with the icy wrath of Peter.

Peter is NOT happy

Kites can crash and do crash, shit happens. Usually it is fun – or, as Bob says, it’s line dating – but when an out of control kite sweeps down the field for the fourth time, something is wrong. An entangled line is fun, a cut line is not.

We will never know what exactly did Peter say to the Odishans, but in the end everything was cool.

And then it was hot again.

Shade and water – the absolute essentials


But, Stanisława, I guess you were talking about the thermodynamic temperature, not the emotional one … Well, it may be hard to believe, but it can get really cold in India. To make the things even less believable, the coldest place we were at was a desert.

IKF Gujarat does not happen in Ahmedabad only, but in other cities and towns across the state too. So they put us kite flyers in groups, and every group travels to a couple of places, to spread the joy of kites. This year we were assigned to Group C – the best group, of course – and sent to a far away place that took hours to reach by a bus.

The pleasures of bus travel

“It’s an eight hour drive to …”

“No, it’s not. It’s twelve.”

“Oh, no no no – eight!”

“Come on, Barbara, you were there last year – surely you remember how many hours it took?”

“The road master says eight hours, so it’s eight!”

True, Mahesh did say eight hours, and Dharmesh concurred, and the driver shook his head in such a way one could take it for a confirmation. Though the driver was … funny.

There were 51 kite flyers in Group C, so we had two buses at our disposal – a nice large comfortable modern bus, and a little one that had seen better times (probably back in the eighties). And choosing which bus to board is pretty much the most important decision one can make before the twelve, ahem, eight hours ride.

“Is this the party bus to Dhordo?”

Two rules for choosing the bus: 1) choose the one with the most people you don’t know; 2) see if you can turn the bus into a party bus.

“Hey Oman! Come, this is the party bus!”

“Nooo, thanks, we will take the big comfy one.”

“The only big thing here is a mistake you are about to make. This is the Party bus, the other is the Boring bus.”

“Ah, it’s only an eight hours drive …”

“Twelve. It will take twelve hours and they will pass faster here.”

Gregor accepts the Omani decision of going to the Boring bus

Alas, Gregor could not convince the mighty kite team from Oman. They boarded the big boring bus, as did a lot of inexperienced people who were lured by size and comfort. In the end, a motley crew of Polinesians, Romanians, Indians, French, Poles, Reunionians, and Slovenians filled the Party bus. “Filled” is making an effort here – most of the kiters were on the big bus, so pretty much everyone on our Party bus had two seats available, and that’s really important: the seats in an Indian bus are made for smaller behinds, and a looooong ride was ahead.

The party bus before the start. Note Monsieur Laurent Outang.

We all settled, the engine roared, and off went our happy convoy. It was exactly 2:14 PM.

Partybus lives up to its name

When we arrived, it was 2:14 AM.

And it was freezing.

The party bus after the arrival. This photo is taken exactly – to the minute! – twelve hours after the previous Party bus photo

And we were to stay in … tents.

“Really?”

It was especially hard for all the people that fell for the “eight hours” disinformation campaign – and for the Omani guys who had to endure silence on the Boring bus …


One of the best things about travelling with kites all around Gujarat is that you find yourself flying in some of the most bizarre and beautiful places the planet has to offer. And one of these places is really out of this world:

The great white desert, Rann of Kutch.

Rann of Kutch is a huge salty marsh that turns into a salt desert after the monsoon waters evaporate. A thin crust of salt – table salt, NaCl – covers muddy clay for 26 thousand square kilometers. It’s beyond imagination, a white-blue place that envelops you and takes you away.

The sun, the sun! Leave the freezing tents, it’s time to fly!

The sun came out, finally, and the shivering slowly subsided. As we were in a desert, the temperature rose swiftly and had no intentions of stopping. It was time to fly kites in this enormous white expanse, and it was the best kite flying event ever.

But that’s another story.


So, Stanisława – as you can see, it can be hot as hell in India, and it can be cold as, well, hell of Dante. So the answer to your question about whether it is hard flying kites in the heat of India is, as always …

Yes.

And no.

7 thoughts on “Kite Flying in India Q & A – Part Two: Hot and Cold”

  1. There are so many lovely moments mentioned in your lines that it isn’t difficult to be in those days and places again and now.
    It’s like a big bucket of fresh energy.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

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