continued from the Travelogue  – That’s what i call ‘joie-de-vivre

“What is common between Mahatma Gandhi, Vainamoinen, Tiger, Freja, and Panto & Djesel?” A useless hint would be – Mahatma Gandhi needs no introduction, Vainamoinen is a bearded Finish folk hero; Freja is someone’s late beloved dog in Sweden; Tiger hails from Mumbai and Panto & Djesel are the giant puppets from France. Ok, without any more of hints & teasers, I will clear the air about these characters and which is, they all made their presence felt on the grounds and skies of Ahemdabad during the International Kite Festival 2009. Except for the giant 15 ft. puppets, Panto and Djesel, all were basically the themes of the kites with which their maker set them flying high.

The venue, Shahibaug Stadium, Ahemdabad, was well decorated and organized for the colorful big event.  The weather, wind and skies and all gave uplift to the mood and the flying beauties. The kites with colors from all around the world and with their sheer number, designs and sizes assured to make the most of the clear blue backdrop (or atop-drop) of the sky. That day anything in the air was a kite. Why not, when we have miniature kites, tiger kites and designs and shapes as wacky as the big socks with a 50-ft diameter held by more than 5 people to keep it afloat and make it visible in full-expanse. Kite flying is for fun, for passion and for compassion. Kite with Mahatma Gandhi on it was on ode to Bapu (father) and re-emphasize his message of non-violence. Other attractions were – the strolling giant puppets from France, the walled city model, the food stalls, competition, and the vibrant Gujarat theme depicting the success of the State of Gujarat in different fields.

Presence of more than 80 kitists, including us, from 31 different nations, hundreds of Indian kitist, and thousands of just-viewers and admirers and, of course, the organizers, made this Kite festival an affair that cuts across the geographies. ‘Geography is fast becoming history’, thanks to these international events, along with the BPOs. “Patang Chali re!!” meaning here goes the kite of Internationalism and brotherhood!

In case you are feeling jealous for not being able to participate and now planning for the next year, join us. We missed it too Cry sob sob!!

The above was an interactive narration of the Australian couple, who was actually there at the venue at the right time and a reporting from the local newspaper that we had to go through to cross-check the words of the couple which were too enthusiastic to be true. The couple stayed in the same hotel that we had booked and for that night, they had a lot to dictate us about the ‘do’s and don’ts of Travel’

Lesson learnt. “You shouldn’t hide your travel plans from your travel agent, the same way as you shouldn’t from your doctor and your lawyer!!” We didn’t tell Ashoka Holidays about our surprise plan for Ahemdabad. And, here we are, shocked and recollecting ‘word-of-mouth’ and ‘documented’ experience of the INTERNATIONAL kite festival.

However we too had our share of the pie: Uttrayan is the reason for kites and the colorful skies. The sun starts to move northwards putting an end to the winter and letting the people to move out and celebrate. And what better than fly kite for the weather is giving a go ahead. Gujarat, and more specifically, Ahemdabad, has been celebrating with this paper art since the time of Maharajas and Nawabs. Today’s International Kite festival is a modern phenomenon to give boost to the culture and tourism which is limited to a stadium. Someone who arrives at the venue 24 hrs late shouldn’t miss out on the local flavor. We didn’t and we were paid well.

En route sightseeing, we had a good view of the national and local flavor of the Kites and the festival. The whole Gujarat seemed stringed by one common thread – Kite & its accessories. Age, gender, caste, community, economic-class, religion and region – no suchlike killjoys. It’s only about patang, dor, charkhi, manjha, tukals and undhiyo & jalebi (kite, string, spool, sharp-string, illuminated box kites and delicacies respectively). I wonder if it’s the same place that once found hyperbolic mention for the infamous communal strife between the Hindus and the Muslims. We didn’t come across any of these but only kite sellers, buyers, flyers and looters. The busiest place in the whole town was the ‘Patang Bazaar’, the 24X7 Kite market, established especially for the Uttrayan Kite flying week. In fact, the almost all streets and roads are lined with the string makers and shades of shops bearded with the Kites of infinite colors and shapes and sizes. The brand awareness and war could be felt here too. The Khambhati kites versus the Chinese kites – the traditional kites of the yesteryear’s nawabs and the latter invading from the dragon country, the origin of kites. Don’t know who won the fiscal year but the definitely the kitists won the week. Bulk and bundle purchases of kites and the paraphernalia. Sweet shops having a feast too for its Uttrayan. Kite maniacs weren’t too hard to locate. With eyes set on the kites & skies, they were waiting, standing, running and hopping precariously on the road dividers, rooftops, walls, tin-shades, streets and all over the city. Yes, quite a scope for a casualty too. But what say, this is a world of its own.

Fun, art, technique, passion, history, modernity, business and people all gel well when it comes to one single thing called as Kite. A place like Ahemdabad, where these factors are rooted in its culture, becomes an obvious choice for such a KPL (Kite Premier League) or the International Kite festival.

We couldn’t cover the international look and feel of the kite Festival at Ahemdabad as we were late by some 24hrs margin so had to make up for it & the available time. Went for a sightseeing tour of Ahemdabad.

To recollect:
•    Sidi Sayed Mosque
•    Dada ki Vav
•    Rani Rupmati Mosque
•    Calico Textile museum
•    Sabarmati Ashram
•    Kissed past the Science city that was busy hosting the Global Investors meet.

Little Rann of Kutch Wild Asiatic Ass Sanctuary

It’s a 2 hrs drive to Jainabad where things were arranged at Desert Courses, a little off-the road which is a challenge to locate for a non-local driver.

We slept late because of the excitement of being in the wild after a year.  And woke up early for the same reason. It took some 30-mins drive to actually enter the sanctuary. It started with the terrain becoming flat, white and broken and cracked as if it’s a once-upon-a-time’s sea-bed and now bereft of water.

With no-wildlife in vision soon we reached a point when our 4X4 was cruising directionless very much like the other tire-trails criss-crossing each other aimlessly on a flat-white-cracked-marshy landform, seemingly unending & uninterrupted till horizon.

Mammallapuram Travelogue

Amarnath Yatra

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