Airfare Re. 1 (with strings attached)

Gauri Katyal

You may be a jet-setter or a free-falling adrenalin junkie. You might have flown in a Concorde or may have hitched a ride in a Cessna. Some of you might even have harboured the secret dream of getting a big ticket ride in a fighter plane (prices fell with the iron curtain). But here`s a deal that is affordable for everyone.

You don`t need deep pockets. You don`t need a passport or a visa. You don`t even need to have a stiff upper lip to revel in the splendour of this flight. There are no safety belts. No luggage. No air freight. No speed regulations. No rules for landing or takeoff. No check-in. No check-out.

But before we buckle up for some aerial manoeuvres, we have to pass an amendment in the History of Flight. All the young impressionable minds, who grew up on an overdose of Encyclopaedia Britannica need to get their facts correct.

Yes, because of lack of physical evidence, the credit for the first flight doesn`t go to Pawan Putra Hanuman or to Icarus. To disappoint the pedantic among us, it doesn`t even go to Wright Brothers. Man started flying long before that.
The first set of wings even predates Jesus. It is said that the first kite-like object was flown in 14th century BC in Greece to test the eyesight of a royal prince. Through time, flying this interesting object took the form of a sport. And soon, from Greece, kites travelled to South East Asia and different parts of Europe.

Besides entertaining purposes, kites also started coming into use in warfare. From gauging distances, sending signals to war cries, kites became an important part of fighting battles. Be it sending messages or signs and love notes, kites became an efficient means of communication. They connected hearts and also fought battles.
In India, kite-flying can be traced back to the times when there lived kings and nawabs. Like cock-fighting, fighting kites became another way of displaying their prowess. And soon with the patronage, kite flying took the form of a popular street sport.

At Re. 1/- kites are the common man`s Boeing. If names like Spitfire, Mustang, Kittyhawk and Hurricane capture your imagination, then kite flying also comes with an equally intriguing lexicon. Chand Tara, Parial and Tiranga. The string with which a kite is flown is called manjha. It is wound around a cylindrical object made out of wood and bamboo. This object is called charkhadi or hujka. The art of entangling the opponent`s kite and `cutting` it is called paich - a desi version of an aerial dogfight.

Today, this somewhat dying cultural sport has an industry running behind it. Amongst some of India`s most popular kite aficionados is the grand old man of Barielly - Nasir Miah who possesses a 302 - years old kite. In keeping with his passion, this self-proclaimed lover of patang baazi, has founded the `Manjha association of India`. This association organizes tournaments and championships for flying kites.

With all these intricacies, kite-flying still remains a popular sport in the heart of India. Soaring high in the sky, kites symbolize imagination, power and whole lot of fun. There is no caste, creed or religion in the world of kite flyers. All that exists is one sky and one world. And that is where kites fly.

With the rooftop as the runaway and mothers and grandmothers as air-hostesses (yelling safety instructions so that you don`t fall off) here frequent flyers scheme differs from one part of India to another. At some places it comes around Makar Sakranti and at others, near the 15th of August.

What`s more is that this comes without any risk of a jet lag. The only side-effect, if any, could be a slight sprain in the neck. But then, desk jobs are known to cause more damage to the neck than looking up in the sky.

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