Ahmedabad: The Gujarat International Kite festival this year started on an emotional note when two dozen foreigner kite flyers, while lighting 25 candles to mark the silver jubilee of the event here last evening, broke down while remembering a late tourism officer who used to receive them.
Holding large candles mounted on bamboo sticks, the foreigner kite flyers, along with their Indian counterparts, gathered at the centre of the festival venue a day before its inauguration on January 14.
Conceived 25 years ago, the festival has now acquired a shape of an event, where besides kite flying, the foreigner kite flyers, throng to meet local residents and shopkeepers, organisers, and their foreign counterparts.
"Besides getting an opportunity to fly kites, this is the place where most of us have developed our friendships. Now after 10 years, I feel we all are part of the family but not professional kite flyers. The Gujarat tourism employee was not merely an organiser. He was part of that family," said Gadis Wydiyati, a woman kite flyer from Singapore, who has been attending the event continuously over more than 10 years.
She said it was the love of the kite flying tradition among Indians, especially Gujaratis, which has kept it alive and attracts kite lovers like her.
"The craze here and promotion by the government is exemplary. As far as I know, it is only in India where you get a holiday to fly kites," Wydiyati added.
While the festival this year has witnessed maximum number of foreigner kite flyers, there are only handful of those who have come for the first time.
If there is Rami-al-Khal, who is arriving from Lebanon for the last five years to participate in the festival, there is also a Swiss couple, Carlo and Pitouzo Franciskas, coming to the festival for the past three years.
And so are the veterans like Derek Kuhn, who claimed that he was associated with the festival since 1993, just four years after the festival was first organised in 1989.
"I can recall that I have come here first way back in 1993. Since then, the event has been developed into a gala affair. Number of participants is increasing every year and so is the involvement of the entire city. Every time here I meet my old friends and new people. Now it`s a unique experience," Kuhn said.
"It`s a great experience to showcase our flying creatures to the citizens who are crazy about kites, especially on the day of festival," Kuhn said.
R A Helmi Ginanti, a female kite flyer from Indonesia, who is here for the fourth time, said she would be staying with her local friends at Ahmedabad for around one week after the festival. While some of her friends are professional kite flyers, others are common Gujarati residents.
"Not only kite flyers from distant lands, this festival also brings people like us closer to indigenous Gujaratis. Apart from kites, this is another beauty of the festival. We relish these relationships as equal as we relish kites here," she added, expressing part of her feelings in a local dialect.