Scenes from the Madras Kite Festival

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s a kite — hundreds in fact — that dotted the Neelankarai skies last weekend at an unusual festival hosted by Saturday Sunrise

On Saturday, as the sun began its daily crawl from the horizon at Neelankarai, it wasn’t just the fishermen throwing their nets out to the sea. About 150 people gathered at Casuarina Drive to cast a multicoloured web of kites across the blue sky. It was Saturday Sunrise’s first ever Madras Kite Festival.

Scenes from the Madras Kite Festival

The group that was set up in April with the singular purpose of taking one day out to admire the sunrise, has grown by leaps and bounds to include activities such as crossfit exercises, outdoor games, yoga and now kite-flying.

Kites — some borrowed, some bought — flew low, then high, as the sea breeze scooped them up. For those who didn’t have their own kites, the Saturday Sunrise group ran a stall for people to buy one. “We got two professional kite flyers from Bengaluru to teach us how to make and fly kites,” said Saturday Sunrise founder Mohana Lakshmi, pointing to Ajith, our trainer for the day.

Scenes from the Madras Kite Festival

Ajith brought multi-coloured pre-cut paper kites, complete with their wooden skeletons, from Bengaluru, and was demonstrating the correct process of tying the thread to the kite to people there. “You have to tie the thread at equidistant holes, or the kite won’t balance in the air,” he said. “We insisted that people buy the thread only here. We didn’t want to risk people using manja (glass-coated thread),” adds Mohana.

The festival was organised especially to introduce children to the joys of flying a kite. Over 60 children participated, and most of them had tried their hand at making their own kites during a workshop a few days ago. Pink and green kites with cartoon faces on them fluttered and flopped on the sands: “Most of those kites didn’t fly,” admitted Mohana.

Soaring high

  • International kite festival of India
  • Hamamatsu Kite Festival, Japan
  • Jakarta International Kite Festival, Indonesia

Old and young

“Aishu, Aishu, look! It’s flying!” six-year-old Dhaaniya squealed with laughter as her pink kite finally launched upward. In the two hours that she was there, this was the first time she held a kite in her hand. Until now, all her attention had been devoted to running a lemonade stand. Offering a glass of nannari sherbet, she said shyly, “I sold 45 glasses today.” Her stall is amid other breakfast food items being sold.

Scenes from the Madras Kite Festival

While the six-year-old had been busy working, 60-year-old Chandrasekaran Jayaraman was busy reliving his childhood. “He joined Saturday Sunrise a few weeks ago, and since then has been a regular at every get-together, He travels all the way from Tambaram!” said Mohana. Though the event required pre-registration, everyone on the beach ended up joining the group. Joggers gave their daily routines a break to fly a kite or two. Some came back for a third round.

Scenes from the Madras Kite Festival

Three hours later, the beach was scattered with fallen kites people left in their wake, and seeing this, Shashank Arun put on his gloves; the 10-year-old was in charge of cleaning the beach. However, right before the festival ended, a man made his way huffing and puffing to the Saturday Sunrise stall. “My kids are still asleep,” he said with a sheepish shake of the head. “Can I have a kite, please?”

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