Thursday, January 14, 2010

Flying High

Sankranti the harvest festival is a favourite of mine.  And largely because of kite flying.  I was an expert at it.  And to my surprise a couple of years ago, found that the skill was intact.

This year, weather was quite a dampner to the festivities.  Rain, incessant drizzle and cloudy skies coupled with exorbitant costs, must have prevented people from buying kites.  I found fewer kites in the sky. 

It is believed that kites were brought to India by the Chinese travelers - Fa Hien and Hiuen Tsang.  Indian kites are called the fighter kites - simple paper and bamboo - with special thread called manja, that is sharp and used for fighting with other kites.  We made it at home many years ago - with a mixture of plant sap, ground glass and colour - that would be applied on ordinary thread to give it that 'cutting edge'.

There is a story about kite flying in ancient India. The rulers or the nawabs of Lucknow used to fly their kites from their palace rooftops with a small purse of gold or silver attached as an incentive for the others to try cutting down the kite to retrieve the precious contents. It is also rumoured that the nawabs were not one to give away their money so easily and so they would have their own men out in the street to ensure that they got their kite back, with the purse intact. 

As a youngster, it seems so cruel now, that there were times that I chased a couple of birds by taking a deep dive with my kite, swooping down on the unsuspecting creatures and frightening them out of their wits.

It could have been because of kites that were stuck in trees that we had unusual bird activity in our area.  Birds that were disturbed from their usual habitat were flying around, and I got to see many of them today.

and this one

and this bluebird

If anyone can identify these birds for me, I would appreciate that.

And for a birds eye view of the ground below, is Nicolas Chorier, a Frenchman who specialises in "kite photography".

Chorier makes 40-sq-foot kites from siliconised nylon and carbon or fibreglass rods. The camera sits in a cradle on a line beneath the kite. The camera cradle operates by remote control . Kite and camera are flown to the required height. Chorier carries the remote control on his shoulder and the video monitor around his neck. He walks and raises and lowers the kite for shooting angles.  He has taken some amazing pictures in India and brought out a book Kite's Eye View: India Between Earth and Sky.
 Jama Masjid -

and the Jodhpur fort

And yes, he did lose a camera, dropping it in the Yamuna river behind the Taj Mahal. It is quite a technique to take pictures with a remote control. But, I am sure the most difficult task  of the whole exercise would have been to get permission from the Indian government to take these pictures, considering the fact, that at ground level at most tourist spots, photography is either prohibited or at an additional cost.

Well, inclement weather it may have been for kite flying today, but not for the other festivites that are part of Sankranti.  The rangolis were there and so were the sweets.  And I hope the harvest is bountiful and the food prices come down as quickly as they shot up.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Bull In A China Shop

……Taking off from the last post of animals in Indian crafts…

After drawing on caves, man also proceeded to record them in literature. Stories woven around animals as in Aesop’s Fables. They also found worthy mention in the Bible. And this continued in modern literature and speech.

I came across this article where the author writes that animals apart from clothing and feeding many of us, they do much—metaphorically speaking—to make our language as colourful as it is. From as mad as a box of frogs to bats in the belfry, and from as proud as a peacock to being up to your armpits in alligators.

Consider the ‘man’s best friend ‘ – the dog – is often a part of our daily conversation. Think about it, you have been ‘working like a dog', 'leading a dog’s life', being 'dog tired', while someone else is the ‘lucky dog’!

And what would we do without the adorable Snoopy, the feline Garfield, the imaginary Hobbes….

Our generation was brought up with serious poems as To a Skylark or The Ode to a Nightingale . So, it was a pleasant change being introduced to Ogden Nash through my daughter’s text book. And his animal kingdom inspired poems are always fun to read.

The Wasp
The wasp and all his numerous family
I look upon as a major calamity.
He throws open his nest with prodigality,
But I distrust his waspitality.

The Octopus
Tell me, O Octopus, I begs
Is those things arms, or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus;
If I were thou, I'd call me Us.

The Cow
The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.

I leave you with Winston Churchill’s famous quote - A cat looks down upon a man, and a dog looks up to a man, but a pig will look a man in the eye and see his equal.

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