Thursday, January 05, 2017

Up Above The World So High

Kite lover Rajesh Nair has made a kite in the form of a caparisoned elephant, with an umbrella over its head. It will be flown at upcoming kite festivals

Photo of Rajesh Nair by Melton Antony

By Shevlin Sebastian

Kite lover Rajesh Nair has a look of anticipation on his face. At his home, in Aluva, a 14 ft. high kite is all set to soar into the skies. It is a caparisoned elephant, with an umbrella over its head, the enduring symbol of the state's premier festival, the Thrissur Pooram.

Rajesh will be flying it in four upcoming kite festivals: in Ahmedabad (January 8-12), Hyderabad (Jan 13 -16), Panjim (Jan 17-19), and Belgavi in Karnataka (January 20-22). During these festivals, we are encouraged to showcase our heritage, as well as traditional art forms,” says Rajesh.

In fact, Rajesh has always highlighted Kerala culture in his kite designs. During a festival in Malaysia, Rajesh flew a kite resembling a theyyam dancer. The media was so enthralled that the 'Borneo Post' published a photograph of Rajesh flying the kite on the front page.

On another occasion, he flew another kite designed as Mahabali, the benevolent Asura king. So, you could see the crown, along with the black moustache, a protruding paunch and the umbrella.

But, interestingly, none of his kites are made of paper. Instead, he uses a nylon fabric called ripstop. “It is used in the making of parachutes, and does not tear easily,” says Rajesh. “If there is a tear it does not spread. It is used extensively in the kiting community.”

However, ripstop is not available in India. Rajesh imports it from China, at Rs 350 per metre. The price can go up, depending on the colours and thickness. “I always try to use lighter material so that the agility and maneuverability are easier,” says Rajesh.

After he has secured the fabric, Rajesh does the drawings. Then he cuts the cloth according to the lines of the drawing. Then it is sewn leaving space for pockets to be stitched where the bamboo sticks are to be inserted.

But before that, the bamboo has to be treated carefully. “Every bamboo, when it is cut, is wet,” says Rajesh. “So you need to dry it in the sun. Then it turns into a yellow colour. So, termite oil is applied. It has two benefits. The termites will keep away, and the bamboo will bend beyond 90 degrees, without snapping.”

Since the kite is made of cloth, the wind does not pass through. “Therefore, depending on the wind, the kite could weigh between 150 and 300 kgs in the air,” says Rajesh. “The most comfortable wind speed is 10 to 15 kms per hour.”

Surprisingly, on the ground, when the kite is folded, it can be placed inside a suitcase, and weigh only three kilos.

To follow his passion, Rajesh works nights and on the weekends, following his day-job as a consultant on corporate social responsibility for many companies.

Not surprisingly, his love for kites began in his childhood, at Kozhikode. His father taught him how to make his first kite. And, thereafter, his obsession deepened. “When you fly kites, you experience a sense of freedom,” says Rajesh. “It seems as if I am also flying in the sky along with my kite.”

Over the years, a desire to spread the love of kites arose in him. So, in 2010, Rajesh set up the KiteLife Foundation. Thereafter, he has held numerous workshops for children and adults alike, all over Kerala. “The centre of kite-flying is in Ahmedabad,” he says. “But I also want Kerala to develop a kite-flying culture.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiriuvananthapuram)

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