On Friday last Dhaka witnessed a special treat at Suhrawardy Udyan. A kite flying festival was held in the sparse open space of the historically important venue. Multicolour kites of various shapes and sizes with attractive names flew high in the sky. A social organisation called Gagan (sky) organised the festival. This is for the first time that the organisation has taken the initiative to refocus on a traditional pastime this city was once famous for. However, inhabitants of old Dhaka also organise, like many others including indigenous cake festival, a kite flying event every year.
Flying kite was once a passion for many not only in this city but also in cities and particularly in rural Bangladesh. That was the time when there was no television, let alone cell phone, smartphone or notebook. Life was simple and children grew up in the lap of Nature not to be subjected to corrosive influence of electronic gadgets.
No wonder, the organisers had to appeal to the dormant childhood in every person. It has rightly come up with a slogan, 'Let young ones' childhood be colourful'. Today children are honed in on small and smaller screens with little space and scope to look up around and above them how trees transform themselves from season to season and how the sky changes its shades from grey to orange to azure blue to vermillion and dark crimson.
Children in those days enjoyed being with and in harmony with Nature. So they did not just fly kites, they allowed their dreams to soar high above in the space. The kites used to swim and dance or stayed stationary depending on their types and sizes. In the city, kites were not known for varieties. Usually kites of a small size and similar pattern dotted the sky of the city. An unannounced competition was there among kite fliers. Everyone enjoyed the right to challenge everyone and until 'bho kutta', the contest between competitors went on. Bho kutta here means that one of the competitors has been successful to split the opponent's twine or string and the gliding kite is now carried away by the air or wind until it sticks to a tree, a roof or just come down on an open field.
In villages, kites were of enormous sizes and the twines were thicker and stronger. Such kites were fitted to its head with a simple device of bow-like bamboo strip where a strip of palm leaf held its arc together on both sides instead of a string that holds together a bow. It was called 'bhomor' because of the continuous buzzing or humming sound it makes like the carpenter bee. Some of these kites were so large that a small child could be carried away by its strong force. When two such titans clashed in the sky, it was a sight to behold. Usually the better finished twine with what is called manja (a mixture of sticky liquid and glass powder) clinched the day for a contestant.
Now youngsters in both cities and villages are mostly unfamiliar with kite flying. But even in Western countries festival of this is considered a sporting event. Today's children of affluent families have experience of flying but this is on aeroplanes. The first time air travel may be thrilling but gradually it loses its appeal. Such children may never have come across the simple delight of flying a kite. After all it gives the feeling of controlling a flying object in the sky. An expert flier can make it acrobatic dive low and high like the pilot of a fighter jet. The manoeuvring of the kite depends on experience and alacrity of the mind of a flier.
Why not allow the roofs of buildings to become the launching pads of kites once again! Children find themselves in a prison-like city where they are forbidden to give vent to their childhood exuberance. They need their own space to discover the wonder of this world that unfolds all around in myriad shapes and colours every day. This is psychological torture. They are subjected to repression thanks to heavy load of home work and coaching. This is inhuman. Their soul must be saved from such oppressions. Finally, arrangement of a national kite festival should be considered seriously in order to draw children's interest in it.