Jammu kite makers flying low this season

Balwant Singh Bhau
Gone are the days when folks used to fly kites, tanning themselves in scorching heat for several hours but now the scene has totally changed up.
The digital world has taken the driver seat and people spend more time playing newly evolved virtual games like Pokémon instead of doing traditional ‘patangbazi’.
Pertinent to mention in Jammu city the two festivals Raksha Bandhan & Janmashtami have always been celebrated with flying kites and are known for Kite Flying but with the advancing years the trend has become a passé. With the emergence of computer era, the young generation seems to be more attracted on computer interaction and playing online games at the same time Gen X has become a bit of health cautious thus avoiding more exposure to sun and exerting the physical exercise associated with Kite flying for the whole day.
‘Patangbazi’ once was the icon of ‘sky is no limit’ but the customary pastime associated with the festivity of the Raksha Bandhan and Shri Krishana Janamashtmi and Basant Panchmi now is trailing its patina in today’s hasty verve.
Kite Flying mentioned as an age old tradition in many parts of India like Gujarat and in countries like Afghanistan and the United States but the practice is becoming gradually unpopular with time and is on the verge of fading away. Jammu City too is a
witnessing this decline of the Kite Flying tradition in the past few years.
Jammu city has more number of kite makers as compared to other districts. The study, done on kite makers reveals that in Jammu, there are over 500 kite workers, who earn their livelihood by making kites.
This shows that the kite-making industry is highly unorganized and kite makers are showing little or no interest in getting themselves organized in order to fetch better prices.
“The price range of kites range from Rs 2 to 200 and that of Manjha from Rs 10 to 1000. The trend of kite flying was much earlier as compared to the current lifestyle. The reason behind this is inflation or may be the digital world” says Happy, who has a seasonal kite manufacturing business and is in the trade for more than 10 years
In heart of the city alone there are more than 50 kite makers who are manufacturing kites and manjhas on seasonal basis as the demand is only for mere fifteen to twenty days. The season of making kites starts by the end of May and
lasts till August by hiring skilled labor.
Although kite makers remain employed for only few months in a year, they are faced with several problems like exploitation, occupational hazards and lower wages.
Kite making involves seven processes which include cutting, design sticking, sticking threads on all four sides, middle stick and the tail, bottom triangle, arc and the side folds. The laborers migrate from other neighbouring states particularly Punjab for three months and at an average a laborer earns Rs 200/- per day after working for more than 10 hours a day. There has been an effort on the part of the Government to protect the rights of the migratory workers like these working in the unorganized sector.
Vikrant, a student of Jammu University says that “I would prefer surfing internet sitting on my
couch rather than getting tanned outside.”
The traders associated with the Kite trading also lament that young generation is not interested in flying kites as either it is obsessed with technology or overburdened with studies.
But still there are few for whom kite flying yet is a pleasure over video games and internet. “I come every year to fly kites particularly on the festivals like
Raksha Bandhan.
It is like a passion”, says Paresh Kumar an engineering student.
He however adds kite flying festivals should be organised on these occasion to promote not only a small industry linked with the kite flying but also to extend a helping hand to generation of artisans who earn their livelihood by making kites
of different kinds showing their professionalism
and skill.
He underlines that government needs to come
forward to save this small scale industry that feeds a hundreds of people connected with this special trade known for occasions.

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