...is definitely not the one where I sit at the desk and blog about it. :P *sigh*
It would have to be an uttarayan in Ahmedabad!
Darshit's colorful uttarayan post has some awesome photos, which took me back to Ahmedabad.
I remember as a kid, we would start all the preparations long before uttarayan day came. Buying all kinds of good kites, good strings on firki, pilla (string wrapped around in a little round ball shape); to make "patang no maanjo" at home with glass and colors was something we did ever year - Papu, GKaka, RFuva, all of us kids and the uncles living next door along with the neighborhood kids. Every couple of years, SKaka would visit India and the ardent kite-flying fan that he is, he'd make sure he was there on Jan 14th so that made the festival even more happy and exciting with more family members and more cousins.
During these days, the ladies of the family would be busy making all kinds of sweet snacks like tal-ni-chikki, mamra-na-laadu, sing-ni-chikki, daaLiya-na-laadu, etc. Ba would also put little coins inside the laadu for gupt-daan to little kids roaming on the streets. Us kids loved that the most, to get a 10 paisa or 5 paisa coins in laadu was like a real special treat and we'd jump up and down to find such a laadu from a huge pile of laadus. To have sherdi (sugarcane) and aambla (gooseberries) for breakfast was the usual thing that I adored the most and looked forward to so much. I enjoyed peeling off the outer sides of sherdi with teeth and enjoying them till the whole 4-5 feet sherdi was gone. Sometimes we'd get spoiled by mom and aunts as they'd cut the sherdi with suDi (a sort of cutter) for us and we just get to chew on to it until the sweet juice drained in our mouths. To sit on the floor bundled up in a sweater and warm woolen hat, making little holes on kite with agarbatti, tying the kinna or the strings to kites in the right place and making sure the little knot was made at the right spot was an important skill to have and the men of the house taught them to us kids so we had literally mastered that art. It was so much fun and so very exciting because we'd compete to see which of us kids made maximum kites ready. Ba would make some rice with a lot of water so it's almost like glue so that we can use it to plaster up the kites to make them more sturdy and stronger. The rice glue was applied on torn patang's thin papers that were precut in square or rectangle shapes and applied on the sides of kites to ensure the kites would be able to handle heavy winds while they were up in the sky. The soft rice glue was better than the brown tape (gundar patti), because the tape actually made kites much heavier and made them tear apart faster. All of this was done days before uttarayan so that the kites are ready to be flown during the uttarayan days; wasting a moment of daytime for things like these was considered bad as every moment of the day was to be spent enjoying flying the kites on the terrace.
The hope was that on the day before uttarayan and day of uttarayan along with vaasi-uttarayan (the day after) the Wind Gods would have mercy and blow like crazy so that we won't have to give too many "thumka" to the kites in order for them to get up in the sky. So often, Papu and Kaka would have a pair of strings connected to the patang instead of one just so that it can handle the heavy winds and it can last longer than usual. To run after a loose patang was a strict no-no as it could endanger you or injure you in various ways so there was always more than enough supply of kites and firki for everyone. Still once in a while we enjoyed running after a kite that was just passing by our terrace. The trees would sometimes catch them and then to get them off a tree was real pain and disappointing. Sometimes trying to get them out of a tree caused injuries too so we were not to do that.
I got to learn the techniques of flying the kite right way with least amount of damage to our kites and hands from Papu. He'd teach the tricks to all of us kids and show us how it was done. Not everyone was keen except for a few of us who actually ended up flying our own kites later on when we were teenagers. The elders would give us the kites to hold once they were high above in the sky and steady for us to hold on. And often, it was so hard to see our own kite as it usually was much higher above than where the string actually was. The art of holding the string of a flying kite without hurting ourselves or getting cuts on the fingers was also important. Some of us had the brown tape wrapped around our fingers and the others with leather strap things that they custom made for kite flying, which would prevent the cuts.
We would get super happy when one of the grown ups would let us attach an extra-long puchhada (tail) to one of the kites. The tails were usually made from old newspapers cut into long stripes and the stripes were attached with rice glue. Those tailed kites looked so beautiful, sometimes like a face with two eyes and a nose and a tail on the bottom. The tailed kites didn't really last longer as the tail would make it more heavy and there was the risk of the tail getting entangled with the string.
The terrace being one for the whole apartment building made the whole experience even more fun. We all had sort of a custom that we don't cut each others' kites and if by mistake the pech had happened the two people holding the strings would switch places to untangle the pech. Best part was that at any given time there were at least five to six kites flying from our terrace and when one of ours got cut by some other kite, the other kite-flyers on our terrace went to take a revenge. It was sort of a silly rivalry, but it brought a sense on unity in all of us. As the day passed, the ladies would show up on the terrace wrapped up in shawls and scarves with more food for everyone, and thaaLi-velaN (used for beating and making noise when we cut someone's kite).
Eventually, as we grew up the custom of playing loud filmi songs became the tradition, which I didn't enjoy much as it defeated the purpose of screaming our heads off when a kite was cut. The whole day would pass like this and then the ladies would be shouting for us to come down as it was much after sunset; Eventually we'd give in to go grab some food before we come back again at night to put up some tukkal (a lit candle in a paper jar sort of thing) on a kite and fly it again. One would get to see so many of them around, sometimes seven or more on one string, which were probably flying on one big kite (dhaal) or two kites at the same time. Tukkal were a lot of fun to watch and eventually the candle burns out and the kites are brought down, until the next morning, when we are up again flying more kites.
Those were the uttarayans in Ahmedabad! Oh so fun, so exciting and full of colors and life!
The times have changed significantly and so have the uttarayans in Ahmedabad but it still remains a fun place to be in during this festival and more. I leave you all with some Uttarayan time photos of Ahmedabad from my collection. They're not as great as Darshit's but they do show different side of Ahmedabad during these days.
Happy Uttarayan everyone!