Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Ideal Uttarayan... 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.

Sheth Mangaldas Girdhardas Memorial Hall

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.

Building next door & kites in the sky

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!


Aspi said...

Nice pics, Kanan. You have the ability to pull stuff right out of my childhood memories.

Kanan said...

Aspi, thank you. :) Glad it brought back fun memories of olden days for you as well.

Urv said...

I want chikki :(

tal, sing, kaju, anythin will do..

Happy vasi uttarayan.. :)

N belated Happy Pongal :D

PS: I also have a blog.. :P :P :P

sneha said...

Hi kanan!!belated Happy Uttarayan!!seriously u have put things so well...i recollected my childhood memories...well not as gr8 as Ahemdabad..but mumbai sankrant!I too miss my mom's all chikkis...:(

Tim Parish said...

"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."

Now that's a great sentiment! If only my wife would let me fly kites all day ;-) Sometimes I'm lucky to get a whole hour...

Jaydip Mehta (JD) said...

Though I was not able to celebrate utarayan because bangalorians does not do that, your post has literally dusted off the memories of those golden Gujarat Utarayans I had celebrated... Nice post and you have clarified many Gujarati terminoligy assiciated with this festival in quite a lucid manner ..

Wanderingmind said...

Wonderful pics! and thanx for the info on Uttarayan and for ur comment on my blog; They do not celebrate this festival as'uttarayan' but as Makar sanksranti or pongal in south, correct me if I'm wrong...
Also at times I'm not able to reply on ur comments on my wordpress blog since I'm not able to login for reasons unknown; my IE crashes without any notice:(
You have an amazing collection of photos on flickr :) awesome pics!

Kratu said...

Amazing .. Every household has similar traditions in Uttrayan .. :) Lots of memories .. Everything U described is similar to what we used to do and still do. Just wish I am able to spent more Uttrayan days in Ahmedabad in future. Thanks again even writing now, I am back in Ahmedabad in my mind and remembering those amazing days .. Uncles and Cousins teaching me how to "Khech Marvani" .." utak vanu nahi vacheeh" . khichdo khavano .. fingers were all bloody due to the sharp dori and still eating with hands..Pavan nah hoy to niche jaineh lobby mah Cricket ramvanu.. haha so sweet memories, thanks again :)

P.N. Subramanian said...

Very good pictures and narration of the Gujrati ways. Belated Happy Pongal.

Darshit said...

Sorry for coming late to your blog.

First: thanks a *LOT* for linking my blog in your post, and that too, for so many times. And all praise. Actually that all goes to my dear Amdavadi friend Nirmal.

GREAT WORDS. GREAT DESCRIPTION. Even if one has not seen Uttarayan, he will also come to know after reading your powerful post about the festival. I also felt nostalgic about my childhood. Cause these days, woh pehle vali baat nahi rahi . Those were the days, everyone got involved in the celebrations.

I cant just figure out any single sentence or para. Cause the whole post is so much more great and much detailed it is simply awesome. This will be forever on my pc.

And hey, have you forgot to mention Undhiyu??

Darshit said...

P.S.: Just seen your Flickr Pictures.

one word.


Soham Shah said...

Hey ..

I hv put few snaps of Ahmedabad Uttarayan in my latest post ..

You might enjoy watching them ..

Check that out on:

Kanan said...

Urv, hope you had fun during these festivals. For chikki you'll have to come over to California. Btw, don't they have any of these chikkis there in Bangalore? Happy belated pongal and happy belated vasi uttarayan. And yes, happy valentines day too! :D

Sneha, thanks, same to you! Nice to know the post brought back happy childhood memories to you. And hope you get to eat some chikkis soon. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Tim, hey, that's an awesome website you've got. I too wish I can fly kites all day. :) Thank you for your comment.

Jaydip, thank you. :) your comments always bring smiles. I'm surprised Bangalore does not have uttarayan. Even some of the Indians in the US celebrate it.

Medha, thanks girl. :) I think you're right. Even we call it makar sankranti occasionally in Gujarat. Btw, have you tried using Mozilla Firefox instead of IE? It works much better. Thank you for browsing my flickr photos & I'm glad you like them. :)

Kanan said...

Kratu, it's wonderful to read that "and still do" :) Wish I can too. You're right the khench is very tricky and we need a constant energy to keep going until some fingers get deep cuts and the other party's kite is finally lose from the strings. I liked the Dheel much better than the khench for that same reason. Btw, another important aspect that I forgot to share on my post is the mathematics behind the "pech". If the angle between the two dori getting into pech is less than 90 degrees and our string is coming from below, our best bet is to go with the khench option but if our dori is on top, there are better chances of survival for our kite with Dheel. Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog. :)

P.N. Subramanian, thank you :) & happy belated pongal to you as well. Welcome!

Darshit, thanks :) Nirmal's photos are amazing and so is your blog post. You're right, I did forget undhiyu but I think in my family the undhiyu tradition is reserved for the bestu-varsh/new years day so I missed adding that too the post. Thanks for reminding. Glad you liked the post and my photos. :)

Soham, thank you. Very nice photos you've put up. And I see that you're hanging out with big big personalities eh.. that's cool. :)

Kratu said...

Kanan .. thanks for ur reply. Pan khechvani je maja che.. eh dheel mah nathi yaaar. But, I like both .. banneh niii alag j maja che.. situation pramaneh .. every bol mah six marvah toh nah javay ne :) :) by the way, I am hoping that I get to be in Ahmedabad in Next Uttrayan ..So, can't wait :)
Now, Holi is coming and so enjoy the colors . and, thanks again .. My last holi was in 2003 .. with all my college friends.. so thats wat sucks about being away from India (:

Kanan said...

Kratu, hahaha.. you're funny... saachi vaat every ball ma six maarva na javaay. ;) Sometimes I wish we were flying kites all year long but then it wouldn't be same exciting fun if we did it for so long... also the weather wouldn't permit it, regardless of what place it is at. Btw, if it makes you feel better, my last Holi with family and friends was more than 12 years ago. The Indian Holi was more than some 15 years ago, from what I remember... :P