Bazaar: Kite Market in Ahmedabad, Night
Director: Madhusree Dutta; Cinematographer: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Duration: 00:35:08; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 18.475; Saturation: 0.191; Lightness: 0.267; Volume: 0.287; Cuts per Minute: 9.447; Words per Minute: 31.529
Summary: Makar Sankranti, which usually falls on 14th or 15th January is the last day of the month of poush, by the Hindu calendar. The season is celebrated for post harvest revelry at the end of winter. In some regions it is celebrated by holy bath at Ganga River where it has met the sea. In some other places the day is celebrated by making sweet made of the new rice. Yet in some other regions the day is marked by flying colourful kites. In India the kite festival on Makar Sankarnti is mainly observed in Gujarat and Rajasthan. In Gujarat the art of kite making and kite flying has been taken to a great height and has also become a vibrant craft industry. The artisans who make kites are mostly Muslims whereas the consumers are primarily Hindu. For many years this reciprocal structure of Muslim craft and Hindu festival has been celebrated as an example of communal harmony and social ecology.
But the myth of harmony associated with this festival was shattered in March 2002, barely 45 days after this video of the kite festival in Ahmedabad was shot. Gujarat and specially its capital Ahmedabad unleashed a pogrom on the Muslim citizens. The carnage had full patronage from the state and from a large number of people from Hindu and Jain communities. Many of the traders and artisans in the kite markets might have become victims of the carnage and many of the kite players that we had shot with might have been the perpetuators of the violence. "I distinctly remember one striking moment. While working with the kite festival rushes to edit into a film I got tired and switched on the TV. It was the first week of March 2002. Images of Ahmedabad carnage was being reported and one shot came on screen which look like the same neighbourhood where we shot the festival only 6 weeks back. It was the same youngsters on the same terraces and the same sky littered with flying objects - only this time the objects were stones and crude bombs. Since then the colour of the kites in this footage changed for ever, for me" - Madhusree, about shooting these images. Shot by Avijit Mukul Kishore
Owner: Gujarat's public is crazy about kites. If he doesn't have money in his pockets, he'll borrow it from someone else and celebrate the festival. This is Gujarat public.
Madhusree: What is your name?
O: Devang Chowksi
M: How many years have you been in this business?
O: Since the past 17 years
M: Is it a family business?
M: I know a little bit of Gujarati, should I...
O: I can speak all languages
M: It wasn't a family business... so how did you get started?
O: It started off as a small business, but it has grown now.
M: Why did you want to do this business in particular?
O: There wasn't any other line that was available to me!
M: So do you have your own workshop?
O: No. We have a person in Jodhpur who makes all the kites and supplies it to us here.
M: And that includes the designs?
O: Yes, everything. See, I choose the designs, all these that you see here.
M: And what about these traditional kites? Where are they made?
M: Oh here...?
O: Yes, they have a khandani (family) business. They make kites all year round. Uttarayan, will now be celebrated in Delhi after this, from there to Bikaner, to Jaipur to Jodhpur and then back to Gujarat.
M: Oh, so there are different seasons for the festival?
O: Yes, it's different...even in Gujarat, it's different for different places. Here we celebrate it on the 14th...The people from Sheethpur celebrate it on Dussera.
M: Someone told me that it's according to the winds... the seasonal winds...?
O: Yes. You cannot enjoy flying kites unless there is sufficient wind in the atmosphere. If there's no wind, your hand begins to ache, from the constant pulling...
M: So it depends on the weather?
O: Yes... We sell beach kites as well, you know, the one they fly at beaches...
M: Can we see them?
O: Oh yes...
(gets his people to bring the kites)
These beach kites have nylon strings. If there's a little bit of wind, just position the kite accordingly, and it will stay like that, airborne, until the wind dies down.
(Shows the kite)
...this is were they'll put the vertical frame - the horizontal one in the middle.... yes, keep moving it...yes..
M: So where do they fly this here?
O: Here...in Goa...anywhere there's a beach actually.
M: So do you have branches? Do you supply these kites to them?
O: Supply...as in, they come and take it from me, here...I don't go to them.
M: So you're happy with all these?
O: Absolutely. My family, business, festivals all run smoothly because of this work...so why won't I be happy?
The filmmaker talks to the owner of a kite shop. He talks about the structure of his business. He seems to be an affluent kite seller.
Kite flying is a festival of celebration but it also follows the pattern of wind. So kite flying as a sport is practiced in a region in the season when the wind is strong enough. The scheduled festival or ritual of the season was then attached to the kite flying, for example - Makar Sankranti in January for Ahmedabad, Dussera in October-November for some other places, 15th August, the independence day for yet others etc.
ahmedabad old city
M: China makes the thread?
O: Yes. Japan makes it. China braids it, and India sells it...(shows China-thread) see, it is leaser manja (he must be using the word 'leaser' in order to prove the high tech quality of the thread)
M: Oh, it's sharp
O: (laughs) yes, yes. You can easily cut as many as 12,16,18 strings of other kites with this - smoothly.
M: So what happens to the ordinary manja-wala?
O: Oh they will always be around making the thread...India will keep having festivals...this is high range thread. Those who make kites in Gujarat sell five piles for 120 rupees. They fly kites from satellite and it come upto Raipur and get cut. (this seems to be a reference to a local joke). This year too lot of different treads came to the market... different brand names - border, plier, lionate, tiger etc. All products available with me and very popular too... in this area. How is it? Good, no? You get it different colours.
Four of us in the family trade...we two and two of my sons.
M: Your sons are also in this field?
O: Yes yes. My son is now in his second year in B-com in an English Medium college. He's also giving his TOEFL and wants to be a computer engineer (??). The second one is in the twelfth standard. He'll be applying for the IAS next year!
The owner talks about how the quality of the thread sold at his place is superior to that of the manja (the thread locally prepared with special polish of powdered glass) makers. Like every other commodity in contemporary market the kite thread too is hijacked by Chinese production and channelised through multi-national network. The interviewee finds it very amusing. Though the shop keeper believes that there would always be place for the indigenous production. But it only reaffirms the truth with the advent of modern technology, a lot of traditional artisans are being driven out of business.
The owner also takes the opportunity to mention his upward mobility.
O: Jodhpur kites are very good for flying.
M: How is that?
O: Here, I'll show you...the cane across the middle here is very fine, very smooth. I can run my finger up and down it 50 times without it getting stuck. The kites made here in Ahmedabad (the locals pronounce it such), have rougher spines.
M: Where's the cane from?
O: Calcutta. Rather decent, isn't it?
M: It's from the north-east then...
O: Yes, it's bamboo from the north-east. You see, these kites are very strong. It won't tear easy. These kites you see here (gestures to the kites from Ahmedabad)? Out of 20, 16 will be fine, but 4 are bound to tear. These will all... (shakes and crumples)
M: Any difference in prices?
O: A difference of 10 rupees per kite. This (pointing to the Ahmedabadi kite) is 30 rupees, this (the Jodhpur kite) is 40 rupees. See, I'll crush this entire thing (crushes it)...see, nothing happens to it.
(kites ricochets around)
This kite is made of paper from Triveni- its absolutely original, unadulterated. The kites made in Ahmedabad have a little mixing here and there - which is why they are not as tough.
(points to a package) See, these kites which have come from Jodhpur are made by this man called Sarafat Hussain. He makes really good kites. (Repeats the crushing action) Nothing happens to it, see? ... See, I'm doing it with all my might, see? I'm not being soft, see? (Does this with another kite as well). When it gets loose, it falls.
The owner puts up a little show for the camera here. He demonstrates the strength and durability of the Jodhpur kites that are found specifically in his shop. According to him the Gujarat made kites are not as good as they use low quality raw material. The demonstration is quite dramatic though.
O: This little boy was making these (shows tiny kites). He makes them all year around. 'Been doing this since he passed out of the seventh standard.
(Conspiring tone and chuckling) None of you are from the 'M-class' are you? If you are, tell me, I won't say anything...
M: Go on..tell us...
O: (still laughing deferentially) In an entire day, they'll make around 50 kites and once they have collected these over a month, they'll sell them at the market. That's how he makes a living. To make a collection of these kites, it takes six months. We can sell them in the market after these six months. Because...if you don't sell them in large amounts, it doesn't make sense, you'll hardly get anything for it.
M: So how do you go about selling these?
O: See, what happens is...a lot of families come...
A shop-boy says - From America
O: Yes, they come from America - and they don't even feel the price, it's nothing for them - this is only five rupees. And they pay in dollars - hah - so this'll be what? Zero-zero! So these families come and buy one of these every time they shop.
The kites in Rajasthan and Gujarat are mainly made by the Muslim artisans. Though the business of selling them mostly lie in the hands of the Hindus. The Muslim artisans and the Hindu businessmen are a well known combination in many trades in India - leather, kite, jewellery, tailring, block printing etc. The social fabric of Gujarat, and also of Rajasthan, has changed recently with the spread of Hindu fundamentalism. It is important to note how the kite shop owner without any provocation or context insinuates a conspiratorial tone while talking about Muslim artisans. How the simple and obvious fact that the artisans are not paid at per their labour input, is mentioned as a communal fact! And the fact that the traders make a fortune by selling these cheap crafts to NRIs (non residential Indians) from America is made into a matter of ecstasy.
Maybe this was one of the many indicators of what was to come in a few weeks - a pogrom against the Muslims in Gujarat. Here the class exploitation gets aided by communal bias.
non residential indian
It's night-time at the market place. The kites, with huge eye motifs, stare quietly, like wise old men, at the drama that unfolds before them from their bulb-lit enclaves. A young boy sits at the kite counter and helps with the sales. The streets are still abuzz with customers - bustling around in their inky, silhouetted avatars, alive and untiring.
The camera follows a bunch of cherry red balloons, shiny and tempting underneath the warm sulphuric street lights. There is something infinitely exotic about a market at night. The wares are somehow shinier, richer and grander. There is a sense of excitement, because it is so out of the ordinary. Only during festivals would a market be so active all throughout the night. Children are allowed to stay up nights. Men, women, children - young, old and all alike fill the streets, dutifully shopping and trading.
Hawkers with a never-say-die attitude, carry on with their selling tactics into the dead of the night. The camera follows a vendor carrying white kites. White kites may not be as glamorous as the colourful ones - but they do stand out, almost like a banner of peace in this overwhelming sea of colours. Banners fly, kites are raised up over the heads like prized possession - each vendor demanding his share of the spotlight.
The neon lights blaze on. The old city at night is different from the city in the morning. It is seems to be a little more noisier, sometimes even a bit claustrophobic. Everywhere we look, there is a touch of the psychedelic - a crazy confluence of too many colours, too much noise, an overwhelming spirit.
"I love you", reads a bunch of kites, designed like a movie poster with figures of two lovers gazing at each other's eyes. The figures made of coloured papers have a touch of cartoon drawings and a kitsch aesthetics to it. The gender segregation and staunch patriarchy in Indian society have made love stories and its symbols part of the public fantasy. Graffities behind a truck to scribbles on archeological monuments and on public transports to film posters and now in kite design - declaration of love is omnipresent.
The camera sidles by rows of colourful kites, brightly lit by tube lights. The great movie hits find a place in the kite designs. The stars shine down on city streets, paper thin, but majestic in their multi-coloured avatars. Right next to the "filmy" kites lie the "desh bhakti" (patriotic) kites - bearing the line most famously and frequently used at the back of lorries, buses and Manoj Kumar flicks - "Mera Bharat Mahan" (My India is great).
Camera tilts down from the balconies a of multi-storied building to the market below. Women and children watch the colourful night market with fascination. This is a Muslim majority part of the city which got worst affected during the carnage which would take place after six weeks. We wonder about the fate of the people that we see in this shot.
A family of three walk down the street - their shopping done - holding up the kites, protecting them from the all the jostling. A symbol perhaps, amidst the multitudes, of the sukhi parivaar ( happy family)?