A behind the scenes look at the people who make sharded thread for the annual kite festival that takes place in Ahmedabad, among other places in India. If you’re ever in India, do visit Ahmedabad in January to be a part of this.
Every year, in the month of January, the entire north and central regions of India celebrate the end of winter and the changing of seasons by being a part of the kite festival that sweeps the entire region. Pretty much throughout the month you’ll see colorful kites dotting the late-winter sky. Nowhere in India is there greater madness for the festival than in the city of Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat. Kids and adults, alike, participate in informal kite flying contests, each participant getting into duels with the others with only a single intention – cut the opponent’s kite from the sky and be the last kite flying!
But this isn’t an article about the kites or the festival or the people who make kite dueling so much fun. This is an article about the people who make colorful, sharded thread (thread coated with a mixture of ground glass and colorful dye) that is a critical component of the kite duels.
The raw material that goes into making sharded thread is really quite simple – some white yarn, a paste of ground glass and wheat flour and colorful dye (pink, orange, red, green – take your pick).
To start, the raw white yarn has to be stretched out between two wooden posts hammered into the ground. This little boy will probably walk several kilometers in a single working day, walking back and forth to lay out the thread!
The laid out thread has to be wound and checked to ensure there are no entanglements. Talk about diligence in your job!
Sometimes, if the thread is not laid out just right, the process has to be done all over again. More walking for the little boy!
The craftsman will perform one last check on the thread before the process of sharding and dyeing can begin.
A mixture of dye, wheat flour and ground glass, hand-applied, turns the innocuous white thread into a dangerous weapon. Kite duels are serious business in this part of the country!
The sharded thread then has to be wound onto spools, another hazardous process testified by the many nicks and cuts on the hands of this man, and made ready for sale.
And at the end, a well deserved smoke while waiting for people to come and buy the colorful, dangerous spools of thread.