I arrived in Mumbai/Bombay at 8am on Thursday morning [Jan 8], two days ahead of the rest of the group. After arrival i found out that there were two other Israeli kite fliers … Eli and Shula Shavit [guests at WSIKF 2002] … we’d been sitting 15 rows away from each other without knowing it. The Gujarat Government Representative who met us, informed us that we had two full days in Mumbai before joining everyone else on Saturday morning to fly to Ahmedabad. We immediately decided we would explore Mumbai for the two days …
An hour after checking into a hotel and eating breakfast, and just as we were about to head off to the city, Eli was called: “You have a phone call, sir”. Puzzled, Shula and I waited with our driver. Eli returned with a big smile on his face, saying that it was Dilip, a friend that they had met in Dieppe some six years ago. As President of the “Golden Kite Club” and highly respected and passionate fighterkiter, he’d assisted the Gujarat Govt with their lists of international guests and hence knew exactly where to find us. We agreed to meet him at 3pm.
We arrived at Dilip’s office. He exchanged warm greetings with Eli and Shula. We sat down, and I was formerly introduced. When he heard that I’m exclusively a fighter kite builder and flyer, his eyes lit up. “Come, let’s go to my home and have something to eat and drink. You can freshen up and then I’ll take you to the five best fighter kite shops in Mumbai”. His wife and daughter-in-law prepared some traditional cakes and indian tea for us. We looked at his collection of kites and discussed all kinds of fighter related stories.
Dilip asked if there was anything in particular I was looking for. “Kites and Manja” was all the came out of my mouth. “Good”, he said. “We’ll start of at Abdul. He is a master kite builder. The best in Mumbai and one of the the most respected in all of India.”
We headed off to Abdul’s shop. Within minutes i was the proud owner of 20 master built traditional Indian fighter kites. The cost? Rs 50 [about $1.10]!!!
Next stop was for Manja at one of the other four kite shops. I could clearly see as we approached each shop, owners stood up to respectfully greet Dilip and welcomed me into the shop. An hour later I had another 40 fighters and a good solid reel of top quality manja [6000 meters/ 4 miles]. Total bill for the 60 fighters and the manja … Rs 600 or in more understandable english, $13 …
I was, by this stage, floating as high as a kite, to put it mildly!!!
“Come,” said Dilip, “we’ll go and eat at Rais’s restaurant.” Down one road, turned into a smaller side street, then into a narrow ally, and arrived at the restaurant … situated on a corner, with chairs and tables outside. Had I not been taken there, I would definitely have had second thoughts about eating there. I’d been warned not to eat off the street, but was assured that this place was safe. Rais is the current manja line-cutting fighter kite champion/king of Mumbai. It is very difficult to achieve this and one needs to be a very good manja flyer. It works like this:
These competition fighter kites must all be the same size [23-24″ nose to tail and 26-27″ wing tip to wing tip]. All participants fly at the same time. In order to be the champion or king, you need to “cut” any nine other kites out of the sky without having your line cut or your kite grounded. You may not bring your kite down for any repairs. Indeed, a difficult task. And one that is not so easily achieved. Hence the great honor one receives for doing this.
And now, here I was, a guest to the manja fighter kite king in his restaurant. In fact, it was me who was being treated like a king. A short while later, Abdul joined us for the meal and presented me with a gift of another 10 fighters. [At the time I did not know it, but three days later, Rais presented me two of these competition kites as a gift! And Abdul would run a kite building demo and give me the kite he’d built.]
So now, you can imagine how I felt … on my first day in India, there i was sitting with the best Master Kite Builder and the current Mumbai Fighter Kite King, the President of the Golden Kite Club of Mumbai and thinking to myself, “A year ago, I’d never heard of a fighter kite …”
Ralph Resnik, Israel … phighter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of Ralph’s unique hand painted fighter kites, using Orcon and acrylic paint, his designs made quite an impact at Uttarayan in Ahmedabad, India this year.
Learn more about Ralph and his Phighters: