The kite runners – I

ஆத்தாடி.. என் காத்தாடி

Out of the mighty sports of Aminjikarai, I was fascinated much towards flying kites. Anything related to kite is a form of art and for every sport, there’s a season. I remember, mostly the quarterly exam leaves in September was the period, when people choose to fly kites. In Aminjikarai, I stayed in one of the high rise apartments. From our terrace, I could see Chetpet railway bridge, Perumal temple, Pazhaniappa theatre’s rear end etc., If I climb the water tank [ Sometimes, I didn’t know how to get down 🙂 ], I could spot out Anna nagar tower. Terrace is the actual place for this sport.

There were different kinds of kites – 25 paise ones are the cheap ones [ 1 sq ft size ] and has less life. Bombay kaathadis are medium budget ones with a triangular tail. The highest classic range is Baanaa kaathadi [ looks like trace paper – see the above photo ]. The sound it makes was so majestic, when the kite perces the air. Baana comes in different designs [ ஒத்த‌க் க‌ண், ரெட்டைக் க‌ண் [ the above photo has rettai kannu baana ] , நாம‌ம், Star, crescent ]. The perfect thread for flying kites was “Maanja“. There are different types of threads too [ busku nool [ பார்ச‌ல் க‌ட்டுவாங்க‌ளே ! ], paai nool, twine nool, maanjaa nool ]. Maanjaa nool is the best form of thread for the expert level of flying kites, but a dangerous one. In Thirukurall, there’s a saying about “நூலாருள் நூல்வ‌ல்லன்” – Maanjaa is that நூலாருள் நூல்வ‌ல்லன் [ காத்தாடிக்கு குற‌ளா .. ஸாமி.. உன் ஹிம்சை 🙂 ].

The sport doesn’t end with just flying the kites. We were supposed to get into deal [ kite fight ] and cut off the opponent’s kite [ that’s the reason we use maanjaa ]. There’s a separate gang which runs behind the kite flying off which got cut from the deal. There are kids who just run through the streets just following the kite which goes in ‘off’. The folks jump any kind of terrace [ appave parkour 🙂 ]. The most complicated part of preparing a kite was making the ‘soosthiram‘ ; a triangular grip which holds the kite with right balance. [ illainaa side adikum ]. Only experts could do that job [ ணா ணா.. சூஸ்திர‌ம் ம‌ட்டும் போட்டு குடுணா ]. Also, the novice fly the kites with tail and the experts don’t. We the small kids were like camera assistants just holding the string, when the senior takes a break. [ இத்த‌ புட்றா.. தோ வ‌ர்ரேன் ].

The preparation of Manjaa itself is a big process. They get colour powders, glues, eggs, crushed bottle powder [ mostly soda bottles ] and some chemicals. It goes for 2 or 3 days to coat the thread with maanjaa paste, dry it up and roll it. The shape of the thread bowl itself looks majestic and so big to carry. Somehow, I felt using the bobbin [ raatai ] for flying kite as not a native method.

We also had a local gym in our neighborhood where all the teenagers join and looking at the arms most of the times [ For them exercise means dumb bells ]. I had a senior friend named Venkitu. He worked in a local company in night shifts mostly and spends free time with me. I get friendship easily with a person who is hard to get friendship with [ Moody fellows mostly ]. We bought a “Banaakathaadi one fine day and started flying it high with manjaa nool. We didn’t make Maanjaa but bought it from outside. The whole afternoon and evening we made several deals and cut the opponent kites easily. The practice is that the kite has to be brought down before the sunset so that one can safeguard it. Out of curiosity, we spent more time flying it and it was getting dark at that time. We were about to bring back the lucky kite [ rettain kann baana ]. Those were the days that any terrace was filled up with TV antennas. [ இங்க‌ வைக்க‌றேன் ட்விஸ்ட்டை 🙁 ]

Somehow, in the dark evening just before landing the kite, it went and stuck to the antenna. It was torn – I couldn’t digest that sight; I could have accepted even it went off on a deal [ வீர‌ ம‌ர‌ண‌ம் ] . After that we didn’t fly kites that aggressively. That was my relation with Bana kathaadis, during my Chennai days.

– To be continued..




  1. the first thing i was told when i visited my aunt's home in chennai in the early 80's was- stay away from kites.these are very dangerous.there is a ground near Doveton bus stop, known as Ayyappa ground. i used to watch guys flying kites in the afternoon before the cricket/ exercise bar work starts around 5 pm. but when ever the guys noticed a policeman crossing in cycle,they will leave everything and run away. i did not understand how can a simple sport of flying kite can be dangerous, until one of the neighbours who owned a lamby scooter was rushed to hospital, after suffering a deep gash in the neck from a "maanja coated" nool, while picking kids from school.that was a frightening experience as his shirt was drencehd in blood in just a few minutes before any one could react.

  2. Yes Rajan.. That's the danger side of the maanjaa. We never knew those issues in our school days. I was attracted towards the process of doing it.

  3. I commented on your sequel before reading this….

    Probably sounds repetitive.


  4. Sorry Kathir.. That's my mistake.. I should ve given the part-I link in the first place. I'll correct it.

  5. This is a wonderful record of history (konjam overoo?). This Blog really took me back to my Pudupet days, where kite flying was a big ritual and part of the area culture. It brought back visuals of kites fluttering across clear blue chennai sky, many scrawny TV antennas and colorful kites that have got fatefully tangled to these antennas. Those were the Wonder Years… and of course, Street Cricket, that deserves a separate blog.
    Somehow, I love your history blogs more than the movie reviews. Not that your reviews are bad, on the other hand they are excellent, but your history blogs are more personal and kindle our own past memories and that is why they are so special, I guess.

  6. Thanks Krishna. I have more story to play with, when it comes to my school day memories.

  7. You have captured it brilliantly. Your side by side tamil comments are also good. It is like reading "Kumudam lightson Vinod" writing. He always ends a para/news item with english wise words…

    This reminds me of my school days (Do we remember school for studies?). I am not sure, every year this Pattam, Bambaram and Gilli being seasonal games with some amount of Cricket (year round) used to be main recreation for us. There was no television those days (I grew up in Coimbatore and Erode). Pattam was around July-Aug (Aadi Kaathu). So to make use – may be shops come up with Pattam sales.

    I cannot imagine the days we used to use that Maanjaa nool. It has even cut in my palms – still, the pattam flying high feeling is be a big deal. My father's younger bro (Chithappa) had just joined work and hence he will also come with us for kite flying work. (He was/is working for TN Govt. So it does not matter).

    Cutting each other's pattam is also another great feeling…

    Thanks for making me remember all those things…



  8. Thanks Venkat. School – it's a place where we play and grow up – that's all :). Good to know that our school days are similar [ ivaru Einstein.. avar Edison ;)].

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