Bell Kite Project

On Friday I took the kite the University of Waterloo to give it a fly. Render (the Waterloo Art Gallery) sponsored the Bell Kite project and I wanted to get a chance to fly it there.

The weather report warned of thunderstorms, but happily we avoided repeating Franklin's experiments with lightning. However the wind was very strong.

The gusts made it difficult to assemble the kite without it blowing away. Andrew Hunter (Render director) brought a number of students to help, and we needed all hands to keep the kite under control.

An experienced local kite flier showed up, and helped us figure out the always difficult bridling process.

We realized that we were in trouble when the wind bent the kite around the people trying to hold before takeoff. We made some unsuccessful attempts to fly it in the high winds and then decided to change the bridling. Sadly the improved bridle lines didn't help. We dragged the kite around in the wind and finally packed it up after it had too much damage.

The wreckage of the kite is now in my basement waiting for an ambitious spring day when I'll try to repair it and fly it again in more gentle winds.


I'm now back in Toronto and have time to fill in some of the details of the kite fly.

Eileen and I drove the kite out to Baddeck, NS last week. The kite folds up like an accordion, so we were able to make it fit in the back of a rental car.

On Monday we meet the other kite fliers who were attending the Cygnet Centennial. We toured the Bell Museum in Baddeck together and a couple people including Bell's grandson gave historical talks about Bell's kites, especially the amazing Cygnet kite that achieved manned flight a hundred years ago. I noticed that no one pointed out that Bell's kite designs, though beautiful and unique, in fact weren't very successful and that the Aerial Experimentation Association that he formed moved to flying airplanes of much more conventional design.

That evening there was a dinner at the Museum and we socialized with the kite fliers. There were lots of world-famous kite personalities there, so I felt pretty out of place. It's fun to meet people from another subculture, though I felt a little like an impostor. It also felt a little strange that I had been getting all the phone calls from the CBC to do interviews when I knew the least about kites of anyone there.

On Tuesday morning we drove out to the Bell estate to fly the kite. The estate is a picturesque peninsula peppered with the houses of Bell descendants. They range from modest homes, to castles, to remodelled historical workshops. We were instructed to set up the kite in a field that looked lovely but turned out to be a black fly breeding swamp. Our feet were soaked and the blood was flowing from bug bites that morning as we laboured to assemble the kite in time for the short window in which we were scheduled to fly the kite.

After a while the rest of the kite fliers showed up and immediate launched their collection of beautiful kites. I was impressed at how efficient they all were, and how they could fly their kites so close to each other without tangling lines.

Once the telephone kite was finally assembled we were faced with the task of trying to bridal it. Bridling is the tricky process of attaching the kite line to the kite via a collection on intermediary lines. A kite's ability to fly depends in great measure on the soundness of its bridling. I had some vague ideas of how it might be bridled and so we attempted to get it off the ground using my makeshift bridal. The kite flew for a few seconds and I slipped in the muck and fell down while running with it.

Eileen was able to convince some of the expert kite fliers to help us improve the bridle. I should add that this was a mighty imposition, since it meant having to give up a unique chance to fly their own kites on this historic spot. To my surprise, there was considerable controversy and not a little acrimony in the matter of how to bridal my kite. However in the end, Bas Vreeswijk got it working.

Now we were able to achieve a few flights of around 30 seconds to a minute by dint of running and letting out line. Unfortunately there remained the problem of a giant knot in my kite line. The patient Michaela Koch led us through the process of untangling the problem.

We had now fixed most of the serious technical problems with the kite, however most of the other folks had packed up. The wind picked up and we flew the kite a final time with great success. One workers from the Bell Estate who had been helping us manned the line and managed to get the kite well up in the air and keep it there for a couple minutes.

There was an abbreviated trip to the Bell mansion and then we returned to the soggy field to dismantle the kite and pack it back into the rental car.

I should also add that during the entire hectic event there were several TV crews and a number of press photographers shadowing us and impatiently waiting for the kite to take flight. I gave a few interviews, though I'm not exactly sure who I was being interviewed by. By chance, that evening we heard an interview on the CBC radio while driving back. Normally I cringe when hearing myself on the radio, but I was surprised at how decent it sounded and how they were able to convey the humour of the event without ridiculing it.

After a couple days journey I'm back in Toronto. I'm not sure where the kite will go next. There's a possibility of displaying it in a children's museum, as well as flying it at the University of Waterloo. Right now it's resting in my basement

Kite Flown at Beinn Bhreagh

Last night we arrived in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, and this morning we participated in a kite fly at Alexander Graham Bell's estate, Beinn Bhreagh as part of the Cygnet Centennial event.

It took a while to set up the kite, but with the help of some of the kite experts there we were able to get it in the air. The first couple flights lasted only a few seconds, but with an improvement in the wind, some more kite bridling and flying advice, and the help of some of the people who worked at the Bell estate, the kite flew for several minutes.

It was quite exhilarating to finally see the kite fly in the same fields where Alexander Graham Bell's pioneering kites flew a hundred years ago. The flight provided a welcome culmination after so much work and uncertainty about whether the monster would ever fly.

Despite violence, kite flying endures in Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan – I hadn’t planned on writing about kites in Afghanistan; the subject just seemed too obvious after the runaway success of the novel, "The Kite Runner." But then a Western acquaintance who’d just moved to Kabul told me about an afternoon he spent shopping for colorful kites to decorate the walls of his new home, and it sounded like something I just had to do.

I’m no kite-flyer, but having lived through a couple of summers in Beijing, I’ve seen the Chinese-made stuff – brilliant, elaborate and intricate – and have grown to appreciate their design. So off I went to the Jadeh Maywand neighborhood in central Kabul, where kite shops line the sidewalks – dragging along my Afghan colleague, Iqbal Sapand


We had been tasked by our bureau chief, Sohel Uddin, to "buy the biggest kite possible." For weeks now, we’d see from our bureau rooftop kites flying high above our heads almost daily at sunset. Sohel was determined to try his hand.

Faced with a row of narrow, open-faced shop fronts crammed with string, spools, and of course kites, we poked our heads into one owned by Zalgai. The poker-faced 45-year-old, who goes by just one name, had caught our eye simply because he happened to be leaning on his counter. He welcomed us into his shop, beckoning to the raised carpeted area behind his counter, and Iqbal promptly sat down. On cue, a glass of simmering tea followed.

Zalgai’s family has owned this shop for 38 years (even through the Taliban years, when kite flying was banned and their business was forced underground). And like his grandfather and father, Zalgai was trained as a kite-maker. But five years ago he stopped producing kites to focus on selling them.

"I can make a lot more money this way," he said. Making kites takes too much time, he added, all that fussing with delicate paper and the bamboo frame. Moreover, the kites he carries in his shop bring him a brisk enough business.

Kite Festival Jaipur

Time of Celebration: 14th January, Makar Sankranti
Celebrated: Jaipur, Rajasthan
Duration of Celebration: One day

Kite Festival is a popular festival of Jaipur, Rajasthan. Kite flying is enjoyed by people of all age-groups. However, 14 January, the day of Makar Sankranti, makes the official day for flying kites in Jaipur. People make most out of the festival by flying kites for the whole day. The sky becomes next to invisible as innumerable kites cover it. People form groups and fly kites, to enjoy the event to its full. With each cut loose of a kite, people fill the environment shouting, "Woh Kata".

People shout from their terrace as adversary's kite is cut down. Everyone is an adversary in this game and each kite is a competitor for the other. Engrossed in Kite flying, people enjoy loud music and food on the terrace itself. In Jaipur, the sky looks like a huge collage with all kites of all shapes and designs in it.

Makar Sankranti the kite festival in Jaipur

Jaipur celebrates Makar Sankranti as kite festival. The Pink city is ready to celebrate Makar Sankranti festival on January 14, 2010.

Kite shops are busy and getting good sales ahead of Makar Sankranti, the kite festival. One can find people in the roof tops of Jaipur. Especially children have started enjoying the kite festival.

Cold weather helps them to stay over the roof.

Makar Sankranti is a festival of the Sun god. The sun goes for Uttarayan popularly called Utran from this day according to Indian astrology. Large number of people go to Ganga Sagar to take a bath on this day. Kumbh Mela in Haridwar is also beginning from Makar Sankranti.

International Kite Festival

The special significance attached to the celebration of Makar sankranti, is Kite Flying. The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open. The serene blue sky with colorful kites look splendid and since morning to evening, remains dotted with vivid splashes of color with kites in a variety of hues, shapes and sizes. Kite-flying festival is being held in important cities of Gujarat each year. The temples are thronged with visitors and alms are distributed freely.

The festival draws expert kite-makers and flyers not only from cities of India but also from around the world. Designer's Kites of infinite variety are displayed at the venue. The festival is a time of thanksgiving for the religious, since it marks the awakening of the gods from their long slumber. The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open. It is also a signal for merry-making.

The excitement continues with the onset of night. As the sun sets and darkness hovers over, youngsters continue competing each other in supremacy in the sky, now with the paper lanterns tied to their kite-strings. These lanterns known as tukkal swaying at the mild stroke of wind presents a lovely image while some try to cut off these tukkals and enjoy the fun.

Gujarat Tourism also hosts the International Kite Festival drawing crowds to witness the show of eminent kitists from many states and countries. This International Kite Festival is always held at Ahmedabad on January 14, to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. People from all over the world display their exotic kites of various designs. It is a splendid spectacular show to see the sky with colorful kites, huge size and varied designs and shapes This gives the people of Ahmedabad the change to see the unusual kites brought by the visitors some of which are truly works of art. Cuisine and Crafts display are also enjoyed by the participants and spectators.

Psychology behind kite festival

Kite festival is not only an entertainment. There are psychological reasons behind the festival. People have to keep their eyes on flying kites (Patang or Guddi). They have to keep their eyes up! This effects them psychologically.

Keeping eyes up boosts confidence. It is a natural remedy of nervousness and depression. It motivates people to think high. Confidence of a kite flier sky rockets as kite moves up in the sky. It also enhances concentration of the kite flier.

People also let their kites fight with each other. this is called "Pench ladana". It is a friendly battle. One needs higher level of skill to cut others Patang. Manjha ( Special kind of thread) plays a great role in cutting others Patang.

The kite that is cut, flies randomly with the wind before reaching the earth. People keep constant eyes on those kites and try to get those. Again this boosts their abilities to grab the opportunities.

Kites have different sizes, colors and qualities. It looks very nice and pleasant when kites of various colors fly in the sky. It is really colorful. Even trees are looked ornamented with kites fallen over these trees. These scenes fill the mind with joy and happiness.

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