The first sign of kites appears just past the corrugated police barricade at Turkman Gate, a small hollow in a wall of shops, draped in blue tarpaulin. The kites are in shiny tricolour, with “I Love India” proudly emblazoned on them.
From this modest frontier outpost, the Lal Kuan kite market is a maze of streets away, just past the building under perennial construction, the goats lazing against an electric transformer, the politician grinning down from his poster and the traffic jams of scooters and autorickshaws. The shops change from beads to paper to fasteners to hardware stores.
And then, finally, to kites.
There are kaleidoscopic kites — with riotous reds, blues and greens. There are umpteen variations of the tricolour motif — some shiny, others with text, or accompanying pictures. There are snakes and animals, one loosely resembling the Bat signal, Indian cricketers, Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan. And at Balwan Bhai Patang Wale, the grinning owner, Mohammed Usman, shows off an elaborate kite of all kites — a yellow and red creature suspended from a green parachute, imported from China.
The kite flying season, concentrated around the festivals of Makar Sankranti, Independence Day, Raksha Bandhan and Janmashtami, brings millions of kites, from Bareilly, Rampur and Jaipur, to the market here — nearly 60 temporary shops, each stocking tens to hundreds of thousands of kites, peddle their colourful wares.
Text: Krish Raghav
Photographs: Ramesh Pathania