KiteLife Foundation head Rajesh Nair’s weekend workshop was about giving a modern twist to the traditional craft of kite-making
A 14-metre-long multicoloured octopus lay squished inside Rajesh Nair’s bag, its legs wrapped tightly around its head: just one of the many kites in the professional kite-flyer’s treasure trove. Nair was in Chennai over the weekend to hold a workshop on how to build and fly modern kites.
You are never too old to fly a kite; the workshop saw children, their parents and even grandparents in attendance. Kite-making had been given a modern twist in this session. The kites were not made of paper, but high-grade plastic. Isn’t that bad for the environment? Nair denied it, “Unlike paper kites, these kites are resistant… These are not one-time use and throw, you can fly one for ages and not damage it. And let’s be frank: which product does not have plastic these days?”
As founder of KiteLife Foundation, Nair has experimented with various shapes and materials, like cotton and ripstop nylon — the fabric used to make parachutes — to develop what he calls ‘the art of making kites’. “I have even used a two by two blouse piece at one point,” he says.
Having already cut the plastic into the desired body and wing shapes, Nair had simplified the process for beginners. He showed his students how to tape the pre-cut pieces to the main frame, in order to create air vents that would hold the kite afloat. That was followed by creating bridles on either bottom side, and then looping thread through it. Though plastic kites call for sticking plaster, Nair recalled a time when he and his friends would use boiled rice as glue to make paper kites.
From his days of boiled rice and bamboo sticks, Nair has come a long way: this was his 651st workshop, he claimed. Since 2011, he has been a part of international kite-flying festivals and exhibitions in Kenya, Korea, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and more; as if flying country to country on the wings of his kites.
Pa’s day out
Back in this Chennai workshop, like in every summer project ever, here too was one particular father — sweating, entangled in thread and cellotape — who ended up having to make both his and his daughter’s kite. His daughter, having taken a couple of photos of the unfinished kite, soon lost interest and found her mobile phone more worthy of her time.
Nair’s childhood, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more different. He recollected how he would spend his days flying kites in the paddy fields and beaches of Kozhikode. “My father made me my first kite when I was seven. It was made out of one of those Matrubhumi calendar pages that we used to have. He probably wanted to teach me numbers with it, but all I wanted to do was fly the kite,” he laughed.
Nair had better luck with children on Sunday: they were so excited about having built their own kites, even the heavens opening up for the city’s first shower of the season could not contain their enthusiasm to fly.
The finished product looks nothing like the barfi-shaped kites we know and love. Says Nair, “Since childhood, we are taught: ‘K for kites’... That one tailed shape,” he traced a diamond with his finger, “is all we have in our heads when we think of them.” This is what Nair hopes to change through the workshop: the kites made here don’t need a tail, and vaguely resemble a bat.
In fact, aeronautical engineering is a field that has held Nair’s interest for long; he has always wanted to build a plane. “When you can’t shoot for the moon, you have to be happy with the stars. The kites are my stars,” he smiled
CHENNAI: If you don’t have the ability to imagine then what is the fun of living,” said Rajesh Nair(44), organiser of the ‘The Art of Kites’ workshop, that was conducted over the weekend in Palladium mall.
Rajesh started flying kites at the age of six. His passion for flying objects motivated him to choose a career on the same lines. “Making a kite is always fun. Everyone can make it but my workshops focus on learning to make a professional kite,” he said.
There is a difference between general kites and the professional kites. General kites are easily available everywhere but the professional kites are difficult to spot. Professional kites are often produced by the Kite Life Foundation, where you get kites in other shapes apart from the basic quadrilateral shape. “Tell me any shape and I can make a kite in that shape,” added Rajesh, who is also a CSR Consultant in Cochin and its operations in Chennai and Pune. Kites can also be made with bamboos and without sticks. Paragliding and flights are all inspired by kites. He wants to encourage kids to fly kites, which is a healthy practice. “Outdoor games improve your imagination, widens your vision and enhances your thinking ability. It brings in good and positive thoughts unlike the electronic gadgets that restrict your thinking to just a cubical space,” he said.
The only way to make people aware of flying kites is through workshops and kite festivals. “There are only a few kite festivals organised in Chennai as Supreme Court has passed the verdict to not fly kites. The threads used for flying kites are coated with glass powder which can cause injuries to the users,” he explained adding that the kites he makes do not have any kind of sticks for support and threads are made of cotton and hence won’t hurt anybody.
Around 100 people registered for the event. They were given the required materials and instructions to make their own kite. Rajesh has previously conducted over 651 workshops. Harini Venkatram (34), one of the participants at the event said, “Kids are never given the right exposure to kite making and it is a good diversion for people who are addicted to their mobile phones and computers. I really wish more such workshops are held.”