Strange how long it takes for obvious realisation to fall into place, isn't it? I grew up at 3 Dumayne Avenue in Kidderpore, where we had huge homes and huge gardens and all the houses on the avenue were occupied by the families of officers employed by the Calcutta Port Trust.
We all flew kites. But so too did the kids from the homes further west, in the open field that was a world away from our cocooned upbringing, even though it was only a high wall that separated us from them. They would never come over, knock on our door and play cricket or badminton or soccer or hockey with us on our spacious, perfectly manicured lawns.
A matchstick or slim twig is the best implement to make four little holes in the kite's paper surface. The first hole goes on the top left quadrant of the kite where the bent horizontal stick crossed the straight upright. The second hole goes on the bottom right quadrant, about two centimetres away. The third and fourth holes were gently punched through the paper skin, about eight to ten centimetres above the wedge tail, on either side of the upright stick.
One end of the cotton cord goes through the two holes on the top of the kite and is knotted neatly together; the other end of the cord goes through the two holes near the wedge tail and, likewise, is knotted neatly together. Then you draw the cord away from the kite's surface, tying a loop in it at exactly the halfway mark. This is the trickiest part of tying a kunni. If the two sides are not exactly equidistant, the kite is hard to control.
Then, your kite was ready to do battle. To launch your kite into the sky and search for an opponent, you had to tie the cotton harness, or kunni, securely to your "maanja". This was crucial to your success. Maanja has to be bought from kite shops. It is brightly coloured thread that had been treated with glue, finely-ground glass and dye. The sharper your maanja, the greater your chances of success in a mid-air battle.
The maanja had to be hooked through and tied securely onto the loop of the kunni, or cotton cord. The kite was then ready for battle.
But kite-flying brought a wonderful expression to Anglo-Indian English. Remember how I told you that the kite's thread harness was called a "kunni"? Well, the inimitable expression "putting on kunni" was and still is a damning label for anyone who tried putting on airs and graces. It's an expression I haven't used in about twenty years. Maybe I'll include it in my next novel.
For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.