Nawabs vs Gandhis: The Legend of Lucknow’s Kite Warriors

Social Commentary

Nawabs vs Gandhis: The Legend of Lucknow’s Kite Warriors

Illustration: Akshita Monga

“P

atang nasha hai,” Mohammad Aslam tells me, his eyes glinting with excitement in the dim winter sun. We are on the tiny terrace of the sexagenarian’s modest home in Lucknow, where he is sunning his freshly hennaed hair. A cage full of fighter pigeons coo about in a corner, waiting for Aslam to begin their daily training, but right now, their master is busy with the thought of the sport that’s his first love and obsession – kite-flying.

Aslam looks up at the free-floating kite above us, and tells me that he was once part of the Nawab Kite Club, one of two formidable groups at the Lucknow Kite Flying Contest. Since the 17th century, the sport had been a favourite among the rulers of the city, who could afford to invest money and time in it. Over time, the club began to grow, and the Nawabs began to cultivate talent from whatever quarter they could find. They included people like Aslam, a fruit and vegetable seller by day.

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