Growing up in Ahemdabad, the one festival that I always looked forward to was Uttarayan. Uttarayan in Ahmedabad is a different vibe altogether. Back in the day, I remember that the practice would easily start a week or 10 days before the festival. Coming back from school and heading straight to the terrace flying kites.
On the day of the festival, I remember being the first one in our building to hit the terrace. Even before the sun came up, I was there with my patangs and firkis. Always wanted to be the first one to fly my kite high. But even before that could happen, the sky used to be filled with kites, and loudspeakers in every nearby building started playing songs.
I fondly remember Uttarayan in Ahmedabad and ever since I left the city in the early 2000s, never experienced Uttarayan like that. Hence, last week when I was in Mumbai for some work, I decided to extend that trip to Ahmedabad where I stayed for a week, worked on weekdays, and finally celebrated Uttarayan in Ahmedabad after a decade!
Uttarayan in Ahmedabad After A Decade
Apart from being home to the world Kite flying festival, Uttarayan in Ahmedabad is a different feel altogether. I mean apart from Diwali and Navratri, only Uttarayan is what comes to my mind when I think of celebrating a festival in Ahmedabad.
I was super excited about boarding the flight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. While I was in the cab heading home in Ahmedabad, memories of me flying kite as a kid came gushing! I passed through the lanes and areas from where I used to buy kites and firkis. I was finally going to celebrate one of my favorite festivals after a decade!
The work week was tough in terms of work and keeping my excitement levels under check. I remember waking up at 5, getting work done for a couple of hours, and then spending time with my neighbors where I spent my childhood. From stories of flying kites to running between houses and not studying were the topics we reminisced about and laughed out loud.
Shopping For Patangs & Firkis
A couple of days before Uttarayan, I spent working out in cafes. The idea was to meet friends and work. So I switched from Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge to Starbucks and Cafe Venture Studio in one day. In the evening my friends took me to Dilli Darwaja to help me buy kites. And that’s when it hit me “Maharaj, you have no clue about patangs & firkis, how are you going to fly them?“
Buying patangs and firkis was another experience. Had a quick refresher course, a koudi of kites has 20 kites and firkis are sold in meters (2500,5000 mts). What’s weird were the terms like 6 taar, 9 taar which apparently decided the deadliness of the thread. Also, I was surprised to hear Bareilly when it came to firkis, apparently, threads/firkis from Bareilly are the best. (Had no idea about these a decade ago)
Nonetheless, my friends helped me buy patangs and firkis. Moreover, they recommended I visit the Katal ni Raat (Night before Uttarayan)which happens somewhere near Relief road a day before Uttarayan. It’s a street full of patang and firki vendors and people just throng to get their last-minute shopping done. A scene that I couldn’t experience live but hope to visit next year.
Uttarayan with Friends, Family, and Music
The night before Uttarayan I was at my neighbor’s recollecting the Uttarayan days from the history books. How I was more interested in chasing and catching kites instead of flying. While the talks were funny, inside I was worried if I still had in me to fly a kite.
The rest of the night we spent tying kannis (knots) to our kites. Without these, one cannot fly a kite. At first, I was like do I even remember how to do this? But as I took the patang in my hand, my hands automatically started moving and within no time I had tied a kanni on my kite! That’s when I felt a rush of confidence that I still have it in me to fly kites!
On the day of the Uttarayan after a delicious breakfast, we headed to the terrace. The sky wasn’t as full as I expected but it surely had way more kites than I had ever seen in any other city. The music from the nearby buildings kept us grooving. Some of them were so good, that I screamed and appreciated the playlist.
The first few kites didn’t take off as expected, but with some help from my friends, I managed to get them flying high. While I wasn’t there to engage in pench (a duel between kites when you try to down the other kite), others were. So had my kite cut off a couple of times. Soon I was able to single-handedly fly a kite and even win a couple of pench battles! Screaming Kai Po Che, Ae Gayo, Lapet, I can’t express happiness in words!
The sukoon I tell you was unmatchable! This is what I had been waiting for over a decade, celebrating Uttarayan in Ahmedabad. My joy had no bounds and everyone nearby was also happy seeing Maharaj back to flying kites from the same terrace a decade later.
Undhiyu, Puri and Jalebi
Celebrating Uttarayan (or any other festival) in Ahmedabad is incomplete without food. And Uttarayan is known for the famous dish Undhiyu. A winter special dish made from winter veggies beans, sweet potatoes, yam, brinjals, and my favorite methi na muthiya (methi fritters) While I have always tried to explore the city I stayed in for Undhiyu, the authentic one was hard to get.
So apart from just flying kites, having authentic Undhiyu in Ahemdabad was also on the agenda. On the day of the Uttarayan, I headed out to a couple of places to buy Undhiyu. Started with the local shop in the vicinity – Krishna dairy in Maniasa. Drove to Kankariya lake to get another one from Lijjat Khaman house and Ordered a couple of them from Azad Sweet House (Kalupur) So I had 4 different varieties of Undhiyu, basically a showdown of Undhiyus.
Post-clicking pictures and taking videos, it was time to relish hot Puris and Undhiyu. Each of the Undhiyu had a distinct taste while being loaded with veggies. However, out of the lot, the Undhiyu from Lijjat Khaman house was the best. Everyone in the house agreed too. The masalas were on point, the taste was on point, and had a balance of veggies, Muthiya, and everything else. Recommended.
The breakfast also was a lavish one. Headed to one of the childhood stores nearby – Jalaram Khaman in Daxini, Maninagar. Stood in a queue for like 20 minutes and ordered almost everything that was there in the store. Fafda, Jalebi, Khaman, Sandwich Dhokla, Khandvi, Kachori, you name it, I had it.
Summing Up Uttarayan
Though I was there only for a day while the festival lasts for two days, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got what I expected. Though the evening saw people flying rockets and bursting crackers instead of flying tukkals and lanterns, the vibes of Ahmedabad during Uttarayan are second to none.
I had a super duper time flying kites after a decade and I’m so glad that I remember it. As they say, what you learn as a kid, you’ll remember for a lifetime. So that’s probably the reason why I still speak Gujarati really well whilst knowing how to fly a kite too!
Couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2023 than this. Spending time with loved ones, talking about the good old days, having delicious food, and flying kites. Celebrating Uttarayan in Ahmedabad after a decade was totally worth it. I’m hoping to go back again next year and spend two days there, but let’s see.