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Lucknow 'manja' maker adds colour to city Sunday, December 16, 2001

VADODARA: He may not be a Lucknawi nawab who came to meet the Maharaja of Baroda. But, since Kallubhai of Lucknow began his tryst with the city, he has been adding a lot of colour and action to the skies here during Utarayan.

And, when Vadodara citizens climb up to their rooftops this Utarayan and fill the sky with their kites, 65-year-old Kallubhai will complete a personal milestone. It would be the 35th year that this 'manja'-maker from Lucknow would see kites tied to 'manja' made by him fight it out on the horizon.

Famous as one of the deadliest "manja"-makers, Kallubhai's affair with the city began three-and-a-half decades ago when a friend goaded him to come to Gujarat to make "manja" for Utarayan. And, Kallubhai has continued his tradition of making "haath-manja" or making 'manja' while holding the mixture in his hand rather than using a wheel.

"The kite flying season never ends in Lucknow. Kites and 'manja' are always in demand there. But, it's a pleasure coming down to Vadodara, as spirits here are high during Utarayan and its nice to see the enthusiasm among the people," says Kallubhai, who has rented a house in Macchhipith and stays here for about two months from mid-November every year.

While he began operating from a lane in Salatwada initially, he moved onto the pavement along the main road about 12 years ago. His popularity has grown over the years and now, Kallubhai has 10 people working with him, producing about 250 reels of 'manja' every day.

"I was happy making 'manja' with my father in Lucknow when a friend of mine, who made in Jaipur, told me about the craze for kites among the Vadodara people during this period. I came down with him about 35 years ago and have been coming back every year ever since," says Kallubhai. Kallubhai son, 18-year-old Munna, is continuing the tradition, helping him and learning the trade. "I have trained so many people here in the art of 'manja'-making. About a dozen boys, who began working with me over the years, run their own shops now across the city," he says.

But, Kallubhai's fame has been spreading far and wide. He says that people have been coming down from Surat to procure 'manja' from him though Surat is known all over the state for its good quality 'manja'.

For Kallubhai, it's been a nostalgic journey every year as he remembers coming to the city when he was young. "There were hardly any vehicles on the road when I came here as a young man. I used to sit making 'manja' and watch cycles go by. These days, its difficult even crossing the road. The city has grown very fast," he says.

And, he is already looking forward to his next visit for the Utarayan in 2003!

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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