Amdavad’s kite champion

Seventy-five-year-old Mohammad Hanif Shaikh can rightly say he is the only “official” kite champion of the city. For, after he won the last kite championship in 1958 no such event was organised.Shaikh definitely remembers the cold January 17, 1958 morning. A total of 151 people, including Shaikh who was a conductor with AMTS then and his “guru” Mehndi Hussein Kadri, were participating in the competition. “We were separated in groups of eight each. We would struggle among ourselves with the winner advancing to the next round.”

There was somes breeze blowing across the grand Malek Saban Stadium, Shaikh recalls. “It was not the perfect day to fly a kite, but the atmosphere gave you a good feel. I knew it was going to be our day — Kadri Sahab’s and mine. And by the grace of the god, the day unfolded just as I had thought until my guru’s lost in the semi-final.”It was devastating for Kadri, but he did not lose heart. “He came over to me when I was flying the kite and started encouraging me. “I still remember the moment when the last kite fell from the sky and Kadri Sa’ab lifted me in the air. I was happy but I think he was happier.”

Shaikh received a cash prize of Rs 101 from the hands of Parvati Baronet, the city’s first lady. He was later promoted to the post of AMTS traffic controller.“Actually, I was more into carrom and had played at the national level. Since I used to win a lot of carrom matches, I always nursed the goal and also thought that these victories will get me a promotion. But it was kite flying that raised my stature.” Even today Shaikh goes on the terrace with his grandchildren. Sometimes he takes the firki in his hands and sometimes he gives tips to fellow flyers.


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