Celebrate responsibly!

A short story I had written on Makar Sankarnti and the effect it has on birds 

Uttrayan! get up Raju! Everybody has already started flying the kites, the sky appears red and yellow instead of blue, it’s a kitescape out there !  shouted Viju, Raju’s elder brother jumping up and down in excitement. “ To me it’s just  a holiday grumbled Raju , let me sleep."

Just then Raju’s mother walked in, “Get up Raju,  you  have to go to the temple with Baa too remember? “Ok, ok I give up, I am up" so saying, Raju jumped out of bed to see Viju and his other cousins excitedly discussing strategies to bag the most number of kites.

“This year we won’t lose said Hitesh, Raju’s cousin. All the kites in Ahmedabad will be ours!”  “How may I ask are you so sure of your kite flying skills this year?" asked Raju, amused by their confidence. “We have the perfect ingredient this year, the – “dori." “dori?” but don’t you use that every year? Hasn’t seemed to have helped you so far!  “Yeah, yeah mock us now but you will soon regret it. The “dori” we are using this year is different, even the kite maker said so. It’s called 'Chinese manja', it's laced with glass powder making it extremely sharp because of which, it cuts though the “manja” of other kites and obviously once it cuts through, the kite is ours!

“You should try flying kites this year too Raju!” “Very clever indeed" said Raju "but I have to go to the temple with Baa." On the way to the temple, Raju asked his grandmother, “ Baa, what is the significance of Uttrayan? ” “Well astroglogically, it’s the movement of the sun from one zodiac house to another, which is considered auspicious, but it is most widely celebrated across various Indian states like Punjab, Rajasthan,Assam etc. marking the end of winter, thereby people celebrating the beginning of spring and a good harvest season! It’s also a festival to welcome the sun after a period of extreme cold. In fact, that’s the reason why people spend their time outdoors and also fly kites, as they believe that any exposure to the sun will cure them of ailments like skin diseases or anything they might have contracted during the winter."

 It’s a period of healing and celebration Raju." As soon as Baa said this, something brown fell with a thump in front of them. “What’s that?" asked Raju. He leant forward, only to see a brown bird with its yellow beak open  eyes blinking and fluttering its wings in vain- a Black Kite who was  unable to move or fly. “Baa something seems to be the matter with this bird “Let’s check it's wings Raju, it may be injured."

On closer inspection, Raju saw the wing of the bird bleeding and entangled with something thin, sharp and white. He recognised this string to be the “manja”or “dori” of a kite and without moving the bird, so as not to harm it further, he  traced the string to a large red kite lying a little ahead of the bird.

“The wing of this bird is badly injured Baa, it may die if not treated in time.”Just then a group of children came running towards them emitting loud war cries, "Raju ! what are you doing here?" It was Viju, Raju’s elder brother. “Did you see a kite fly down this way? It’s the 7th one we have bagged!” “ Yes, I have and it’s not the kite you are looking for! look what your “kite” has done! shouted Raju, “this bird is almost dead and even if the wing heals, it may never fly again!” “The boys looked at the bird in horror and said that they would never have imagined that their kite could injure another being!

 Raju inconsolable at this point said – “Baa, didn’t you tell me, that this is a time of healing and celebration? Look what it has done to the bird! Who will heal the bird now and how is this celebration? consoling Raju and the other children, Baa said, “ Come let us first  take this bird to the veterinarian who will treat the bird.” And on the way, calmly explained – “Although beliefs and celebrations are not wrong,  we must be very careful about the way we celebrate and should at no point  forget  that we share our space with other creatures as well and should give their existence as much respect as we do to our beliefs."

Message:  Every year, during Makar Sankranti, a festival considered auspicious as it heralds the beginning of spring and a good harvest season is celebrated with great pomp across different Indian states.One popular practice during this festival is kite flying - seen as an expression of joy and a fairly harmless practice, however every year hundreds of birds get injured or killed owing to the string or the 'manja' which is often laced with glass powder which is used to increase the chance of people winning kite competitions.

This need to win competitions, however, has resulted in us 'losing' a lot of birds. We need to understand that celebrating is not bad but doing it responsibly is the need of the hour and this can be done in the following ways :
1) Do not fly kites before 9 am and after 5 pm, as this is the period during which birds go out in search of food or are returning back to their nests.
2) Do not fly kites with glass-coated manja. The most humane and eco-friendly solution is not to fly kites at all, and if people want to fly kites, then they can simply use the thread without any glass coating.
3) Always dispose of the leftover pieces of manja in a more careful manner so that the birds are not able to entangle themselves in the manja.
4) Never ignore an injured bird, and call local animal welfare organisations or activists for help..
5) Keep ready some empty cardboard boxes with holes in the top to secure injured birds.
6) Be very careful not to scare or further increase the injury of the bird while catching him or her, as this may create panic, and any hard handling may even result in the death of the bird (birds are not used to any human handling and are very sensitive).
7) Please think before flying a kite that your fun could severely injure or kill an animal.


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