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(40) Flying kites -- great dexterity, natives peculiarly tenacious of privacy in their dwellings [[189-192]]

[[189]] Many native ladies, as well as men, but especially Mahomedans, are very dexterous in flying kites, called by them puttungs. The construction of these varies [[190]] greatly from those used by boys in England, being imitations of a bird with wings distended, though the extremities are short and rounded off.

In order to preserve that figure, they are bordered with bamboo-wire, on which paper is pasted, of the lightest kind but very tough. The loop is fastened to a very slight bamboo-rod passing down the centre. These kites have no tails, yet they are easily managed by those accustomed from their infancy to raise them, often to an incredible height. The lines used for this purpose are chiefly of thin and strong cotton, well twisted: about forty or fifty yards of the upper end of the cord nearest to the puttung is rubbed with a fine size [=sizing], in which levigated glass is mixed. This, when dry, has the appearance of very fine sand paper, such as is used for cleaning grates, &c.

Sometimes, in the great cities, thousands of these kites are seen floating in the air, to the great amusement of their respective owners, and indeed of the spectators, who often take considerable interest in the numerous contests perpetually presented by the intentional crossing of the several cords; which, being armed as above described, are calculated "to cut the thread of life," and precipitate their several opponents.

No sooner is the crossing of an adverse cord felt by the vibrations of that in the hand, than a sawing motion is given to each by the respective operators; when, in less commonly than a minute, one of the kites is seen to give way. On this sometimes are pending considerable wagers.

The great art appears to be, to pass over the adversary's cord, and then to lower the kite suddenly, so as to make, momentarily, an angle in the cord thus passed over. An instantaneous pull sometimes succeeds in severing the [[191]] opponent's cord; it acting like a drawing cut, and presenting a succession of points, perhaps three or four yards long; while the under line, unless managed with similar activity, presents but one point, and thus is subject to friction on that point only; consequently, it must be considerably injured.

The greatest judgment is, however, necessary to determine whether or not the operator presents an armed portion of his cord to an unarmed part of that of his opponent. Should the former be correct in this instance, he generally commands success; otherwise, he may lose the day. An unpractised eye would be at a loss in computing the proper distance, when the length of line let out may perhaps exceed three or four hundred yards; but the natives form a correct estimate, and display great dexterity in avoiding to cross any cord under unfavourable circumstances.

This amusement generally takes place during the cool of the evening, on the flat tops of the houses. The inhabitants of the zenanah (or haram) enjoy it either from their compounds (or enclosed areas) or on the roofs of their chambers, on tarasses so built up with thin brick, wall as to conceal them from the neighbours. This effect of jealousy is everywhere apparent; nor could anything offend a native more than the erection of an edifice overlooking the interior of that enclosure in which his family resided.

An instance of this was attended with considerable trouble and disadvantage: Colonel Watson, who was chief engineer under the presidency of Fort-William, obtained the grant of a large piece of land, to form a spacious dock for building and repairing ships. In enclosing the allotted space, he overlooked the untoward circumstance of a claim, on the part of a neighbouring [[192]] and very opulent native, to a part of the circumscribed area, which was the sine qua non of the undertaking.

The native said nothing, and in all probability would have given up his land, or at least have sold it on equitable terms, rather than have thwarted the Colonel's views; but unfortunately the latter erected a large windmill so near to the native's house as to annihilate all the privacy which his family had enjoyed.

The native remonstrated, but to no effect. The grant was urged against him, and in a tone of defiance. The question was then brought into court; when, the plaintiff gaining his cause, the wind-mill ceased to work, and with the exception of a slip, on which some vessels have since been built, the whole important and immense construction has fallen into decay.


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