Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kite Strings of Death

Though it looks like wire, this is actually kite string!

I hear many things in Amritsar that I had never heard in my life before. Some of the superstitions and warnings I hear coming from family and friends are astonishing and seem so unrealistic and almost crazy. One of those things I am often told is to be on the watch for kite strings because they can kill you.

The first time I heard this from hubby I gave him this look...I guess it can best be described as an "are you seriously expecting me to believe that nonsense" kind of look with a bit of rebellion added in. He was always on the lookout to make sure no kite strings got too close and he would check the terrace to make sure none were stuck in our bricks that could lift up and get to me. Looking back, now I feel bad that I didn't heed his warning but I promise it sounded absurd.

With the festival of Lohri coming up and the use of kites on the rise during the cooler months I decided I should investigate this. My main intention was proving him wrong and writing a blog post about the crazy things Punjabi's say. Well....none of that is happening now and I'm the one who looks like the unruly child lol. Oops!

Apparently there was some Chinese kite string that used to be sold here (it's now been banned but news reports say it is back this year) that killed people. One man had his head cut off while riding his motorcycle! Many other accounts abound about people having their throats cut by the kite string. This still seems unreal but so many news reports can't lie. Now, we don't have a kite around here so I decided to do a little detective work and I came across some kite string. This stuff is definitely not the same as the soft white twine we use in the US. This stuff is rough and feels almost plastic like (just not as smooth and refined). I imagine it can blister or cut up the hands of the kite flyer if they aren't careful. It doesn't feel good in my hands either.

Now, in case you're thinking this kite string death thing is as absurd as I used to think, here are just a few of the stories I found that made me a believer. Notice they are not all from just Indian new sources so no one can say anything about not trusting a specific news source (because Fake..errrr... Fox News isn't one of my sources).

Deccan Herald: Amritsar Bans Chinese Kite String
The World Today: Kite Flying Deaths Causing Concerns
The Times of India: Boy's Throat Slit by Kite String, Dies


  1. During my childhood days, we had a family living in our neighbourhood whose sole business was making and selling kites and strings. Those strings are meant for competition to cut the strings of other kite flyers. They crush glass into powder and mix it in some kind of liquid glue and run it through the strings which permanently sticks the glass particles on it. If you look at the strings closely in sun light, you can see the light bounce off the glass particles.

    They can cause injuries like cuts on hands of those holding the string but death is far fetched. The only way I can think of is that those kids were using a nylon string called "tangoos" which is very VERY hard to break. If a biker runs his neck against this string then he will definitely be knocked of the bike if not killed.

    Never heard of chinese strings. Though I won't be surprised. In the village area, the fisher men use a small chinese gun to shock the fishes in the river. If you use that gun of the walls of your house, it cracks a few centimeter deep hole in it. Combine it with a metal pellet and you have potential el cheapo killing tool. Rs 25 for the gun and a 10 round clip for Rs 10.

  2. true ... the glass based strings are called manja. and countless kids have cut their hands trying to make manja strings ... it is a particular headache for parents of young boys ... the kids sneak out somewhere and stealthy make those manja strings for competitive kite-cutting. they also run after the cut kite as it is particularly valuable as a trophy. so many kids have fallen from rooftops or hit by vehicles while running behind the falling kites.

  3. correct - the strings are strung from lamppost from lamppost for drying while applying manja
    and many children fall dangerously to ' loot ' a cut kite ( " kata " )

  4. That's scary! I knew that people like to try to cut each others kite strings and I've even seen MIL break a few that kept coming over onto the terrace but I had no idea it was this serious. I really thought Rohit was exaggerating when he said people got killed by these things until I looked up the news reports. It definitely is enough to make you wonder. Even normal kite string here is much different than what I was used to seeing. In the US most kite strings are a cotton based twine rope. Some are nylon but I've never seen anything like the string here. I will now be on the lookout for any sparkling strings. I would love to get a picture, just not at the expense of my hands. ;)

  5. That is so sad and scary. I hope I never have to see some child run and fall from a rooftop here. That would break my heart.

  6. Wow. I'm learning so much about these kite strings now.

  7. when i was younger, my mom would freak out the moment she saw any kite in my hand. i was absolutely forbidden to even go near any kite or mingle with kids who fly kites during the kite season ... till date i dont know how to fly kites :((

  8. I think I would have done the same as your mother....and why don't you know how to fly kites??? Certainly now you're old enough and wise enough to learn how to fly them safely. Just don't do it in front of your mom.

  9. the victorian in me says -- 

    you cannot teach an old horse new tricks :DD

  10. ppl dont mend their ways either, i am a kid of 9th and after hearing about this  last year i stopped used glass manja and these stuff not only affect humans they even cause serious injury to birds

  11. I'm glad you stopped using it. It sounds so dangerous. I'm only first experiencing Lohri today and I can see how tragic the use of this kind of string is.