Kite-Making as a Cottage Industry

Ben Ruhe
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It may not look like much, but the shop complex displaying kites in the Jodphur bazaar (above) constitutes one of the largest hand-made kite manufacturing operations in the world. Jodphur is in India's desert state of Rajasthan. Working in a warren of dark, cramped spaces, the Baylim family and some 20 employees produce upwards of four million Indian fighter kites yearly. Using colored paper, bamboo and glue, the workers turn out the kites assembly line-style, with each doing just a designated portion of the cutting, bending, and pasting. All told, a simple, undecorated kite can be produced in about one minute of elapsed time. The speedy, concentrated hand assembly is so mechanical workers are able to watch television while their fingers fly. There is a ready market for these little fighters because kite-fighting, using ground-glass line to slice opponents out of the sky, is a highly popular national sport in India. The kites retail for between five and twenty five cents U.S. each and are routinely purchased a handful at a time. Even for the most skillful fliers, kite mortality in the aerial free-for-alls is quite high.

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