General Interest (4): Joy of exercising through kite-flying activities

Joy of exercising through

kite-flying activities

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(The article in English follows the Malay poem)

Pantun ahli brisk walk di WhatsApp (Malay poems from brisk walk members at WhatsApp)

 (1) Dari Zainab Mahmood:

Anak dagang masuk ke kota                                                                                                         Tersalah jalan hampir keliru                                                                                                  Sungguh gembira tida ktrkata                                                                                                Layang2 MAEC terbang di awan biru

(2) Dari Sri Zuraida:

Dari Siglap ke Marina                                                                                                                             Hendak berjalan jalan Anak                                                                                                   Sunggoh elok kita raikan bersama sama                                                                                  Setiap Ahad brisk walk jangan lah terlepas pula

(3) Dari Zainab Mahmood:

Pak Kamaruddin ketawa terbahak2                                                                                         Sambil senyumPak Ali berdehem                                                                                              Setiap Ahad ada brisk walk                                                                                                          Rapatkan tali silaturrahim

(4) Dari SK:

Pergi ke Barrage nak jumpa Marina                                                                                      Tunggu, tunggu, dia tak datang                                                                                                      Lebih baik pergi briskwalk Hari Ahad                                                                                    (Jumpa Sri pun hati senang) ===============>  Aca saje!  Jangan marah!        Badan sihat, fikiran pun tenang

Now, read the aticle below:

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It is a joy to watch children giggling, laughing and happily pulling and hauling their simple kites with the help of their parents.  Often the kites could not take off to more than a couple of metres high but went spinning towards the ground like torpedoes. But it is certainly desirable to have families come together with their young ones to participate in this active sporting activity.  It is also interesting to watch adults engrossed in handling their aerial display – fanciful and creative kites.  This joyful scene usually takes place at the picturesque Marina Barrage, near the Gardens by the Bay.

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But, on the very early Sunday morning (6:45 am) of 20 April 2015 when some 70 members of the Muslim exercise group, a branch of the Brisk Walking Club (Southeast District) of the Siglap Community Centre, were to head for Marina Barrage for some fun in doing exercises and flying kites, and watch the fancy kites flown by others, loud thunder boomed and lightning flared up the still-dark sky followed by some light rain.  However, this natural happening did not dampen the spirit of the members.

When, the members and their families arrived at the Marina Barrage for the exercise-cum-kite activity, the sky had already cleared and the sun could be seen peeping at us from the gaps in the clouds.  “Alhamdullillah”, said Sri Zuraida, a committee member of the Brisk Walking Club.  “We shall now be able to proceed with our programme.”

This “outing” event was actually planned for Sunday, 29 March, but had to be postponed to respect Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s passing and funeral services that day.

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The Muslim exercise group was formed in November last year (2014) and since then the Muslim volunteers from the Brisk Walking Club had been active in conducting brisk walking workouts for the Muslim group every Sunday morning for close to two hours each time, starting with some warming up exercises at the community centre’s premises, after that a 3-km brisk walk in the neighbourhood and finally back for the cooling down exercises before a light breakfast and dispersal.  A two-monthly exercise-cum-activity outing is also in the programme.  The first such event was conducted in January at Changi Point.

“This outing to Marina Barrage is interesting,” remarked Cik Sapina Tukimin who regularly comes for the brisk walk with her husband.  “It breaks the routine of doing brisk walking in the same area.  Now, every two months we get to do our brisk walking at new places.  This is good as we get to see different sights while mixing more closely among the members.”

The day’s 4-hour event started with the usual warming up exercises conducted by Encik Najib Ahmad, from the committee. The 3-km brisk walk led the participants through some scenic spots and bridges in Marina Barrage. Then, after the cooling down exercises, we had our roof-top lunch, supplied in boxes.  The highlight of the outing was the kite-designing and kite-flying contest.

A participant, Encik Juma’at Hamid, loved flying kites during his boyhood days.  He said:  “To have included kite-related activities is a good idea. Though kites in those days were different, it still brings back fond memories of kite-flying happenings of kampung days.”

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I, too, can vividly recall the “kite season” of the 1960s when we teenagers in Geylang Serai engaged in kite-flying adventures.

But what is more exciting, apart from kite-flying, were the kite battles and kite chasing.

Usually boys in their late teens and adults, not children, who took part in kite battles. To take part in a battle was not easy.  The string had to be “glassed” to make it sharp so as to be able to slice the string of the opposing kites.

An assistant had to hold the “glassed string” holder, often an empty Ovaltine tin, during the battle.

When ready to do battle, the kiter would proceed to the “battle field” to survey the sky filled with kites in fierce action.  Many kites would be aggressively moving around looking for a good “fight”.

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When a potential opponent was spotted, the challenge would begin.  The skill used to demolish the opponent was actually difficult. The two kites would surge into one another’s path like sumo wrestlers and even provoke each other by moving away at the last moment when contact was almost certain.   After some dodging and taunting with the skilful releasing and hauling of the string, the aerial “drama” had to come to a decisive end.  At an appropriate moment when the kiter was caught sleeping or got into some distraction or oversight, a fierce long pull of the string would initiate the assault, penetrating the air sideways, often with a crackling sound, towards the “neck” of the opponent’s kite.

The victor and the vanquished could immediately be identified, even from afar, as the aerial duel was always staged high up in the sky. If the manoeuvre and assault was successful, the victor’s kite would be dancing away while the loser’s kite would be dejectedly descending towards earth.

However, whenever there was a kite battle, there would be boys who chased the defeated kites as they descended.  Kite-salvaging is equally interesting as kite flying or kite battles.

The kite-chasers would watch the aerial battle from a distance, waiting against the direction of the breeze with abated breath for a trouble-free good catch.

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To savage a lost kite, the chasers used long bamboo poles tied with twigs at the top end to catch the string of the kite when the kite reached slightly above the pole height.

The moment a kite was spotted losing control, the boys would shout “Hanyut!”, and dashed away after it as it fell slowly in a wavy, floating motion.

Often those with longer poles would be able to twist the short string to the twigs of their poles. Catching the falling kites was not really that easy as the kite might get entangled to branches of trees or get stuck on the attap or zinc roofs of the houses or even get smashed up by the jostling poles.  Sometimes, because of the “smashed up” kites, faces might get smashed up too in a fist fight by frustrated kite chasers.

However, often, the kite chasing would be executed gentlemanly; the moment the kite was caught by somebody, the rest would leave the scene hurriedly to get ready to salvage other defeated ones.

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Kite salvaging, though interesting and profitable – for flying them yourselves or to sell them for some pocket money – has its inherent dangers in various forms.

As it would be easier not to wear slippers when chasing kites, the chasers would leave their slippers somewhere in the bushes, even inside somebody’s reban ayam (chicken coop) for the entire kite-chasing period, often forgetting where they had ”hidden” them.  Now, the bare-footed boys, holding the kite-chasing poles, would be ready to do their job, first by watching the battling kites intently.

The moment a kite got defeated, the kite-chasers, eyes fixed on the fast descending kite as not to lose the way, would run deep into the kampungs, often stepping on food items spread out for drying and on chicks with the mother-hen squawking in terror.  “Alamak! Makcik nampaklah,” one might let out a shocking surprise at stepping over a lovable yellow chick as he and his friends disappear from the scene like a magician before the “makcik” really got the chance to hurl them a piece of firewood, even felt like hurling a batu lesong at them!  Yes, shouts and curses of rage from the furious housewives were hurled at the boys.

Yes, sometimes retribution was immediate.  Once, while I was running after a lost kite, I yelled in pain and dropped like a rotten jackfruit.  I let go my pole and it hit the side of a kampung jamban, terrifying its occupant who shouted some obscenities from inside.   I took a couple of staggering steps and fell.  I had stepped on something sharp.  It was a broken glass. My foot bled.  I had sustained a deep gush.  The occupant of the jamban, an elderly woman, struggled out of it giddily.  “Padan muka engkau,” she taunted me, standing between the jamban and the backdoor of her house, but nevertheless, pitying me, she came to extend a helping hand.

Those were my Geylang Serai kampung days in the 1960s when kite-flying was a boys’ adventure, not a family pastime as it is now.

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Today, adults who fly kites, fly the fancy ones, some with many kites tied together in a long row, or huge ones requiring a few people to fly it.  These fancy kites are expensive, so the kiters could not afford to engage in battles; they fly kites for fun, for leisure. Kite flying is now more creative, more orderly and, yes, safe too. There is no fear of any makcik aiming her batu lesong at you for disturbing the peace and serenity of the kampung environment.

And what’s more, today, there are well-organised kite-making and kite-designing workshops and competitions.

Yes, even our outing programme included a kite-designing and kite-flying team contest.  Three prizes of hampers were given away. And the top prize winners are Encik Aziz Mohamed and his wife, Cik Kamsiah Yacoob.

We thank the committee members for their effort, time and initiative to organise this exciting outing. It gave us further opportunities to strengthen our friendship and silatur-rahim.  Amin.

*  **  *  **  *

By: Shaik Kadir

(Author of the autobiographical novel, “A kite in the evening sky”, first published by EPB Publishers in 1989 and republished by Federal Publications, an imprint of Times Media Pte Ltd, in 2000.  Kite flying and kite battles are described in Chapter 22 of the book.)

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