Humiliation…

8  Kite Fighting

Man constructing a wau jala budi kite
Constructing a wau jala budi kite in Malaysia​. The bamboo frame is covered with white paper and then decorated. Source: Wikipedia Bron: Wikipedia
My personal hobby was kite fighting with so-called fighter kites, which, by pulling a few times on the string, you could make go as high or dive as deep as you wanted in one smooth movement. For this I could initially often be found in the kampong (village) to learn the art of making fighter kites from a kite master and how to make the best glass wire to cut your opponent’s wire during the kite fight.

Making fighter kites and glass wire

To make the kite, bamboo was used for the frame and then white paper made of singkong, the cassava tuber (ketella rambat in Javanese) was used to cover the frame with. This type of paper was preferred over oil paper because it wouldn’t rip in high winds. Each kite was named; its name depended on the pattern it had been coloured in with. The glass wire or glass string was made in the following way: I bought two 500 yard spools of thread no. 30 - thin and yet strong enough for the kite even in high winds - for seventeen and a half cents per spool. Long before I had already ground the glass of a dozen or two blown light bulbs as finely as possible with a steel mortar and pestle. I had also bought a brownish slab of ‘kah’ to make a liquid adhesive, which had to be heated with some water in a can. As part of the standard recipe, the finely ground glass was added once this had cooled down a bit. Every self-respecting kite fighter had his own ‘secret recipe’ for making the best glass wire by adding some ‘ingredients’. Next I would look for two trees or posts no more than ten meters apart and would dip the reel with the string into the mixture of ‘kah’ and ground glass. Once one end of the string had been tied to a tree or a post, I would walk backwards with the string, by then soaked with glue and glass, between my thumb and index finger, unrolling the string from one post to the other. After 15 minutes the glass string or glass wire was as dry as a bone and could be rolled up onto a large, round biscuit tin (or a 5 litre margarine tin), inside which I had already made a wooden grip beforehand.

Ikan sêpat

Ikan Sepat
Fried ikan sêpat
A number of people on the outskirts of town had a balong, a fish pond, in which they bred ikan sêpat, a species of fish that was quite nice when fried, but which was mostly sold for consumption dried and salted and could be kept for up to a year. These ponds were fished out once a year by the owner, who would be standing in the water with a landing net in their hand. When I got wind of that, I was quick to seize the opportunity to give them a hand. By the time I got home afterwards it was important to change my clothes, which were dry by then but all brown, without my parents noticing. I ordered the servant who did our laundry to quickly wash the dirty clothes and most importantly, not to tell my mother anything. Yes, it was a great time those six months we lived in Tasikmalaya.

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