There used to be a time in Pakistan when having fun wasn’t outlawed, when your enjoyment wasn’t always marked by blood, when your happiness did not incur the wrath of the misguided religious fanatics, when every single source of happiness wasn’t un-Islamic. Pardon me for the dark beginning, but these words just reflect the sorrow that I harbor in my heart ever since Basant got banned in Pakistan. As spring approaches, let us take a walk memory down the lane.
The Selection Process
I have seen teenagers pondering more over the ideal kite than over the ideal college choice. Young (and sometimes older) men would be seen thronging kite shops, putting their favorite kites through meticulous tests. This was cheap entertainment, and more than that, it was a cultural rite. There was something really beautiful about kites, the camaraderie and the fierce yet friendly competitiveness that it brought in us. Basant is the festival that is celebrated to bid adieu to the cold winter nights and the dull, foggy and depressing winter days. Perhaps it is this depression and dullness that this festival attempts to fight by spreading colors all over.
Streets of old Rawalpindi would empty as men and children alike gathered on rooftops. Music blared on full volume and eyes remained fixed on the sky. Each time two kites engaged in battle, there would arise a certain wave of enthusiasm and anticipation. When one would succumb in the battle, the cries of Bo Kata would be heard all over the neighborhood. Kids would rush to get to the kite, while the victorious kite-flier would gather praise from the friends. Basants in Lahore used to be an especially memorable event. The festival truly colored the entire city, as people wore colors of spring. Basant wasn’t just about the kites, but also of night time parties on the rooftops. Arrangements were made for Barbeque and traditional music would be played. Fireworks would also be common, and aerial firing would also be used as an outlet by those more passionate and eager to show their machismo.
On a state level, the government used to celebrate the festival with just as much gusto. There were special musical nights and cultural shows that were held during the week of basant. Families would go out and enjoy great music and excellent desi food. Sadly, this doesn’t happen anymore. While Basant truly caused a spring of colors in the city, there was a dark side to the festival too. Hospitals would fill up due to injured children being brought in; children who had been hit by a car as they blindly chased a kite. The chemical wires would cause countless deaths and were a hazard especially to motorbike riders. There was also the case of chemical wires cutting power cords, thus causing financial damage as well.
However, citing this as the reason behind banning a festival of love doesn’t seem right. Rather than treating the patient, the government opted to kill him, the patient being the festival of basant. Here is to hoping that the government comes back to its senses and that we get back the right to celebrate a festival that is about nothing but peace, happiness and colors.
Book a hotel online with Tripkar anywhere in Pakistan and do not miss out the colorful celebrations of Basant.