Thursday, March 09, 2006


It's that time of the year again. Basant is here. Traditionally, Basant marks the advent of Spring and coincides with the yearly Jashan-e-Baharan (the festival of the spring) at Lahore. Lahore is adorned in green, with flowers sprouting around every curb, every boulevard and most magnificent sight is the lit-canal that criss-crosses the city. The air is crisp and fresh. You can feel the spring in the air. While there are many spring festivals organised by the city government, the real attraction is the kite-flying season. For a day, all Lahore takes to the rooftop and the skies ring with cries of bokaaata! The Lahoris fly, eat and have a great time. But this was a couple of years ago. Now its a different story, altogether.

Over the last 10 years, Basant has been immensely commercialised. Now you have huge Basant parties being orgainsed by the corporate world, enthusiasts fly in from all over the country and abroad. With such commercialisation, the innocent festival has taken on a ruthless edge. The prime perpetrator has been the metallic wire - which is the traditional kite flying string enhanced with glass, metal and certain chemicals. The idea is to make the string sharp enough to pull down the other kite in a pecha - i.e. when two kites entangle mid air. It would have been okay if it was just about the kites. But owing to excessive proliferation of metal string - over the last few years we have begun to see human causalities and severe losses to WAPDA - the electricity guys.

So this year, the Supreme Court decided that enough was enough and that there would be no Basant this year. But it relented when the crunch came and allowed the Basant festivities to go on for 15 days owing to certain stipulations: ban on metal wire and monitoring of the electricity losses and life loss. But all these stipulations are immaterial. There have already been 4 deaths in the city - among them that of a 4 year old boy whose throat was slit by kitestring. Is that not bad enough to enforce the ban again? What is the SC and the city government waiting for? Another 4 before it springs into action?

Not only these deaths. But Basant, these days implies that we seem to have lost all civic sense. On my way to my university everyday, I have to encounter these immense kites in every DHA chowk and awful red and yellow banners everywhere. Yes, we know that Basant is here, thank you very much! Why do we have to adorn our city with such eyesores? Even these are harmless, compared to the torture that you have to go through with power outages. Owing to the metal string used, you are guaranteed 10 power-trips an hour. That essentially ensures that you get no productive work done for around three days - when the festivities are at their height!

I am not against Basant. But I cannot tolerate such reckless behaviour and attitude. Festivals are part of any society - but they become a major pain in the butt when they are not kept within the limits of moderation. Ostentatious displays, loud banging music and giddy partying through the night have become synonymous with Basant. It's pity that the festival no longer remains a celebration of life and color. We lost that somewhere along the road. And now we just don't seem to care.


Dawn Review coverage on Basant: this and this.