Image by Dawn
Lahore is known for many reasons, out of which Basant was it’s identity. It had rich culture and a multicultural society. People welcomed spring after winter and dressed up in bright clothes, creating a vibe of cheerfulness and joy. Poor and rich all would indulge in the activity together. The sight of brightly coloured kites during the day and white kites to be spotted easily in the moonlight were a treat for the eyes. Women would wear bangles. There would be music and food and people would invite friends and relatives to cluster at their rooftops and indulge in eating and kite flying competitions with their neighbours on their rooftops. It was a site to behold of chirping and eating and celebrations.
Matches for kite flying gained momentum and sometimes even resulted in bullets being fired against loosing or celebrating a match. Also, a special kind of paste called ‘manjha’ has been used to add sharpness to the dor which is made out of crushed fine glass. And after the guddi (kite) is cut there is another match of who catches the falling guddi. There have been reports of children having fallen over from rooftops and dying in the process not paying heed to the dangers by going too near the edge of the rooftop, or falling victim to road accidents in their attempt at looting a stray guddi. Manjha applied to the dor has reportedly cut throats of people going on motorbikes by becoming entangled with them. Also, elite had started to have private parties often indulging in serving alcohol, which gained the attention of religious scholars who portrayed basant as un-Islamic, primarily a Hindu festival. Hence, petitions have been filed by grieving parents and in compliance with the ‘Dangerous Kite Flying Ordinance’ enacted in 2003, finally enforced in 2007, kite flying was permanently banned in Pakistan.
Basant and Lahore were becoming interchangeable, but since the last decade Basant is no longer celebrated. Due to which we have also lost our cultural heritage, unemployment of masses has increased as hotels used to be overbooked, kites and dor were in preparation all year long and locals were involved at the grass-root level, and also reduction in international tourism. Festivals are a form of transferring the spirit of the nation to the people. We sent out a message of a peaceful community by celebrating our festival and attracting international tourists. Reinstating Basant in Lahore now means saving Lahore’s excitement, its’ passion and its soul. A safe Basant must be restored to the skies of Lahore.