Once upon a basant

Published: March 1, 2012

I am against anything that would claim innocent lives, however, I wonder if lives could be saved without sacrificing a Pakistani tradition as old as our country itself. PHOTO: FILE

I am against anything that would claim innocent lives, however, I wonder if lives could be saved without sacrificing a Pakistani tradition as old as our country itself. PHOTO: FILE Rooftop parties, the kite-filled skies, the delicious food; I miss everything about the Basant that once was. PHOTO: AFP

It’s that time of the year again when the frosty blues and grays enveloping  start to disappear and in their place awakens a plethora of colours, fresh and vibrant as if after a long hibernation. As if by magic, people’s spirits start to soar and life starts looking more – excuse the pun – ‘sunny’.

This reminds me of the time when I was growing up – when as soon as the flowers started appearing, so did kites all over the sky, with people getting ready for the much awaited Basant festival.

I loved everything about Basant when I was a kid. My khala used to have a huge Basant party on her roof top, family and friends would dress up in bright yellows. The ladies would be busy  in the kitchen conjuring up some of the most delicious food for lunch. Everyone would have the yummy food on the rooftop, and then stay there – simply enjoying life. People would engage in friendly competition with the neighbours.

The skies were full of kites, laughter, music and shouts of ‘Boo-kata‘. Basant was the event that brought the whole community together, something that is very rare in today’s time. Basant was special because it was a festival for the rich, the middle class and the poor.

Some people however, decided to take the friendly competition a little too far.

They started making chemical dors (strings), which turned out to be lethal and claimed innocent lives. The kites started getting better, the string got thicker and more lives were lost from the fatal dor. This led to the ban of Basant in the year 2005.

I am totally against anything that would claim so many innocent lives, particularly victimizing the poor motorcyclists who were caught unaware by the kite strings. However, I wonder if lives could be saved without sacrificing a Pakistani tradition as old as our country itself.

I wish the courts had focused more on what turned an otherwise safe event into a dangerous life threatening one. Instead of taking the easy way out, maybe if we all had taken responsibility of what was happening, Basant would still be here. I believe a better solution would have been the regulation of kite sizes and string types, so that dangerous strings that could claim lives were not used.

Harsh fines and punishments should be linked with breaking these regulations, which can literally fall into the grounds of potential murder. Some people would raise their eyebrows that how can this possibly be implemented. However, I feel that if the legislature has so far quite successfully managed to keep a curfew of 10 pm at weddings, this is very possible too.

If the courts do their part to bring back the festival, then the citizens must do theirs too. Our media is playing a powerful role, and it can help spread awareness of the dangers of Basant, so that Pakistanis start to take a responsible approach towards their lives and that of their fellow citizens. Public awareness should be raised about how children can fall over rooftops, how chasing kites is not half as important as saving your life and how people should explain safety to their children before the festival.

Everyone who has seen the true spirit of Basant misses it to this day. I believe that instead of being overwhelmed by withdrawal symptoms, there is another safer and more rational way which can save lives and at the same time allow us to enjoy a much cherished festival. The verdict lies with the courts.

This post originally appeared here.


Amna Khalid

Amna Khalid

An economics major from LUMS, with a MSc in financial economics from Cardiff University. Khalid currently works in London. She blogs at surreallist.blogspot.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • saif malik

    Basant was such a great festival.it is such a pity that the punjab govt. has surrendered before the demands of the religious fanatics who scream about basant being a non-muslim festival.basant isn’t a religious festival,there was no need for the religious segment to label it as a Hindu festival out to corrupt pakistani muslims.basant was a celebration full of colours,festivity and communities getting together.i wish the govt. would get a spine and not surrender before the religious extremists and lift the ban on basant and let people enjoy themselves in a country where most days we only receive bad news.Recommend

  • farhan aziz

    cracking down on basant is just another way for the mullah brigade to maintain its tight control on our society.what’s sad is our government’s pathetic capitulation to the pressure tactics of the mullahs.Recommend

  • Moiz Umer

    i still miss basant more then any other event..i wish we can bring it back one dayRecommend

  • Taimoor

    @ Farhan The crackdown on Basant has nothing to do with mullahs exercising control over civilization. Basant has always been a nuisance in the cities because it means no power, fatal accidents involving strings ,stray bullets and overexcited people forgetting where their rooftops end. Im glad its not celebrated on the same scale as it used to be. Kite flying crazies should organize private events and not turn it into a public spectacle. Recommend

  • SAJ

    My favorite festival.. but unfortunately not alive today because of some cruel people.Recommend

  • umair

    well for ” No to Basant” credit goes to all of us. Number of parents have lost their young sons for no reason. Besides Mullah we as a whole not even ready to take responsibility and to guarentee that no one will get martyed for sure. We all want to make festival but no funerals. Recommend

  • Zafar

    Basant is a Indian/Hindu origin festival. Why should we continue to follow it after 65 years of separation. It is not allowed by Islam. We should instead follow some new festival comparable from the Arab countries or even Turkey. Recommend

  • zafar maliCk

    Have you people ever thought that the money we spent on this fake event called BASANT is in millions. Why can’t we spend this money for the betterment of our country’s poor people. A country where 47 % of people haven’t PURE water to drink. where 70 % population lives in villages and there are no hospitals in these villages, if there are than no DOCTOR is there. Where sons,daughters,mothers ,fathers, children died on the way going to city’s hospitals. where 63% children sits on TAATS in schools. Where majority of people have nothing to feed their children coz of no jobs in absence of electricity and gas. And you and me are protesting to surface the ban on BASANT so that we can enjoy our lives….YE TAMAM SHAUQ TARAQQI YAFTA MULKON KO HE ACHY LAGTY HEIN……….Recommend

  • Ali Tipu

    Enjoying your life by taking life of some poor, innocent person like the only son of a mother and a brother to 4 sisters can never be justified. Admit it, our nation doesn’t deserve to have events like this. Perhaps the only country in the world where illegal weapons are easily available and people not thinking about the results of using these weapons even for a second on occasions like these, ban on such events is a good thing. I am not a huge fan of SS but this one must be admired. No to such festivals that cause barbaric and horrendous murders of innocent lives. Recommend

  • omair shahid

    @saif malik:
    saif bhai alot of innocent lives were taken from chemical dors which were used to fly kites i’m not supporting any religious fanatics but dont you think people who used chemical dors are responsible for the ban.

    one solution is instead of celebrating basant on the house roof top they can allow it on open ground. Recommend

  • Musthaq Ahmed

    Zafar saheb ! Arabs look down upon us as thieves in middle-east. Step out of Pakistan and enjoy the love of ummat ! You will find your affections misplaced . Recommend

  • Majid Urrehman

    Punjab did not surrender to religious people but to the fact that it started killing too many people. Basant had never killed that much people before due to the thread used in kite flying. It became a inevitable to ban it. I suspect, no body in Pakistan is more fond of kite flying than Sharif Bros. But they had to ban it due to killings of innocent lives.
    And one more fact is that these killings are not due to any special thread or chemical as famous in the masses but due to the fact that too many people started flying kites.Recommend

  • THE

    Did anyone ask why Basant was very recently banned? Why do you guys have to blame everything on the mullahs and religion and not take some responsibility of your own? The fact is the this so-called festival killed hundreds of innocent children with strings that should never have been used in the first place. Since the public cannot stop using these kind of strings and the government cannot control every single person, banning this nonsense is the right answer. If banning it saves even one life, I am totally in favor of the ban. Now, please don’t start the argument about banning other harmful things, that would be rubbish, we are talking about basant here so lets stick to the reasons why it was banned.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Sensible article with a positive approach to the subject.
    The qualities of moderation, behaving responsibly, being tolerant, forgiving, enjoying simple pleasures, being content and thankful and just being able to laugh are all qualities that make for a healthy society but seem to have forsaken us. This malaise is self inflicted and as such we refuse to acknowledge it thereby deepening the trauma. Recommend

  • Haroon

    Love you miss amna khalid. you have raised crucial issue and i m sure discussions always led to solutions.Recommend

  • http://mezaajedeen.blogspot.com Tribune Reader

    The Government of Punjab and Punjabi society is day by day surrendering to the right wing religious fanatics who want us to live a life style similar to them. I think the people of Punjab need to stand up and say to their elected Punjab assembly officials we refuse to be further dictated by religious nut jobs who hate the idea of living LIFE. Recommend

  • BlackJack

    I suppose when terrorists blow up girl’s schools you can ban female education – after all so many young innocent girls are getting killed when they go to school. Recommend

  • whocareswhoamI

    The number of shia-sunnis who die during Muharram every year are probably equal or more than the number of people who die during the Basant festival. While most of the deaths during Basant are accidental in nature, its pure brutal murder during Muharram. So, do we start banning Muharram too? I think we should find logical solutions to problems than just imposing a blanket ban.Recommend

  • Zafir Hafeez

    ban on basant is very good action, there are so many issues in this country and people like you are favoring and focusing basant festival, who would going to regulate that every kite is of apposite size and dor etc. There are other sources of enjoyment as well so do them “which not put life of poor on stake”. When our country become capable of enforcing law then raise such ‘innocent request’ it is much easier to stop basant than to monitor it at least now. We are in a state of war, our economy is derailing and we are still messing such needless issues, common liberals, stop criticizing ‘mullahs’ for every bad thing this will abase Islam. Recommend

  • :)

    give the mullahs a couple of kites and dors, and perhaps this ban is lifted :)Recommend

  • prabhjyot singh madan

    It absurd to ban basant there. Why are the “dors” not regulated there. The correct length and composition of string would make it safe. Basant is celebrated in Indian punjab with fervour and I have yet to come across any death related to it here. It is a government function failure to protect the cultural heritage of punjab there. What about the livelihood of kitemakers and decent string makers. Their families must be dying of poverty because of this law and many may have lost the skills to make it. I will fly kites in basant in their memory. Sat Sri akal, rab rakha, salam, cheerio. Take care everyone.Recommend

  • Haider Alee

    I strongly agree with u but the thing i dont agree is the role of our media. They all are money maker and do always perform the negative role. so i dont expect the positivity from our media. but all words are heart touching and i covets that Govt would do for bringing back the festival without losing the loosing the human lives. Recommend

  • ali blal

    the basant is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooogooooooooooooods Recommend

  • Hassam

    For the people saying it was a waste of money, it was a source of revenue for hundreds of people. Women used to work in their homes and make kites, we have destroyed a revenue source. Furthermore people from around Pakistan used to come to Lahore to celebrate basant, which generated income for hotels and restaurants. I know people who used to come form dubai to celebrate basant, meaning inflow of money in the country, revenue for airliners etc. Multinationals used to spend money, which meant income for event management companies etc. How was basant damaging to the economy???Recommend

  • Haya

    Stop blaming everything on the Mullahs. This is what happens when you dig too deep into the media which unfortunately only cares for its drama, instead of sticking to the truth.
    I can honestly say the ban was a relief. See we are a nation that only cares about our part of the deal; our fun, our entertainment, our this and our that. We barely think there is some muslim brother or sister trying to pray or get some sleep when the 6 feet tall speakers are blaring on our roof tops. The kind of things that happened in our neighborhood on basant – Allahu Akbar! Boys dancing shirtless on their roofs, drinking and doing out-right ridiculous stuff was not a part of the deal. But this is what happens when we so desperately try to copy the foreign culture.
    Frankly I don’t get it. We fight for years and years to get independence from a hindu-dominated society, only to produce a nation of mental slaves who can’t get enough of hindu festivals, bollywood and their stripped-of-any-modesty songs that would put the Americans to shame.
    Something to think about. Recommend

  • Zaid Hamid.

    Basant is the festival of kafirs. Lety us have a festival celebrating the killings and destruction of temple at Somnath.Recommend

  • Dante

    I am glad Basant is banned. It should be banned again, this time forever, if it wasn’t banned for that term.

    There can never be a substitute for the lives that were lost. Rather than going through the pain of regulating it, this evil that takes lives that can never ever be replaced for those unfortunate families, should be removed forever.Recommend

  • Sarah

    I don’t mean to offend any of the Lahoris or Punjabis for that matter, but the way they react if someone says anything against Basant is plain foolish. I seriously hate basant. Such a waste of money, time and lives. And I have every right to hate it. Meri marzi
    P.S. I am not ethnocentric, but all my Punjabi/Lahori friends hate me for hating basant. Whenever I talk bad about basant, everybody only wants to discuss me, so this must mean I am disgusting, but its just me I am just obscene! However, it’s the vice versa, methinks.Recommend

  • Cynical

    @Zaid Hamid

    I agree totally.There is no such festival called ‘Basant’ in the holy book or any of the scriptures.It’s a pagan ritual and Govt has done a commendable job by banning it.Recommend

  • Anwar

    Basant is a Hindu or Sikh festival which is not for us. Why should we celebrate such things. We do need it and Zafar is right and we need to replace with events from Arabs lands to celebrate.Recommend

  • Abhi

    I agree with people supporting ban on basant. Only thing is they should have asked for right reason. The reason that it is an Indian festival is enough as Mr Zafar mentioned pakistan sould look for arabia to import some festivals. I also wonder why they speak in infidel tongue and not switch to arabic. BTW more people get killed in road accidents everyday than by kite strings.Recommend

  • Kamran Saeed

    Asalam-o-ALikum !!
    Dear all I’m laughing out so loud on such comments in which ppl relate Kite-Flying with Hinduism. What is Kite and Kite flying string made of? Was it flown by Kali Mata for the first time or Ganaish ji used to fly that???
    By the way there a lots of other customs we carefully observe which are imported from India in fact Hindus and Western World and what our Tv shows in the daily watched programs what do you say about this?Recommend

  • Waqar

    @ Anwar

    who are u to force or tell us what we are allowed or not? do we poke our nose into your business? Does it cause u sleepless nights if some people celebrates Basant? u have no right to interfere, live and lets live! damn it! why dont u focus on minorities and women rights, why dont u focus on poor people’s conditions?!Recommend

  • isloo boy

    @Tribune Reader:
    you never lost a loved one to chemical doorRecommend

  • Ahmed HM

    Great article. Its quite interesting how some fanatics and liberal extremists are labeling the ban as a surrender of the Punjab government to the religious parties.

    Basant may be very colorful and full of energy, it causes more harm than good. Last Basant cost at least 15 documented human lives, and an unaccountable economic damage due to abrupt power failures.
    The law or police cannot catch the culprit who uses a forbidden string that later cuts the throat of someone on a bike who may not be having anything to do with this festivity. The law or police cannot catch the culprit who ties the clutch wire to the end of his string …
    The best thing is to ban it for good, or assign some areas where kite flying can be done independently.

    Shame on people who have been trying to change the orientation of this great article towards religious aspects. Double shame on ET for blocking people’s posts but allowing the clumsy and unnecessary posts of a fake Zaid Hamid.Recommend

  • Ahmed HM

    Right you are ! I hate Basant also, meri marzi !
    We rarely have power, meat is rotting in the freezer and I do not want to have abrupt power failures !Recommend

  • Ahmed HM

    There is no substitute for a human life. 100 % agreed !Recommend

  • Ahmed HM

    @Tribune Reader:
    You are saying this only because you are a Tribune Reader. :p You are deliberately trying to bring religion into this matter. Recommend