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Basant, the kite fighting competition, the once biggest event in the history of old Lahore is ever missed from the core of Lahori public. Lahoris have been deprived of their right of flying colors long since 2005. Long gone are the days that the 5 billion Rupees industry officiated multinational FMCGs sponsoring of Basant Festival in Pakistan. We hope that people also remember that they used to get 1 Tawa on 1 liter of Petrol filled in their vehicles. Missing Basant as to how we wrestled with a kite string  – illegally – at one impromptu roof party.  Kites coloured red, yellow and blue, soaring above what a sight it was. The festival exemplified the fun-loving yet traditional spirit of the country’s most liberal city, while its emergence two decades back as a major tourist and commercial event showing Pakistan’s economy booming.

Different Popular Types of Kites:

  1. Tukkal, or commonly named patang with further popular smaller “pendi” lower half designs such as Shastru or Teera (Popular sizes Saday-Chaar Gitthe, 5 Gitthey, 6.5 Gitthey)
  2. Kup with the Big Dhol
  3. Nikhlaow Kut with Chota Paan (used as Stright flight haath marna’ or Phenti lgana’)
  4. Gudda (Popular Sizes Adda Poona/Poona Tawa, Tawa, Dedh Tawa, 2.5 Tawa, 4 Tawa, 6 Tawa and the babay)
  5. Pari or the Para with their distinct poochal (A square with floral springs arrangement at the bottom)
  6. Loomar Much like a trapozoid with a poochal

The biggest, or perhaps the best known, festival of Lahore, was indeed that of Basant (or Jashn-e-Baharaan) held February each year. Basant used to be a Punjabi festival celebrating the onset of the spring season and is also called the Basant Festival of kites. This festival was celebrated with kite flying competitions all over the city especially in the Androon-E-Shehr (The Inner City or the Walled City of Lahore) area. Even today, some people are known to regret quoting that they voted the Lions, PML (N) and what is they did to them.

Lahoris Missing Basant

Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed all the petitions that challenged the ban of Basant in the Year 2005. The then Chief Minister of the Punjab held Kite flyers and traders responsible for deaths or serious injuries and imposed an embargo ruled under the Anti-Terrorism Act in Pakistan’s Punjab province on 10th March, 2006 depriving people of a centuries-old sport. At that time, heavy-hearted socialites quickly cancelled fabulous parties in their fairy-lit mansions, while corporate bashes on rooftops overlooking the red sandstone Badshahi mosque and 16th century Lahore Fort were called off.  Undoubtedly owning to the obstinacy of the flyers who refuse to use safe string and the frequent power cuts caused by falling kites embodied some of the key problems.

The sky used to be literally filled with colorful kites of all shapes and sizes flown from rooftops. The kites were flown on strings called “Dorr” which is a special thread with cut glass embedded within which serves to cut the thread of competitor kites more effectively. It may seem an innocent pastime, but some kite flyers reinforce strings with wire or ground glass for dueling with other kites and betting on the outcome. When strings cross in the congested sky, the winner cuts loose the opponent’s kite.  Some of the kite-flying competitions get extremely competitive and serious. Women, on this day are seen wearing a bright yellow dress up to the hilt. This festival gained more and more importance over the years and used to attract people from all over the world. The stray kites strings cut the throats of innocent many a time.  Spring fesitvals celebrate fertility, birth and renewal. Basant, for some families, is different. The continuous use of coated and metal wire and subsequent casualties and losses necessitated the ban.

People who oppose Basant think:

  • Basant will cause major deaths on the roads; most involving little children and motorcyclists,
  • People would engage in aerial firing in the ecstasy of the festival,
  • People falling from the rooftop,
  • Glass-coated strings would lead to several fatal bruises (The cords which started being built near PCSIR, Ferozepur or got introduced by Kite Makers like Liaquat from Ichra are razor-sharp so they can slash the strings of rival kites during aerial duels, but when they fall across roads they become “like cheesewire”, according to one policeman),
  • Tripping of Several Electric Feeders (as to when the clutchwire, annexed to “tandi” with a “chameroo” shorts the transmission line) causing trouble for the patients on Life saving machines,
  • Electrocution is also reported,
  • Hard-line Muslims oppose it as a waste of money and consider it a Hindu festival.

Recommedations:

  1. Selling or manufacturing glass and chemical-coated kite strings should be banned (All the manufactures of that “Chemical” Dorr the Nylon string one should be prosecuted and this festival should be restored.),
  2. Allowing of kite-flying at parks,
  3. Constitution of Committees to regulate no chameroo zone and restricitng people who cross all limits of sanity during enjoyment,
  4. Banning of “Charkhi” and use of “Pinna” instead,
  5. Allowing of kite flying with ordinary twine only,
  6. Try to protect motorcyclists from the killer twine by installing free antennas,
  7. There should be kite-flying zones for professionals like the use of Gaddaffi Stadium, Minto Park, towards Qasoor.

Remember how white, moth-like kites began to fill the dark sky just before midnight, fleetingly lit by giant spotlights, while jubilant cries of “bo kata!” [I cut it!] rang out above pulsating bhangra music. Whites were for the nights. People usually crowd streets, parks and roof tops to fly kites, listen to music and party. Once again, waiting and missing Basant ever since, when the skies of Lahore would see a curtain of colors. Basant, a festival of joy and entertainment, has become significantly dangerous for those involved in the festival and passersby. Of course, the general public still partake in kite-flying however, Basant is not as grand as it once was and for all the right reasons. The way is not to close it down but to strongly regulate it.  It needs to be protected, since it was the only time that the old city becomes one family, from street boys to the multinationals.

Glossary of some Popular Kite Flying Terms:

Dummy Lgana – Action of slowly releasing the flying string during a match

Chrika Maaran – Trying to cause sudden pulses in order to get a knot released or cause a jerk during a paich

Kunni Khana – The revolution of a kite

Kunni Dena – The act of giving help in order to release it well into the air in first attempt

Kunni Bandhna – The rectification of a revolving kite to retain its balance

Bulley ki Hawa – Wind blowing straight above the head 

Kumeri Khilana – Making the kite revolve 

Chattar Hona – The disturbance which draws your kite out of air and puts the rival in a much better position

Pantees Number ki Hawa – A fast wind blowing

Sola Number ki Hawa – An even faster blowing of the wind

Have your Terms missing in this humble list? do comment.

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