Missing Basant... By Atif
18 March, 2013
The arrival of spring in Pakistan reminds me of my visit to the city of flowers in 2004 to celebrate Basant. I travelled to Lahore from Hyderabad by train and remember vividly that it was only due to the courtesy of a friend in Pakistan Railways that I managed to get a seat on a Lahore bound night coach. The city of Lahore was brimming with festivities. Soul refreshing mulitcoloured flowers and and air pregnant with Basant fervour all made up an unforgettable experience. Lahore's parks were full of youths flying kites and some running around to get their hands on cut-off string kites, which, when you are young, feels like nothing less than a treasure. I am sure many people understand this feeling in Pakistan. I noticed that rooftops were all packed without any distinction of age. Some people had all their musical paraphernalia with them on top of their roofs and, whenever they cut some one's kite string, they did a dance, played music on high volume and beat drums. People from all over Pakistan and the outside world would travel to Lahore and have an experience of their lives. I captured all this on my video camera and, watching that, I feel connected to my dear homeland in a very unique way.
As in all facets of our national life, narrow-minded religious zealots plus the state's failure have deprived us from a great cultural activity. Basant was the only festival that did not have any religious connotations hence it had a great spirit of inclusivity in its essence. All Pakistanis, irrespective of their caste, culture and faith, danced to the tunes of Basant. The festival had another great aspect to it, which was boosting the local economy and bringing in a lot of foreign exchange into the country as people from as far as Europe would plan their holidays in a way that Basant would be a part of their itinerary. The media boom in Pakistan in the early years of the last decade made the event international, consequently promoting a very soft image of the country abroad. Punjab's rulers make tall claims about their governance yet they could not check some party poopers and banned such a colourful cultural event. I think Rehman Malik borrowed the idea of suspending communication services to control terrorism. I hope that the new government in Punjab will act sagaciously and revive Basant.
MALIK ATIF MAHMOOD MAJOKA