Basant was a thing of beauty and was one of those rare events where a truly cultural event gathered people from all over the world. Yes, the world. Lahore owned basant, regardless where it came from. Even Lahore Metblogs has a separate category just for Basant!
But you had to be living in a hole to not know that basant has been banned for some time. A petition moved sometime around 2005, initially by none other than the mayor of Lahore, Mian Amer Mahmood. Slowly but surely, you witnessed an exercise in ‘how to control and change a city’s very culture through the power of political will’. The reasons quoted were not many – two in fact, one being the loss to human life and the other being disruption in WAPDA’s electricity supply causing monetary loss.
But here’s how I see it all:
The ban on basant is silly. Loss of life and loss of the ever-so-present WAPDA supply are not reasons at all. And here’s why: the loss of life is not because the kite-flying itself is dangerous. Kite-flying has been around for quite some time. The murderous streak now automatically tagged with basant itself, has been introduced through the development of stronger string. A lot of people think that it is the razor-like solution that the string is soaked in that causes the string to be a knife-on-the-loose. Although the sharpness is part of the reason, the main reason is that the string itself is very strong. There was a time, I remember, when I was able to snap the string by pulling on it with both hands. It is a typical way of checking a string’s strength – tug at it and see when it breaks. But recently, I would notice that it has become harder and harder to just ‘snap’ the string. You would have to resort to either some serious pulling or just use to teeth to sever the string. It is the combination of ultra-strong string with razor-sharp solution (a.k.a. manja) that makes the string a killer.
The real culprit has always been the string itself, and building upon that, you can see that the makers of the string are also the culprit. And by culprit I mean the ‘reason’ for the chaos, not the guilty party (guilt is for the courts to decide, remember?)
The reason the basant was and is still banned is not because the festival has turned deadly, it is because some people have invented and then sold this killer string to a lot of unsuspecting people. In fact, the real reason is that the administration has found it beyond them to crack down on the few string producers that manufacture the deadly string.