Remembering the joys of Basant, and wondering why we can’t seem to regulate it instead of placing a blanket ban on the city’s favourite sport
Till not very long ago, the skies in Lahore were never empty of kites that came in all sizes, shapes and colours. Especially in the Walled City, people would climb rooftops to play their favourite sport. They wouldn’t wait for the Basant season to set in, unlike the rest of the city with its myriad other modes of recreation. So much so that the old neighbourhoods of Lahore were declared the unofficial capital of all kite-flying activity — here you had the best and the biggest pool of kite manufacturers, dealers, sellers and, of course, kite-fliers. No wonder the havelis attracted the moneyed elite who would accompany their foreign friends to the festivity, all dressed up for the occasion, and revel in loud cheers as well as the music and foods that were part of it all. Thus, we showed our guests the country’s ‘soft image.’
Circa 2005, the noise around Basant being a ‘deadly’ sport grew, fed largely by the propaganda machinery of the then government and its proponents. A Supreme Court ruling in favour of the ban seemed to seal its fate. There were no takers for sane voices that kept saying that a ban wasn’t the solution but regulation was. The problem isn’t the sport, but the use of metal string, they argued.
The civil society and several associations of kite manufacturers and sellers have time and again reiterated the need to restart what they’re calling a safer version (of Basant), but the idea hasn’t gone down well with the powers that be. Interestingly, in pockets of the city, one can still catch random people flying kites, usually in the dark of the night, away from the notices of the cops. What if the twine being used to fly the kites is still carrying metal supplements? Why not regulate it instead and, maybe, limit the activity to certain places, in order to avoid serious accidents?