Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, has its own unique charm that underlies its layers of history. Lahore is mystic, spiritual and colourful, and perpetually famous for its food and festivals. There is a famous Punjabi saying regarding Lahore and its festivals:

“Saat din tai aath melay, kam karan mein keray wailey”

There are seven days and eight festivals, how can I find time to work.

Lahorites adore festivity. But, unfortunately, Lahore is missing its true colour in spring since there is a ban on the traditional kite flying festival, Basant, since 2007. Out of all the festivals, Basant and its colourfulness are very much complimentary to the lives of people of Lahore especially the residents of the Walled City. The famous painter/historian Dr. Ajaz Anwar said that in Lahore, rooftop living is significantly important in people’s lives. The activities people used to have at their rooftop were pigeon flying, drying clothes, sleeping in the summers, sunbathing in winter, and - last but not the least - kite flying.

Now for some of my own profound memories of Basant. In the good old days - well, to be precise some 15 years ago - kite flying used to be just that - kite flying. My experience of Basant was as a game and a leisurely activity with friends and family. My brothers used to teach me how to fly the kite as they themselves were masters of this art. I was not that well-trained in "paicha" (Kite Fighting) thing so I instantly handed the kite over to my expert brothers, whenever a kite came near to ours.

At night, we used to have a special arrangement in floodlight and white kites to fly. It was total fun. Moreover, Basant used to be celebrated at the girls college, and we used to wear yellow clothes and fly kites in the college ground. Not all girls knew how to fly kite but few of my friends were exceptionally good at kite flying. Those were good days.

Now kites at Lahore’s sky have become a rare sight. Basant used to be an event of the masses. It was cheap entertainment and recreation for the locals, who celebrate the end of the winter season and welcome the spring in their own traditional way. People used to forget their worries and get a break from their routine. Family and friends used to gather at the rooftop and special foods were cooked. Basant used to be a healthy, traditional and refreshing activity.

The colourful event and the liveliness of Lahorites attract people from other cities and even from other countries. A huge sum of money used to be involved in that kite flying event, making it glamorous and elaborate. Then, Basant flourished into an event for Lahore's elite, who spent their weekends gathering for musical concerts, fashion shows and parties. The event was commercialized and people used it for marketing and to develop business relations. Kite flying was there but there were so many other activities forced into the event.

There is no harm in elaborating the event or involving other people in our festivity but at the same time, rules and laws need to be made to promote it in a better and positive way. With the increase in population, buildings, traffic build up, introduction of new technology and changes in lifestyle, we are unable to adapt some proper ways to carry out our traditional festival.

Sadly, there has been a ban on kite flying for the past eight years since the government and authorities failed to control the death and injury toll in Basant days. Kite flying caused several deaths not only in Lahore but across the country because of the use of the dangerous new metal-coated nylon string instead of traditional glass-coated cotton string. Beside that, there are no traffic safety rules followed by bike owners, which adds to the hazard. The incidents mostly involved the slitting of throats of kids who were sitting at a bike’s fuel tank which is against the law, too. People also started to make a chemical coated string and the people who bought that were equally responsible of turning a harmless sport into a terrifying game.

Moreover, aerial firing also became a part of the celebration out of nowhere. In short, we can say that we exceed our limits in celebrating a traditional festival and make it hideous by ourselves. Banning isn’t the solution for any issue. In a restricted society like ours, where there is so much to be depressed about, banning festivities is like snatching little pleasant moments from the public. But thinking rationally, I assume we are now unable to bring back that innocence, simplicity and harmlessness that was once associated with kite flying. We killed our very own, colourful, lively spring festival. However, if the government tries and thinks about an alternative way to keep that centuries old tradition alive in a safer way, it will be a very refreshing decision. The real Basant that used to be at walled city houses rooftop is now not only missed by all Lahorites, Pakistanis and people who charmed by it and came here from far.