"The event needs to change to survive"
People from different walks of life share their views on basant with The News on Sunday"People die crossing the road"
-- Majeed Sheikh, Journalist

Basant shouldn't be banned. It's a centuries-old festival. When you talk about people dying because of the kite string, then consider the fact that more people die by crossing the road. We can always look for solutions.

MOOD STREET
Sunday spoiler
By Mazhar Khan Jadoon  
It was a relaxing Sunday morning coupled with budding trees and mellow spring breeze that soothes one's nerves enough to forget for a moment, the agitating urban business. Sipping from my large tea mug with all the daily newspapers spread in front me, I was planning for the day after all it was a Sunday morning and the mere thought that I am not going to office made me feel great.

Town Talk
*Exhibition: 'Spring Whispers' at Vogue Art Gallery till Sun, Feb 28.
*Group Show: 'Expressions' at Revivers Galleria till March 5. Timing 11am to 9 pm.

Caught in the old
Five artists' works on old Lahore highlight the rich architecture and culture of the walled city
By Waqar Gillani
A group of senior artists are exhibiting paintings of narrow but busy streets of Lahore's walled city to record their feelings about the neglected heritage of the historic city.

Phases of basant
Basant was a celebration of the people on approaching harvest, of spring in the air
By M. Saleem ur Rahman
With basant is associated yellow colour, spring season, kite-flying festival. It has gone through different phases. Nowadays, basant has become a byword for death and throat cutting and sudden death of children.

To have a clear vision of the basant festival I talked to old people between 70 and 80 belonging to Lahore-Kasur, Ferozepur, Amritsar and the adjacent areas, people related to cultivation of land like farmers and peasants, learned people attached with Silsila-e-Chishtia including qawwals, kite lovers and Metereological Department.

 

 

"The event needs to change to survive"

People from different walks of life share their views on basant with The News on Sunday"People die crossing the road"

-- Majeed Sheikh, Journalist

Basant shouldn't be banned. It's a centuries-old festival. When you talk about people dying because of the kite string, then consider the fact that more people die by crossing the road. We can always look for solutions.

Why do we have to always take away things that make people smile?

"Sufis celebrated basant"

-- Intezar Hussain, Writer

Basant is our seasonal festivity. It has been for centuries. Its history is as old as our Sufis, as Amir Khusro and Nizaam ud din Aulia have celebrated it. In Delhi, basant would be celebrated the whole week. It shouldn't be banned.

"It's a criminal activity"

--Ali Haidar Noor Khan Niazi, MPA MMA

Basant is an immoral activity. It has started taking lives of innocent people and frankly speaking this is not part of our culture. It is un-Islamic. No cultural event in the world gives license to kill. It's a criminal activity.

Such events should not be celebrated in the thickly populated areas like the Walled City where people can easily become prey to strings.

"It's akin to aerial

firing"

-- Fasi Zaka, Columnist

Every year I read of these incredibly tragic stories of young parents losing their children in front of their eyes with slit throats while riding their motorcycles. I think there isn't much that one can argue with that kind of tragedy, repeated year after year after year. Unless the administration gets their act together to start arresting those making illegal kite paraphernalia, which is not all that difficult, kite aficionados should concentrate on regulating their activity rather than just insisting on their right to enjoy themselves. In these days we need every opportunity to celebrate, but I find basant the equivalent of aerial firing. The event needs to change to survive.

"There's no

entertainment left "

-- Shahtaj Qazalbash, Convener Joint Action

Committee for Peoples' rights

Of course basant should continue. There is no entertainment left for the common man. Why are we taking away the small things that make people happy? Give people an outlet. If the problem is of the dangerous kite string, then we should refrain from using it.

"Ban it"

Hamza, FSc student

"We enjoyed the festival to the hilt"

-- Salman Rashid, Travel writer

Basant should happen but I am not saying that people should die in the process. I remember that we used to enjoy basant to the hilt. Why can't we take it back to the way it used to be? If the issue is with the kite string then they should control its use instead of banning the festival. Just to illustrate my point, a few days ago a 12-year–old boy died while he was trying to grab a kite. He touched the chemical-coated twine with an iron skewer and got electrocuted. Now did no one tell him never to do such a thing? And how is that a fault of basant?

"It kills people"

--Hafiz Salman Butt, JI politicianThe basic issue of basant is that the festivity has become an event to kill people. Yes, it is true that kite flying and celebrating basant is a good sport and a light recreation for the common man of Lahore. However, with the passage of time, this sport has got out of reach of common man. Now, it's in the hands of the elite and multi-national companies. Basant should be banned. There is need for strict legislation to stop killing.

 

MOOD STREET

Sunday spoiler

By Mazhar Khan Jadoon  

It was a relaxing Sunday morning coupled with budding trees and mellow spring breeze that soothes one's nerves enough to forget for a moment, the agitating urban business. Sipping from my large tea mug with all the daily newspapers spread in front me, I was planning for the day after all it was a Sunday morning and the mere thought that I am not going to office made me feel great.

Suddenly the door bell started shrieking, interrupting my thoughts and creating ripples in the cosy environ I was trying to create for myself.

"Hello you moron journalist," said my friend as he entered my room pushing aside all the newspapers I was preparing myself to read. He was the last person I was expecting to see.

"You never miss a chance to spoil my Sunday," I retorted ignoring his greetings.

"Bear with me for spoiling your Sunday just like I am bearing with you for spoiling the lives of millions of Pakistanis like me," he hit back.

"How the hell do you think I am spoiling your life?" I enquired.

He made himself comfy on the sofa, and imposed a debate on me. I tried to tell him to buzz off.

"The media, both print and electronic, has made our lives miserable. They are bombarding us with information and harrowing visuals," he bugged me. "It is right of the people to know. Knowledge gives you power and the human beings of this information-technology era are more informed and better placed. You must thank media and the latest technology for that," I boastfed.

"That is why I call you moron because you think an over-informed being is more comfortable and happy. You see, the report of a bomb blast in a remote town of Iraq thousands of kilometres away from Lahore plunges me into despair. That report with visuals of bodies drenched in blood turn my life into hell. Why am I tortured with what is happening there? Why are you tormenting my family and kids with all kinds of horrible news and pictures on TV channels and newspapers? You have desensitized us of human feelings and sufferings," he charged.

I picked up a newspaper to avoid his ire. He looked out of the window. His silence proved a respite for me but for a while. Pointing to people working across the street, he broke his silence -- and peace -- in the room. "The poor labourer working outside your house fails to invoke any feeling of compassion in my heart. We are no more humans. We are callous, desensitized beings just like animals. We fall into boredom when we don't hear of blasts, bodies and destructions for a few days. Everything bad is news for you to sell. It's your business to trap gullible public into the information web, telling them everything that makes them unhappy," he sounded depressed.

I tried to ignore him.

"A blast in Iraq, civilians' killings in Afghanistan, floods in China and India, earthquake in Haiti, protests and bloody clashes in Kashmir, people dying of hunger in Africa – all poison our lives. I carry the burden of all this information day and night – depression all day and nightmares all night."

"What kind of knowledge and how much information do we need to live a happy life?" he questioned.

"I don't know," I replied.

"I tell you. We need authentic information to make this life happy and comfortable. Stop blowing issues out of proportion, start finding solutions. Our Prophet (PBUH) had sought Allah's refuge against knowledge that is not useful," he left it there to continue the next Sunday.

Now I am alone in my room with a pile of newspapers... I felt disgusted, got up and dumped all the newspapers in the store without reading a word. I did not want my Sunday to be spoiled.

 

Town Talk

 

*Exhibition: 'Spring Whispers' at Vogue Art Gallery till Sun, Feb 28.

*Group Show: 'Expressions' at Revivers Galleria till March 5. Timing 11am to 9 pm.

Group Show of Paintings 'The Colours of Pakistan' at Coopera Art Gallery till March 6 from 10 am to 6 pm daily. 26 mostly senior artists will display their works.

*Exhibition titled 'Old Lahore' at Royaat Gallery, 2 Kashmir Road till March 1.

Gallery hours are 10 am to 7 pm.

*Exhibition titled Spring Whispers at Vogue Art Gallery. Today is the last day.

*Works by Anila Agha Qayyum on display at Rohtas gallery opening on March 5. The exhibition will continue till March 13.

*Classical Music Concert at Alhamra Hall-III, The Mall on Monday, March 1 at 6:00 pm.

Five artists' works on old Lahore highlight the rich architecture and culture of the walled city

By Waqar Gillani

A group of senior artists are exhibiting paintings of narrow but busy streets of Lahore's walled city to record their feelings about the neglected heritage of the historic city.

This exhibition, at Royaat Art Gallery is scheduled to end on March 1. Curated by Faryal Latif, the show includes works by Mehmood Ali, Zafar Iqbal, Sarfraz Musawwir, Munawwar Mohiuddin and Naela Aamir. Also prints by Aijaz Anwar are part of this exhibition.

"Spring is here. So we decided to showcase these paintings. It has relevance to Basant. It is nostalgic," Faryal says, adding: "This is something we need to do. We are giving our younger generation the culture of McDonald and Hardee's but we are forgetting our heritage and actual culture."

The paintings showcase various places and buildings of old Lahore glimpses into life in the old city. Paintings include beautiful displays of the Basant festival with splashes of colour as well as the hundreds of years old architecture of the walled city in water colours and oil.

Aijaz Anwar, a reputed artist who has profusely painted the old city of Lahore and is former faculty member of National College of Arts (NCA), who keenly visited the gallery to see the works on show, says, "This is quite natural for an artist to take his surroundings as a subject. He captures what he sees in his surroundings. This is sheer love for his or her city. This happens all over the world where people are fond of depicting their own cities."

He views that each artist has depicted old Lahore in his own style and manner. "To me Naela Aamir's paintings appeal the best in this team work the difference is that she has not tried to beautify the subject but explore it.

Aijaz believes that such work should be encouraged for the younger generations, so they about their history.

Some 250 years later our artists are enamoured by those architectural buildings which have survived the ravages of time. Some buildings have been documented as our national treasures while others lie in ruin.

Mehmood Ali from Islamabad and Zafar Iqbal from Faisalabad have skillfully created a visual journal of crumbling edifices, narrow winding lanes, tattered awnings and old bazaars. From Lahore, Naela Aamir's delicate pastels create a mood that engages the observer at many levels. Naela finds beauty and sense of romance in dilapidated places. Sarfaraz Musawwir's watercolours speak of tranquility and an unrivalled charm. Munawar Mohiuddin, who is also an official painter hired by Governor's House Lahore, captures the festival of Basant in an old Haveli in his inimitable style. All the works – caught in the past – are done with oil on canvas, watercolours or pastels on paper.

Naela, a fine arts teacher in the Punjab University and involved in painting heritage, more or less, for the last 15 years believes in preserving the heritage. "I am from Lahore and, many times, I feel we are wasting our old buildings and history. There is beauty in it. If you see my work, it is an attempt to see into the souls of people by going into their houses and showing dusty fire places and broken jharokas (old fashion windows of the houses)," she says, adding, "I really feel sad as an artist when I see my culture and history in ruins."

Some of these exhibits are drawn on the spot. A number of 35 paintings are put on display with prices ranging between Rs 15,000 to Rs 45,000. The price of print copy of Aijaz Anwar is Rs 3,000 only.

Writer and artist, Prof Ijazul Hasan says, "The works are an expression of feeling for your city, culture and heritage."

The city sees different exhibitions on the old city and its surviving heritage, from time to time. Though the government vows to preserve the structures of the walled city, the paintings of various artists capture glimpses of the vanishing architecture there, calling upon all concerned not to forget this very job of restoring and preserving the walled city.

"These are the things next generation will be missing, Faryal fears, adding, "They will not be able to see the kite in the sky." She says the gallery is getting visitors and interested buyers to get these pieces of art. "The buildings are crumbling. They need maintenance. This culture needs preservation and we are not satisfied the way the government is trying to persevere the heritage. The work is quite slow. They do not seem serious," she expresses with a heavy heart.

[email protected]

 

Phases of basant

Basant was a celebration of the people on approaching harvest, of spring in the air

By M. Saleem ur Rahman

With basant is associated yellow colour, spring season, kite-flying festival. It has gone through different phases. Nowadays, basant has become a byword for death and throat cutting and sudden death of children.

To have a clear vision of the basant festival I talked to old people between 70 and 80 belonging to Lahore-Kasur, Ferozepur, Amritsar and the adjacent areas, people related to cultivation of land like farmers and peasants, learned people attached with Silsila-e-Chishtia including qawwals, kite lovers and Metereological Department.

Bagriya and Bhavray, two lowest castes of untouchable Hindus, had to migrate to Punjab from east India as a result of severe conflicts with the British. They were agrarian people. They did not follow the rituals and customs among the common Hindus rather they had their own rituals and customs which they brought with them from their previous abode. These two Hindu castes celebrated one day of happiness called basant between 6 to 8 of the month of Phagun of Bikarmi calendar. We must not forget that Phaggan and Chaitar, two Bikarmi months, stand for spring season.

These dates also marked the urs of two Muslim saints of Kasur adar Deewan (R.A) whose shrine still stands one kilometer from Kasur city and of Imam Shah Bukhari (R.A.) whose shrine is in the heart of the Kasur city. The first urs would last for three days and right after this the other urs would start. They attracted people from all over Punjab and a day was reserved for women only. Horse-riding, kabaddi and wrestling were the main attractions.

Before Sher Shah Suri India did not have canal system, roads and demarcation of land. Since the canal system did not exist in India, cultivation of land depended heavily on rainfall. Punjab was the feeding ground of India. A huge population would cultivate two crops a year and work all round the year. In the month of Phaggan the poor farmers would run out of grain reserves. They used to call this month the thirteenth month. The mustard crop is in full bloom in Phaggan and Chaitar, diffusing fragrance all around. The fragrance was a signal to the farmers that wheat in the fields is ready for harvest. But in his euphoric state of mind the poor peasant plucked the flowers of his hope, presented them to his elders, rich landlords and the land owners whose land he was cultivating on share. This ritual of presentation of yellow mustard flowers bore with it the message of the blessings of nature in the fields, and the message of empty bellies of the children of the poor peasant that they were in dire need of morsels that can keep the cord of their body and soul together till the arrival of the new wheat crop.

The landlords of those ages like clairvoyants could read messages of the bellies of their peasants writ large on their faces. At the presentation of the yellow mustard flowers the munificent landlords, in return, blessed them with wheat grains and the peasants came home chuffed laden with dreams of the crop at hand. It is an irony of history that the munificence of the landlords of those ages has become extinct in this age and can only be found in the pages of history or some old Punjabi movies. This aura of hope and bliss compelled the children replicate the external nature in the internals of their household by wearing yellow dresses and smelling the aroma emitted by yellow flowers. Basant became the externalization of feelings of the peasants nurturing hope for food at hand and the aristocrats enjoyed it as a change of seasons, called spring. Nature gave rise to this ritual through rain and change of seasons by colouring the land yellow. Man made canals and this ritual is breathing their last.

It is a common illusion that basant is a Hindu festival but history belies it with logic. Dasahra, Holi, Rakhi, Magghi, etc. are ceremonised throughout the Hindu world, be it in India, Pakistan, Europe, America or anywhere else in the world where Hindus live. Have we ever heard or seen Hindus celebrating basant anywhere in the world. Basant is not included in the list of the Hindu festivals. Thousands of Hindus live in Pakistan and we cannot trace the existence of such festival with them. Basant is just like Besakhi, celebrated on the first of Besakh on the eve of the beginning of the harvesting season. Besakhi was related to Sikhs but who can deny the fact that Muslim farmers also shared Besakhi with the same zeal and fervour. The bliss percolated throughout the bucolic world and farmers at this occasion prepared a dish of a thin mixture of flour and raw sugar called halva. Besakhi can never be called a religious festival. It was also a festival related to season rather than religion. Besakhi is the name of the celebration of the bliss when the farmers are ready to touch their scythes. Basant and Besakhi both are the names of the externalization of the inner feelings of bliss. The former is symbolized by yellow colour with the mustard flower as its insignia.

Renowned Chishti mystic poet Amir Khusro (R.A) in seventh century Hijri used basant as a metaphor in his poetry. It is stated that the nephew of Hazarat Mahboob-e-Elahi, Sultan-ul-Mushaikh, Nizakh-ud-Din Auliya (R.A) passed away at the age of 14/15. The grieving uncle took the death of his nephew to heart and retreated in a lonely chamber outside the city walls and stopped meeting anyone. Amir Khusro was grieved at the retreat of his beloved holy teacher (Murshid) as he himself was thirsty of meetings with this great spiritual guide. He was desperately in search of an excuse to present himself before him. History stands testimony to the infallible love of Amir Khusro for his spiritual guide. As already mentioned, mustard flowers used to be presented to the elders at the advent of Bahar (Basant), Amir Khusro availed the opportunity, made a bouquet of mustard flowers, composed a ghazal in Raag Bahar, using basant as metaphor and reached the threshold of the secluded chamber of his spiritual guide. He sang this ghazal in Raag Bahar for his holy teacher. This Raag is famous as Basant Bahar which is still sung with the same name. This ghazal was sung in Poorbi language.

Raag Basant Bahar is still in vogue everywhere in India Pakistan. Aside from it, Ali Hussain Ashrafi, Muhaddas of Kacchuchu Shah Sharif used basant as a metaphor in his poetry. The poetry of the mystic poets reveal that basant is a metaphor for the changing seasons which is Jashn-e-Bharan, festival of spring, for the rich and euphoria as a result of the sighting of the milk in the wheat crop for the poor farmers.

Now a days media from all sides is discussing, debating basant but their debate starts with kite flying and ends there. But the rulers and observers should realise the materialistic mind, commercialism are responsible for destroying the originality of basant which was a lovely, innocent entertainment for people and their families.

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