It makes for such a sad commentary that the few celebrations we are left with are clouded in the hues of bias and prejudice, mostly emanating from our respective interpretations of their beginnings, or the motivating spirit that gave birth to some of these joyous occasions. Basant is one such festival which has been marred over time with numerous pre-orchestrated meanings and connotations. In essence, Basant is a seasonal festival of the subcontinent with no religious bearings. It is celebrated in winter on the fourth or fifth day of the lunar month which also gives it the name “Basant Panchami”. The day is reckoned to herald the spring when snows begin to melt, wheat grows and mustard blossoms in the fields — an absolutely enticing time for the eyes, the spirit and the soul. The accompanying celebrations include a profusion of the yellow colour with men wearing a headgear and women similarly-coloured outfits. Swaying with singing of joyous songs were the traditional accompaniments of the Basant celebrations reflecting the liveliness and romance of the life in the Punjab which is now divided across a fractious border separating Pakistan and India. According to some available historical accounts, kite flying became part of the celebrations later, more specifically after the partition. In the process, it pushed out the more traditional celebratory events and, over time, Basant was effectively reduced to an occasion of kite flying. Let there be Basant. Let there be Manto. Let there be Faiz and let there be others who would celebrate the reasons of us being alive today. Let the drumbeats be heard. Let there be joyous interventions that would make people understand who they are and where they belong. Let them feel the pride of knowing what they stand for and the destinations they can aim for Unfortunately, caught up in a wave of the nouveau riche millions that flooded the market, kite flying lost much of its harmless charm and became a sport whetted by raw sentiment and cutthroat competition. From being a poor man’s pastime, the event transformed to becoming a crass and horrid manifestation of the illicit riches studded with food, dance and intoxication with getting the better of the competitor irrespective of the prospect of causing damage to the life of the poor and the innocent. Principally, this was inflicted by the use of sharp metal and glass in the making of twine for flying the kites, resulting in incidents of slitting of throats of unknowing children riding the bikes, or in their pursuit of catching a felled kite. Driven by the frenzy of the occasion, people even slipped off the rooftops to their death. Over time, Basant became of a victim of the incompetence and inability of the provincial administration in regulating and managing the event so that it would not cause any bodily harm. It banned the celebration altogether, thus depriving the people of Punjab, particularly Lahore, of a well-deserved holiday and an occasion for some joyous indulgence. The decision was as horrid as any could possibly be. That is the way it remained for almost a decade as various petitions for reviving the festival were summarily rejected. The recent decision of the government of Punjab to celebrate Basantin the second week of February next year is a welcome shift from a display of obduracy and incompetence of the previous administration. But, while it is time to celebrate the revival, one should not forget the risks that it entails and strict regulations should not only be put in place to make it a safe occasion, these should also be indiscriminately implemented across divisions of class and colour. The rich should not escape the punishment simply because they can buy their freedom, even innocence, while the poor suffer because they don’t enjoy the luxury of the illicit assets for securing reprieve. Understandably, a petition has already been moved in the Lahore High Court for re-imposing the ban on the celebration. While it remains unlikely that the judiciary may intervene in a matter that is strictly administrative, it should refrain from any temptation of doing so. It does not fall in their domain and they should not act in any manner to deprive the people of a rightful opportunity for some fun and frolic. And, let’s also keep religion out of what is strictly a cultural occasion. Let’s recognise it for what it really is: a coming together of people in celebration of the advent of spring and allowing some joy and happiness sneaking into their otherwise dreary lives. Pablo Neruda once said that “you can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming”. Let’s not block the advent of spring. Instead, in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, let’s rejoice in its coming: “Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems”. Let people, the ordinary people, have their bits to indulge. Let them feel the whiff of freedom with their yellow attires blowing in the mellow force of the cool breeze and the resonating sounds of songs of happiness. Let them soak in the colours of the season with kites dotting the expanse of the sky, and their hearts throbbing with the expectation of a future laden with hope. Let them feel that this country belongs to them also and it would provision them innocent and simple occasions to be together. Let them glow with this feeling that the times of sorrow and deprivation may be coming to an end and the season of joyous indulgence may, after all, begin to colour their life. I am reminded of one of the best nature poets, William Wordsworth, who was intoxicated by the fluttering and dancing of the daffodils: I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the Milky Way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. Let there be Basant. Let there be Manto. Let there be Faiz and let there be others who would celebrate the reasons of us being alive today. Let the drumbeats be heard. Let there be joyous interventions that would make people understand who they are and where they belong. Let them feel the pride of knowing what they stand for and the destinations they can aim for. Let the spring weave a thousand dreams for them floating across the expanse of the sky and Let the celebratory songs give them the voice in a coming together of people in expression of their true feelings and emotions. The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think-tank. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Raoof Hasan Published in Daily Times, December 23rd 2018.