BASANT IN LAHORE
The ancient eastern city of Lahore marks the beginning of spring with the Basant carnival, an orgy of kite-flying, rooftop soirees, garden parties and equestrian events, much to the disgust of Islamic clerics. Lahorites and out-of-town enthusiasts don glamorous clothes, in the yellow and green of spring flowers blooming citywide, to bid farewell to the frosts and fogs of winter and usher in spring.
Nighttime kite-flying in the walled old quarter around the 16th century Badshahi mosque and Lahore fort opens the festival. Ancient mughal palaces throw open their doors for all-night parties to view the kites, illuminated by spotlights slashing the sky. Stars from the local 'Lollywood' film industry perform with classical Qawali musicians at parties in traditional haveli homes. White paper kites shimmer in the night sky, diving and soaring as rival fliers joust in duels marked by battle cries of Pecha! and victory shouts of bo kata! Bursts of drums and trumpets mark the cutting of a kite's cord.
akistanis from across the country flock to Lahore for the festival, crowding the Islamabad to Lahore motorway to catch a glimpse of the flying paper fighting kites. Top hotels reported full bookings. "It is an event not to be missed," said Islamabad-based lawyer Waseem Ahmed, 30.
But even such a joyous festival has a dark side, as hospitals invariably are packed with kiteflyers who fell off roofs and children who were hit by cars as they ran down the streets, their faces turned towards the sky to watch the kites. Quarters of the city are plunged into darkness when razor-sharp kite cords rolled in powdered glass or made of steel cut electricity wires. "If there are 50 one-hour breakdowns, it costs us 2.5 million rupees (43,00 dollars)," lamented Lahore Electricity Supply's company chief Brig Riaz Ahmad Khan Toor.
But in Lahore, the party is still a symbol for many, said Alam. "The extremists are a tiny...
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