Authors: Ben Ruhe
Date Submitted: February 28, 2006
Article Type: Journal

Basant is a spring festival celebrated joyously in Pakistan, and in particular in the city of Lahore. Although originally a Hindu fete (“Basant” means “yellow” in Hindi, a reference to ripening mustard flowers), it has long since lost any religious connotation and become simply a kiteflying free-for-all, with lots of partying and general rejoicing. Muslims join right in, with the exception of fundamentalists, who call Basant a blasphemy.

The kiteflying involves aerial combat as one flier tries to slice the line of another. A victory provokes screams of “Bo kaaaata!” or “It’s cut!” As in other sports, equipment has radically improved in recent years. Whereas the cotton cutting line used to be coated with powdered glass, now Pakistanis employ a much tougher nylon thread used for stitching parachutes and they coat it with metal powder. A chemical is used to make the metal particles adhere to the line. This new kind of cutting line—-called simply “chemical” by fliers—-poses a vastly increased peril to life and limb.

Deaths occur when speeding motorcyclists have their throats cut by line. Another major cause of death is cycle accidents triggered by draped line. Since several people routinely ride speeding machines, without wearing helmets, the potential for carnage from the ultra strong, sharp line can be imagined.

PDF Link: Journal Issue