Come spring and with it begin the much-awaited celebrations of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Cricket is an all-consuming passion for millions in the country and it is heartwarming to see the hustle and bustle of foreign and domestic players and cricket aficionados but it also has a downside in the shape of inconvenience the public faces.
Roadblocks and consequent traffic gridlocks have become a nuisance for the commuters while travelling on thoroughfares in the vicinity of the stadium. Instead of organizing and regulating the event properly, the authorities concerned deem it better to block the roads and make travel an ordeal for the citizens. What price cricket, one may ask, as ambulances also get stuck in snarl-ups.
Similar inefficiency of the authorities may also be witnessed in the manner the Basant festival is handled. The celebration of Basant has deep roots in the history of the subcontinent. For many centuries, people enjoyed kite flying. It was considered a harbinger of spring and revelled as a start of life and freshness. The vibrant tradition of Basant is celebrated all around the world without any gruesome consequences.
Once Lahore was a hub of kite-flying competitions but today it is deprived of the festivity. The use of nylon, chemical and metal string has marred the beauty of this “lively sport”. The unfortunate deaths linked to this sport have earned it a reputation of a “killer sport”. Instead of handling the menace of chemical string and other illegal practices (aerial firing etc), the authorities opt for the convenient way of banning the activity.
In the past, kite flying was a fun-filled sport free from frivolities and life-threatening activities. Today’s Basant with twine and dangerous paraphernalia is the ugliest form of entertainment unheard of in the days of yore.
All the tragic deaths caused by lethal twine are avoidable through strong legislation and by taking strict punitive measures by the local government. Society has lost a sense of proportion and balance in life. A brazen display of apathy on the part of the masses involved in this sport has turned a source of entertainment into an ugly spectacle.
As a nation of insensitive people, we hardly feel any qualms about being part of unwarranted and illegal activities. We must not allow our happy occasions to become a reason of trouble for others. Kite flying is not bad in itself, like any other activity, it is what we make of it. A blanket ban on Basant means depriving a number of people of livelihood but sadly, it is these very tradesmen who misuse their source of income by fulfilling the ruthless public demand of manufacturing lethal twine and eventually cut the grass from under their own feet.
When will we learn to celebrate our auspicious occasions (festivals, weddings, matches)? Let there be Basant and cricket only if these mean pure entertainment and healthy recreation, not instruments of bloodletting. To make Basant a real occasion of entertainment and a tourist attraction there is a need to provide open spaces to the people or else they will fashion their own just as they do in cricket. The government must enforce its writ on the prohibition of all illegal and banned activities and make sure that violators are dealt with sternly and more importantly without discrimination. How will they curb irregularities in backwaters and slums when these very acts take place in fully guarded bastions of entertainment?
We are living in extremely tense times; a modicum of empathy is what can steer us through turbulent waters. The celebration of spring whether in the form of cricket or Basant ought not to be a cause of concern for anyone. These institutions of spring should be embraced and the government and the judiciary should show a ‘will’ to make them safe.