Colorful & Enlivening Basant Celebrations in Sacramento
Report & photos by Ras H. Siddiqui
Pictures above: Glimpses of the Basant festivities in Sacramento
One of the rites of spring originating from South Asia’s Punjab region, an area and culture shared by both India and Pakistan, is a very colorful kite festival called Basant (also spelled Vasant), a folk event collectively celebrated by Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. And since the Punjabi Diaspora can be found all over the globe and is well represented in the Sacramento area with a presence here of over a hundred years now, it comes as no surprise that this event has found a small but dedicated following in this area.
On April 18, 2010 , over a hundred people mostly from Pakistan gathered at the Stone Creek Park off Zinfandel near Mather, some dressed in their colorful ethnic best, blending with others more comfortable in blue jeans and baseball caps. They were following a tradition several hundred years old; and they all appeared to be having a good time flying kites on a very beautiful Sacramento spring afternoon.
A group of people with Mr. Farrukh Hashmi from the local Mehran Restaurant taking the lead decided that the community should get together and show our young American-born generation that they are still capable of having some real outdoor fun. Assisted by Haq Nawaz, Nadeem Khalifa and last but not least Sohail Shahzad, the afternoon activities they had planned included some great Mehran-Pakistani food, tea and socializing, all in the backdrop of the real reason for gathering here, kite flying.
One has to credit Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini for exposing Americans to the passion for kites that people from South Asia have in their hearts through his book “ The Kite Runner”. But one can argue with Khaled that Basant Day in Lahore, Pakistan is not only as passion filled but may even surpass the Kabul event that he wrote about in his book.
One can gather that the Sacramento Basant celebration at Stone Creek Park could not match the kite festivals of Lahore, Kabul or Amritsar (in Indian Punjab). And it certainly did not have the attraction of Picnic Day or Earth Day in Davis a day earlier. But from the smiles and laughter that it generated amongst the children who participated in it, it can certainly be termed a winner.
(In the Bay Area, PACC's Basant - Jashn-e-Baharan - festival will take place on Sunday, May 16th at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale, CA. There will be kite competitions, children's games, music, vendor booths and lots of other activities. Please contact PACC for details).