BASANT-KITE FESTIVAL IN SACRAMENTO
CELEBRATES SPRING
Report and Photographs by:
Ras H. Siddiqui

The Pakistani American Association of Sacramento (PAAS) held its first Spring Basant Bahar Mela-Kite Festival at the North Natomas Regional Part on Sunday, April 19th to the delight of many area families and visitors from as far as the San Francisco Bay Area. The Pakistani community of Greater Sacramento in California is possibly the oldest anywhere in the United States as some can trace back their ancestors close to 100 years in this region. Most of the families here hail from Punjab and the KP (Northwest Frontier) along with relative newcomers from Sindh (both urban and rural). PAAS is the most recent name for many Pakistani Associations that have existed in the area since the early 1950ís. And it seems that they are now moving beyond celebrating Pakistanís Independence Day in August to other fun-filled activities like this festival. Before going into some more details, this event was made possible by Welcome Insurance (Javaid Akhtar), Shan Market (Javaid Iqbal), AccounTAX Solutions (Waqar Zubair), Well Care Pharmacy (Mobin Yamin) and Qumar Ashraf. Another business worthy of mention is Old City Kites, a Sacramento community landmark which was a necessary presence here. Food was prepared and sold by Bismillah Catering Service. Amongst the many happy people present was Monica M, Miller Special Agent in Charge of the FBIís Sacramento Field Office. It was good to see the FBI doing some community outreach work here. Speaking to this writer Agent Miller said that the agency had 56 Field Offices across the nation, four in California with Sacramento covering 34 of the 58 counties in California, from the Oregon border all the way down to Bakersfield. She said that the FBI tries to reach out to all communities up and down the valley. She added that it is beneficial for the community to know who the FBI is and if there is any type of civil rights violation they should be aware that there are Federal Laws that protect everyone. She said that she loved the food, the great weather right, and who doesnít like to fly the kite? On sharing some locally grown mulberries she mentioned that she was from South Louisiana (home of the Cajun culture) and that she was familiar with them. She also said that that she identifies well with other cultures because she grew up in a unique culture herself- with food and music and that she felt really comfortable here. Shahid Saleemi of PAAS posted this explanation: ďWe have a rich colorful culture, we are fun loving peaceful people and proud to be American. Diversity brings great strength to our country, and that is what makes America beautiful. Sacramento has a decent size population from a Pakistani background and by gathering at the Basant Mela, we have tried to exhibit our rich Pakistani culture. Thanks everyone for joining usay.

thanks to our sponsors and volunteers for their support and help.Ē Event emcee Sohail Shahzad also thanked the sponsors and volunteers individually. He said that this is the Basant Mela and an opportunity to have fun with the family. He thanked PAAS President Bashir Choudhry along with Shahid Saleemi, Waqar Zubair, Sabir Ahmed, Javaid Akhtar, Javaid Iqbal, Imran Choudry and Aqeel Mustafa amongst others for making this festival possible. Others (besides Monica Miller) who took the opportunity to address the gathering included Khalid Saeed (AMV), District Director Omega Brewer from State Senator Richard Panís office and last but not least Basim Elkarra (CAIR) who a candidate for the local Twin Rivers School Board (the election is on May 12th and we urge all of our Natomas area resident readers to vote). A storm has been created around Basimís candidacy because he was targeted through a flyer for his ethnicity, Muslim religious b a c k g r ou n d and his leadership in CAIR. But many local non-Mus l i m supporters have stood with Basim including the Japanese Americans (Florin JACL) and he has been endorsed by the Sacramento Bee newspaper. Basim is really good at voter outreach and what better place to meet potential voters than a kite festival (possible hint here for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson here for next year!). But getting back to the Basant festival, it was a joy to see many Pakistani (and some Indian) families including kids and young couples, having fun flying their kites, eating Pakistani food and cotton candy. The fresh Jalebi (dessert) Chef was late (he was playing Cricket 20 miles away) so many missed out if they left early. The weather was great- just California living at its best. PAAS President Bashir Choudhry also presented a blue Ajrak to Agent Monica Miller. Presenting the Ajrak signifies respect and friendship in Pakistanís Sindhi and Seraiki cultures. Later raffles were held which included prizes from Jadoo and Javaid Akhtar (Welcome Insurance) presented a lucky lady the grand prize of a big screen TV. To conclude, the success of this festival indicates the emergence of our Sacramento community in the realm of cultural activities. More is expected as the AMV holds its Sun Fun Cultural Mela in Sacramento on Saturday May 16th (11 AM to 4 PM) at the California State Capitol. There will be food, music and other activity and it will be free!

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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