Basant in Lahore By Y. L. Hamdani
“Why Lahore is better than every other city on Earth”, Bill Oreilly, that hawkish blabbermouth host of the `Oreilly Factor` aired on the not so fair and balanced `Fox News`, once arrogantly.
He exclaimed `Who would wanna go to Lahore for vacation`. Obviously he hasn`t been to Lahore on the Basant Night for had he been there, he would know that any person with half a brain would prefer Lahore to that artificial paradise, the entertainment capital of the west `Las Vegas`. Had he looked up in the sky on the brightly Basant night in Lahore, he would have awed at the bright colors of Pakistan, all the lights of the West would have paled in comparison, and he forever would have been the devoted slave of the superior Pakistani culture. Had he been to Yusuf Sali`s Haveli and danced all night with the most beautiful women under the sky he would have denounced his own notions of white racial supremacy and would have been sung hymns in the praise of the East.
The ancient land of Indus, aka Islamic Republic of Pakistan, has been celebrating Basant for over 3000 years. Religions, invaders and rulers have come and gone, but the people of Indus, the stock that is proudly known as Pakistani in the modern world, have never stopped celebrating Basant. The Mullahs, the same Mullahs who were once the greatest enemies of our Republic`s founding in 1947, have tried in vain to convince the people of Pakistan that to celebrate Basant is some how un-Pakistani, because no precedent is found in Islamic (read Arab) History. No doubt Pakistanis are very conscious of their Muslim identity and rightly so, but their identity is only part Muslim, they are also the harbingers of an ancient civilization, a civilization which is older than the civilizations of those who call themselves civilized. This ancient land of Indus was exclusively home to the Indus Valley civilization, the most advanced civilization of its time. The verdict of the Pakistani people is overwhelmingly in favor of Basant, a tradition that is almost as ancient as the land itself.
Legend has it that there was once a Raja called Basant who ruled over the ancient land of Indus. One year when there was drought, he cancelled all the taxes on his people, and then the people celebrated Basant every year at the arrival of Spring… But now there is another legend.. there is a new rajah, and he lives amongst the Lahoris in modern day lahore. His name is Yusuf Sali, and every year he holds the number one social event of the year where everyone congregates to pay homage to the most ingenious party host the city has ever seen. And that is why we celebrate Basant.
Yusuf Sallahuddin`s party is by all means the most exhilirating experience and by all accounts the must-attend party where the whos who of the world are invited. Allama Iqbal`s grandson, and a scion of a family considered a stalwart in the Pakistan Movement, Yusuf Sallahuddin is an extremely cultured and highly educated man. His 17th Century Mughal Style Haveli is located in the center of `Shahi Mahala` or the `Heera Mandi` perhaps the most cultural red light district in the entire world. As always the most good looking celebrities went to his party… and these celebrities were not just Pakistanis… It was a pleasant surprise to see some of the biggest names of Indian Music industry in attendance there. Ofcourse there were all the major politicians, though the regular feature, Imran Khan wasn`t seen there. The surprise of this Basant however was the bash arranged by Pakistan Muslim League Q, the ruling party. Atleast the “ruling” party is good for something, for the dance floor there was perhaps the most happening in all of Lahore. Those who were not over awed by the `celebrities` had a much better time at this party.
Though it is viewed as more of a local event, Basant is perhaps the one truly national festival Pakistan has which has nothing to do with religion. Lahore is undoubtedly the hub of all activity, but on Basant Day, from Karachi to Peshawar the entire country celebrated as one. Perhaps the fact that it fell in a week in which also saw Eid, the Hajj the start of the World Cup and finally the Valentines Day made it even more significant. Government sponsorship for the Jashn-e-Baharan definitely was a plus. Pakistan`s loss against Australia was one serious party pooper though.
Pakistan unfortunately has faced a lot of malicious propaganda initiated by certain hawkish Indians in the west. It is a much maligned country, which is viewed unfairly as a volatile Islamic country and as the `new epicentre` of Global terrorism. The truth is totally different. Pakistan is today witnessing an era of unprecedented stability and prosperity. Spending is high and the economy is booming. Democracy, albeit controlled democracy, has been restored, and Pakistanis have a lot to be thankful about. After all that is what Jashne Baharan, and Basant are all about ie happiness, peace, and celebration of all that is good in life.
Long Live Basant
Long Live Pakistan.