Basant, a traditional festival celebrating the coming of spring, is celebrated across Pakistan and India. It is filled with dancing and food, but the most important part: kites. On May 6, the Pakistani Students Association at the University of Utah will host its second annual Basant Festival. The festival will have authentic Pakistani kites and food to purchase.
The student-run event was a hit last year, with around 250 people from various backgrounds in attendance.
“I wanted to bring people together,” said Noman Khan, the founder and president of the Pakistani Students Association at the U. “There are not a lot of opportunities where you can bring a lot of people together.”
Open to the public, Basant gives the community a chance to gather and learn about Pakistani culture while enjoying themselves.
“To me, Basant is more like having fun with your friends and family,” said Ali Shahzad, a Pakistani student at the U. “It’s a great way to have a get-together. I have made so many friends through this festival honestly.”
In Pakistan, Basant is a time to welcome the new life that comes in spring. The bright colors and breathtaking kites give students at the U a chance to embrace culture from around the world.
Members of the Pakistani Students Association not only enjoy sharing their culture with those who aren’t familiar with it, but they also find fulfillment in reconnecting other Pakistanis with their traditions.
“I saw and I met people that had been living here for the past 25 to 30 years,” said Khan. “Their kids are born and raised here, never been back home, and I could see the joy in the parents’ eyes.”
Basant fosters understanding in the community, but it also pulls families closer together.
“A father was connecting his son through the culture, which he couldn’t do before because there weren’t any opportunities like that,” said Khan.
The ultimate goal of the association is to simply spread the joy many of the members experienced while growing up in Pakistan.
“You never know,” said Khan, “somebody might be depressed, somebody might be having issues at home or at work or something like that. If I can take their mind off of it, if I can make them happy, then I think I did my job.”
Festivities in Pakistan usually start the night before the holiday. It’s common for people to camp out on flat rooftops so they can get an early start on flying kites.
Khan remembered being in Pakistan and seeing people use flood lights and white kites to kick off the celebration before sunrise. Some people flew black kites with black string to mess with others.
At the U the celebration began and ended the same day, but the Pakistani Students Association hopes the memories will last.
“I believe it’s not how much money you make that makes you successful,” said Khan. “It’s how many lives you change. I’m not changing lives by doing this but at least I am giving somebody that ray of hope, of happiness.”