The Pakistani Students’ Association welcomes spring with second annual Basant event

This kite-flying event displayed Pakistani culture and helped bridge cultural divides

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The Pakistani Students' Association hosted Basant at O'Hill Field March 30. 

Carolyn Lane | Cavalier Daily

This past Saturday, O’Hill Field — which has been mostly abandoned during the winter — felt truly alive for the first time in months. Students relaxed on the hillside with friends, caught up on homework while sitting in the grass and enjoyed one of the most beautiful spring days of the year so far — complete with 75 degree weather and a slight breeze. However, what made this scene truly memorable was the Pakistani music reverberating across the field, multicolored kites flying high above the ground and the shouts of excitement ringing out as a cricket player swung his bat — all signs of Basant’s arrival at the University. 

Basant Panchami — also known as Vasant Panchami — is an annual festival most commonly observed in the Punjab region of Pakistan that marks the beginning of preparations for spring. Each year, thousands stream to streets and rooftops as they release kites into the air, vying to earn the unofficial title of highest kite flyer. 

The Pakistani Students’ Association brought the celebration to the University for the first time last April in an effort to show part of their culture to the University community. In its inaugural year, the group purchased dozens of multicolored kites for the event, set up a cricket game for attendees to participate in and also handed out popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy for free. According to Mehak Rana, fourth-year Curry student and current PSA vice president, the event last year was popular with both PSA and non-PSA students, which is why they decided to hold it again. 

“Last year people really liked it since it was so relaxed, and they just like to be with friends and enjoy the weather,” Rana said. “This year I’ve been hearing the same thing — that this is one of the best events for our organization.”

PSA President Asad Emaan Ali estimated that around 200 attended the event this year, which was held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. However, the relaxed, come-and-go environment meant that there was probably a maximum of 50-70 people present at one time. According to Ali, a turnout this large was partially as a result of the event’s location. 

“The best thing about this event is because it’s … in a very central area that people walking around see us and then they’re curious,” Ali said. “They’ve may have never attended a PSA event before, but they’ll come and enjoy flying kites and stuff like that.”

During the event, Rana really enjoyed seeing people she did not know come to the event, as it signaled that its impact spread beyond PSA members. 

“It’s just a really family friendly event,” Rana said. “There’s families here we don’t even know and people just wherever they are, they see the event and just come on and enjoy it. And we’re like ‘we don’t even know you but please come and learn.’”

For Class of 2018 alumna Aamna Khan, the potential for people to learn from the event was something she deemed incredibly important. The festival reminded her of Pakistan and provided an avenue for its attendees to understand her culture and tackle biases that they may have formed about the region. 

“I feel like people should always try to do more for culture, no matter what your roots are,” Khan said. “I feel like more people should turn out and not just people with Pakistani or Desi origins but other people too so they can know more about other countries … because a lot of people have biases but just interacting with people who have roots in Pakistan [could] possibly change those.”

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