When I was younger I had this awesome kite designed to resemble a giant bat. The day it got tangled up in a streetlight in our church parking lot, broke loose, and sailed away to some higher calling was awful in the truest sense of the word: watching the string wrap around the lamp post in a death grip was somehow numinous. Mom helped me build a new kite out of two dowel rods and some plastic sheeting, but it never quite filled me with the same sensation of otherworldly transgression as the bat kite did, not even when I took to scaling the two-story tall church building and flying it off the roof. I'm sharing all this so you'll understand why I was so excited to see Basant in Lahore. Everything I read about it poked directly at the youthful, vampire bat-loving part of me that -- half way up the church wall with my kite dangling from one arm -- reveled in the certainty that if the fall didn't kill me, Mom and Dad surely would.
Anyone who follows Pakistan will recognize immediately that my Lonely Planet was woefully outdated and that the Punjab government -- in a show of parental concern -- no longer allows kites or public [read: Hindu-influenced] springtime festivals. This was further underscored for me when I attempted to buy kite string at the local all-purpose store. After explaining in an over-loud voice "We don't sell that kind of illegal material here," the salesman leaned in closer and continued in a conspiratorial whisper, "but if you go down to the Old City, I know some people who could help you." I did not take him up on his offer, although the idea of getting PNG'd for buying a spool of string was strangely appealing. Illegal kite string sales are probably directly funding the Pakistani Taliban (likely also America's fault).
To make up for the lack of kites, Lahoris compensate by redoubling their bird feeding sadaqah efforts. I'm pretty sure that 'gaining goodwill through tossing meat to hawks' is to Islam as 'gaining goodwill by tossing pennies into wells' is to Christianity, but I'm afraid to say this too loudly lest they ban sadaqah, too. I would toss a penny into my own fountain to wish a happy spring for Pakistan had we not filled it in a few months ago to try and slow the spread of dengue.