Festival brings Pakistani culture to E.V. - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Festival brings Pakistani culture to E.V.

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Posted: Friday, February 20, 2009 8:14 pm | Updated: 1:00 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

There’s nothing like cutting down another kid’s kite, says Javed Kaif. “It’s definitely the best feeling, to cut one. You feel you’ve been victorious, like scoring a touchdown in a football game,” says the Scottsdale man who grew up in Pakistan.

There’s nothing like cutting down another kid’s kite, says Javed Kaif.

“It’s definitely the best feeling, to cut one. You feel you’ve been victorious, like scoring a touchdown in a football game,” says the Scottsdale man who grew up in Pakistan, where flying kites — and “fighting” them in the air — is practically a national pastime.

Kaif and a team of avid kite-fliers will help children and adults get their kites off the ground during a festival this weekend in Mesa. Called Basant Mela, the event is 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Red Mountain Park.

It’s hosted by local nonprofit volunteer and heritage-awareness group Pakistan Information and Cultural Organization Inc., or PICO.

“People are welcome to bring their own kites,” says Omar Hameed, a Gilbert resident who directs the festival. “But I think once they see the kites we’ll have there, they’ll want one of those. You’ll be amazed by how high they can fly.”

The kites, imported for Basant Mela from Pakistan, are made from a lightweight, tissuelike paper and thin bamboo frame, making them different from kites sold in American stores, says Kaif.

“If you have even the slightest breeze, these kites are so light, you can get them up in the air and keep them up. And they’re highly maneuverable; you can make them turn left, right, nose-dive, go up. That’s how you get them to tangle up in a fight. If my kite is 200 yards away, I can still chase yours,” he says.

As a child in Pakistan, Kaif would climb onto rooftops to fly kites with friends and cousins, despite warnings from their parents that they would fall and get hurt. The children would use cotton string coated in glass powder and glue in order to cut each other’s kite string as the kites soared high in the air.

“You would see kids running all over to snatch up the fallen kites, because if you find one, it’s yours,” he says.

The custom, says Sardar Babar, PICO’s president, is similar to what American audiences may have read about or seen in the book and film “The Kite Runner.”

“That tends to attract a lot of people, and also we find that children and adults just love kites, and they like to come out to fly them with the help of people who are really expert at it,” says Babar.

Patterned after springtime kite-flying festivals in Pakistan, Mesa’s Basant will focus on flying kites, rather than fighting them. The string used to cut kites can be dangerous, “but we have some samples of it out there just to give people a look at what it’s like,” says Babar.

Vendors will sell popular Pakistani foods, such as biryani, a rice cooked with meat and spices, and samosas, lightly fried patties of potatoes, peas and other vegetables. A Henna tattoo booth, an inflatable “bouncie” for kids and a disc jockey playing Pakistani music are also planned.

“It’s such a beautiful, wonderful festival that we have it in a different Valley city each year just so we can bring it to more people. It’s a great place to bring your kids; they have a very good time with it,” says Hameed.

Basant Mela

What: Learn to fly kites and sample popular ethnic foods at this festival modeled after springtime kite-flying jubilees in Pakistan.

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Red Mountain Park, 7745 E. Brown Road, Mesa

Cost: Free admission; bring money for kites (about $6 each) and food, or bring your own.

Information: www.pakistaninformation.org

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