man i didnt beleive how many hot looking pakistani babes were at this festival!!!! they were all wearing their sari's. i guess pakistani babe in america don't cover their heads.

if somebody ever opens a pakistani topless bar in phoenix i will certainly hand out there. or even better yet shoot some pakistani porn movies.

Kites float Pakistani spring Basant Mela celebration's traditional fliers harbingers of new season

Bob Golfen The Arizona Republic Jan. 30, 2006 12:00 AM

The breeze was light but the spirit was strong Sunday as hundreds of people gathered in Tempe for Basant Mela, the traditional Pakistani kite-flying celebration of spring.

"Ah, here's some wind," said Javed Kaif as he snatched up a paper kite.

Soon, he and a few dozen other people, young and old, struggled to launch their small, Pakistani-made kites in the modest air current. Pulling the strings in rapid jerks while stepping back, they sent them up into the cloudless blue sky, where the diamond-shaped patches fluttered like moths.

The rhythmic throb of Pakistani music and the savory scent of kabob, samosa and curry filled the air, while children scrambled to pick up downed kites and send them aloft again. Or else collect the pieces of torn paper and shattered bamboo.

For the young people, this was something fresh and exciting, a picnic day at Tempe Beach Park with their families flying kites. But for the grown-ups, many of whom spoke to each other in the Urdu language of the old country, this was a celebration of their rich culture and a festival that goes back hundreds of years.

"It is a big thing back home that normally would come at the end of winter," said Kaif, 52, of Scottsdale. "Families would fly kites from their rooftops."

Similar kite-flying traditions of Afghanistan were popularized recently by the novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, a Californian who was raised in Afghanistan. Hosseini describes elaborate celebrations in which hundreds of people would fly kites in competition, attempting to cut the strings of other kites until just one kite would remain flying, its owner the winner of the event.

The kite runners were children who would try to retrieve the lost kites for souvenirs and bragging rights, with the last kite to be cut from the air being an especially desirable trophy.

In the book, the kite-flying events are used as an analogy for the fragility of ancient cultures and the relationship of a young boy with his father.

A native of Lahore, Pakistan, Kaif said the depictions of kite battles in the book are highly accurate, and despite taking place in Afghanistan, remind him of his childhood. In the kite competitions, the strings would be coated with powdered glass so that they would cut those of rival kites.

Kaif showed a roll of the sharpened string, called dor, which was abrasive to the touch, but noted that Sunday's flying would be done with regular kite string. The kites being sold at a booth by the Pakistan Information and Cultural Organization, which organizes the event, were of a traditional, tailless design called gudda.

Kaif said he was hoping Sunday that this fourth-annual celebration of Basant Mela would attract many people who had read The Kite Runner and wanted to witness such an event.

"It's a wonderful book," he said.

Indeed, several non-Pakistani-Americans mentioned The Kite Runner as they lined up at Pakistani or Indian food concessions or to buy a Pakistani kite for $5.

"It opened up a whole new world for me," said Pat Cahill of Sun City West as she stood holding her newly purchased kite. "I'm here to find out more about this sort of thing."

Cahill, who attended the festival with her husband, Frank, said she was about to review The Kite Runner for her book club and planned to show the members an actual kite used in those competitions.

"In the United States, people who fly kites usually compete to see which is prettiest or who can fly the highest," she said.

Twenty-two-year-old Bilal Chaudhry said the kite-flying event helps him connect with the land of his parents, who emigrated from Pakistan when he was 2.

"Picture hundreds of those kites in the air," Chaudhry said, relating tales told by his father.

Chaudhry, a student at Arizona State University, said that when he traveled to Pakistan with his family to visit relatives, he spotted evidence of kite battles all over town.

"You see all these kites hanging from telephone wires," he said.

The cultures of Pakistan and neighboring India have many similarities, Kaif said, despite Pakistan being mostly Muslim and India, Hindu, which has created tension and mistrust. But there were no such negative feelings at the festival, which was attended by many members of the Valley's Indian community, aside from some friendly kite-flying competition.

One family of Indian descent was busily making small kites and launching them against the Pakistanis. The grandmother, Sharda Patel, sat on a blanket and quickly added strings to each of the diamond-shaped fliers, which measured only about 12 inches across.

"These fly better than the big ones," said Shilpa Patel, 26, adding that her older relatives are all adept at kite building and flying. "Everybody is an expert maker of kites."

Asked whether her family was competing with the Pakistanis, Shilpa Patel shrugged and said, "Oh, we don't care."

But there was a twinkle in her eye as she watched her family's kites soaring high above the others.

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