Chauburji February was always an exciting month for Lahoris in the days of yore. Winter was on its way out, flowers were beginning to bloom and Basant was just round the corner. This was a festival from the land of the 'five rivers that celebrated the onset of spring and had no religious connotations whatsoever. There were festivities with young and old, male and female, dressed up in at least one piece of 'yellow, the colour of the blooming mustard fields - and off curse there was kite flying. Those were the days when kites were graceful paper things put aloft using brightly coloured kite string coated with finely powdered glass known as dor. There were rules of combat and if one violated them, one was apt to find himself on the wrong end of not one, but a number of clenched fists. Kite flying duels consisted of manoeuvring your kite into an advantageous position and locking strings with the adversary. It was then a matter of who exploited the prevailing wind and deftly used the speed and tension of the steadily released dor to sever the same belonging to the other side. In all kite flying was an art that required the skill sets of a 'fighter pilot and master kite flyers were respectfully dubbed as khalifas. Then came a new breed of kite flyers, who threw rules out of the window and turned this art into an instrument of murder. In their lust for the 'kill, they replaced the glass coated string with wire. A wire that slit throats and electrocuted merry-makers and thus an innocent festival of joy became infamous. In our family, preparations for the festival usually began days in advance. For those members of the clan that had moved out of the old city, this offered an opportunity to re-establish contact with their roots - the sights, sounds and smells of old Lahore. Some male members of the family went into a huddle to decide the number and types of kites to be purchased, while others trotted off to order numerous balls of coloured dor. While the men were thus engaged, the females of the clan were not idle. The menu for the day was finalised to provide a continuous supply of food from dawn to dusk for a dozen plus ravenous 'combatants. Tom toms and dhols were taken out from stores and dusted and the singer of the family was told to polish his skills for some free entertainment. The old city houses generally had two roof level structures - the barsati and the higher mamti. One day I shall devote one of my columns to describe these unique features of the old city architecture. The women of the family would gather on the more private barsati terrace, while the kite flyers were doing their deeds on the wind swept mamti. Occasionally, one of the more adventurous of the ladies would put aloft a kite from the lower level amidst shouts of encouragement only to lose it within minutes. These were the days when night kite flying was unheard of and all activity was confined to daylight hours. Since our mamti was one of the highest in the vicinity, one could get a panoramic view of all the rooftops plus landmarks as far as away as the Lawrence Gardens in one direction and the River Ravi in the other. This was an unforgettable experience of savouring inner Lahores lifestyle and culture. Every roof top had bugles and drums of every type and the ensuing din mingled with shouts of bo kata washed over rooftops in successive waves of sound. While 'battles in the sky raged from rooftops, another form of 'conflict raged at ground level. Groups of people, mostly children, carrying a broom like contraption consisting of thorny branches tied at the top end of a bamboo pole could be seen on the streets with their eyes glued to the sky. These were the 'kite looters waiting to be the first to reach their prize as it fell from the sky. It was, however, interesting to note that almost nine times out of 10, by the time the looters cleared there was nothing left of the kite except a few strips of tattered paper on a broken cane frame. I miss the old Basant and desperately want the festival to be restored in its original form, but not at the cost of innocent lives. Perhaps, one day soon, someone will discover a solution to the issue and Lahoris will once again enjoy the excitement without fear of hurting anyone. The writer is a freelance columnist.