All is quiet at the Foreigners Registration Office. No one more interesting than the odd sambar deer is expected to wander up and have its travel documents peered at for signs of suspicious behaviour.
In fact, sambar deer are not infrequent border-hoppers from India. The Punjab Wildlife Department recently caught its fifth sambar attempting to enter the country. It was packed off to the breeding centre at Jallo Park, just outside Lahore.
The director of the Punjab Wildlife Department has said there was a strict no-return policy on animals that had crossed the border. "With the exception of humans, anything which crosses the border becomes Pakistan’s property," he was quoted as saying.
A fine stag sambar was caught near Ganda Singh Headworks more than ten years ago, followed by a doe from Bajwat near Sialkot, seven years later. Sambar deer are nearly extinct in Pakistan, and are generally found in the Indian Punjab forests between the Ravi and Sutlej rivers.
This winter, heavy snows in Kashmir appear to have encouraged the sambar population to consider alternative board and lodging. More recently, a pair of sambar crossed over last August and proceeded to mark their territory quite clearly by giving birth at Jallo Park soon after.
Several enormous balls of legal string later, and following the Supreme Court’s ruling that had banned dangerous kite-flying, the Punjab government has decided to celebrate Basant on 25 February after all.
The provincial government recently promulgated an ordinance amending the earlier Punjab Prohibition of Dangerous Kite Flying Activities Ordinance, 2001. This gives Lahore’s string-tuggers a 15 day window in which to fly their kites and carouse for a good cause.
The amended law requires people whose premises or roofs are being used to seek prior approval from their Union Council mayor. There is a hefty fine and six-month jail sentence for people caught with their kites up. It is not quite as simple as all this, however.
Guddi-baazi, rather like wars on terror, is a villainous sort of sport—an underhanded affair involving distressing amounts of metallic wire, sharp bits of plastic, and murderous concoctions of powdered glass that are used to coat kite-string.
It is not quite cricket, so to speak, and winning really is everything. As a result, the game had moved well beyond a couple of nasty cuts, and was beginning to resemble scenes from the Bastille until the apex courts took suo moto action and firmly banned all kite-flying in 2005.
The Punjab government "banned" Basant itself last year, although making informal efforts to preserve the less bloody aspects of an otherwise vastly enjoyable season.
Theatre is inevitably upstaged, as it were, by television. Both drama and cinema in the Subcontinent have traditionally focused on performance over script, and in Pakistan, there are few playwrights who write specifically, much less exclusively, for stage performance.
Fortunately, the International Playwrights Forum is now attempting to bring together Pakistani and international dramatists and catalyse future partnerships through translations, publications, productions, and collaborative playwriting.
Indian actor-dramatist Girish Karnad, who was in Lahore recently, traces one of the subcontinent’s first dramatic performances to the Indus Valley.
He was speaking at a seminar organised by the University of the Punjab, and was accompanied by academic GP Deshpande and the Marathi playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar, none of whom need much introduction in theatre circles here.
Introduced by the redoubtable Professor Shaista Sirajuddin, head of the university’s English Department, the seminar included readings from, and performances and critiques of, Karnad’s work.