Pakistani Student Association brings Basant to Austin

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Photo Credit: Pedro Luna | Daily Texan Staff

The weather is warming, the sun is shining and a new season is arriving in Texas. As bluebonnet blossoms begin to brighten up lawns, the Pakistani Student Association is preparing to take over Hogg Auditorium with their colorful costumes and joyful music to celebrate Basant.

“With all of the anti-Muslim rhetoric that is around, Pakistan has a stigma attached to it like, ‘Oh Pakistani, they are just like terrorists,’” said biology senior Shazma Khan, PSA president. “Putting on a show like this gives us a voice and shows people what we are actually about and (that) we are really fun people and have a lot of colors involved with our culture. It is very important, especially now.”

Basant, a traditional South Asian festival that has been celebrated for centuries to welcome the beginning of spring, has been celebrated at UT by the PSA for years. This year, the event will take place on April 7 at 7 p.m. and focus on the fusion of American and Pakistani cultures. 

“PSA is really old and for as long as I can remember they have been doing it,” Khan said. “It started out as a small kite-flying festival and graduated to being a big show. Now it is 500–700 people in Hogg auditorium. We have come a long way.”

Hamza Ghani, an electrical engineering junior and PSA member, said that unlike traditional celebrations of Basant, which is usually a kite festival, they decided to make UT’s Basant more of an after-show. 

“Over time we just realized that it was wasting people’s time and energy to hold these kites if nobody comes out,” Ghani said. “So we kept the name and have it at the same time as Basant happens. The show is more fun and engaging.”

This year, the spectacle will feature dancing, musical acts, skits, comedy and a fashion show. Khan said her favorite part about the event is simply seeing the hours of work they put into planning come together on the day of the show. Last year, the festival featured a skit about a Pakistani superhero who saved Pakistani people from their everyday problems, such as strict families.

“You have an image of what you want in your head and it literally comes to life,” Khan said. “Last year we stayed up every single day the week of until 3 a.m. fixing up the scripts and writing everything. It was bringing our own life to the stage and having a comedic aspect.”

Ghani said he first began attending in middle school, when his brother was a member of PSA, and was able to make connections through Basant that proved useful later in life. 

“My brother went here and he was a part of PSA so I have been coming since I was in middle school,” Ghani said. “My current roommate — I met him at Basant. We were both middle schoolers and he was just playing soccer and I was like, ‘Can I join you?’ Through him I met more people and he met my friends.” 

Farah Kamal, a developmental and family sciences junior and PSA publicity director, said she feels the value of the event is in the way that it brings different cultures together and helps them showcase the truth about their culture. 

“(It is important) spreading awareness about our culture and what we do because a lot of people don’t know,” Kamal said. “Just educating people about our culture and how it is so much fun, all the music, the dancing, all the different aspects that come together. That is why we do Basant.”