Vol. 5 Num 963 Wed. February 14, 2007  

Bashonto Utshab vs Valentine's Day

There is an air of gaiety and optimism as the first spring breeze sets in after the gloomy winter nights. Welcoming the first day of Bashonto (spring) has been a part of our culture for centuries. On the other hand globalisation has bought Valentine's Day to our doorstep. Here is what some of the leading artistes of our country have to say about the two occasions:

Jaya (TV actress): Since childhood, Jaya has seen Pahela Falgun (first day of spring) being celebrated amidst colour and joy. "It is a part of our culture. On the other hand I like the concept of Valentine's Day as well. A special day for love is nice. Amidst our busy life it's just a day to stop, look back and give a little extra time to the ones you love. But I feel closer to Pahela Falgun," she says. If Jaya can manage time she will definitely be dressed in traditional colours and jewellery to welcome spring. "Under our event management company Faisal is organising a party at the Radisson for Valentine's Day, which I hope to attend," she says.

Richi (TV actress): As it was Richi's father's death anniversary, along with her family she went to their hometown -- so no celebrations on Pahela Falgun. "I enjoy Valentine's Day. I know love is not just for a day, it is for everyday. However, it is not everyday that you buy and receive gifts. So it's nice to have a special day," she asserts. Richi's Valentine is in New York and they plan to get married very soon.

Purnima (Film actress): Both Bashonto Utshab and Valentine's Day are just like any other day for Purnima. In her words, "I will be working on both days. And, believe it or not, I have never celebrated either occasion. I mean I love both the concepts as they both bring joy and happiness and there is a festive air, I enjoy seeing everyone dressed up, but it's just something I have never celebrated."

Aupee (Actress, dancer, talk show host): Aupee's schedule for both the days is similar. She goes to Santa-Mariam University of Creative Technology to teach and after the classes are over, she immerses herself in shooting. To quote her: "Depending on when I wake up and whether I am in a good or bad mood, I will decide whether I will wear a saree. I love both the occasions. I see nothing wrong in either, rather it is a pleasant sight to see people all dressed up in high spirits and there's merriment all around. I know people criticise Valentine's Day by saying love is for 365 days and not just a one day show. Yes we do love someone everyday but maybe we don't get the time or opportunity to express that love everyday."

Shahed (TV actor): Shahed is familiar with Pahela Falgun celebrations since his childhood. "I'm sure the celebrations have been going on for centuries. It's in our roots. But I'm not sure when celebrating Valentine's Day began. I know it's a saint's name, but that's about it. If there has to be a day to celebrate one's love, for me it would be the first time I proposed to my wife," he says. Yesterday, he adds, he saw his yellow saree clad wife off to office. "She gave me a hug and went off. These are the small things that matter and that's how we end up celebrating, nothing flashy," he asserts. Shahed emphasises that we take ideas from the western world but it is hardly ever reciprocated.

Apurbo (TV actor, model): "For me Pahela Falgun is more important. It's something engrained in me and I absolutely love the occasion. Early morning I went for a spin just to see girls dressed in yellow sarees. They all looked so beautiful," points out Apurbo. This day comes just once a year and is celebrated in every corner of the country, he adds. On the other hand Valentine's Day is limited to a small number of people. "I also believe love is not just for a single day but you show it in different ways everyday."

Shanta Islam (Actress, director, writer, talk show host): "Why not celebrate every day like Bashonto Utshab and Valentine's Day instead of just once a year? "questions Shanta Islam. Asked to choose between the two occasions, she says, "As a Bengali I would opt for Bashonto Utshab which is closer to our culture." Nevertheless, she will celebrate both days with enthusiasm -- on Bashonto, she donned a red or yellow saree, flowers in her hair and to complete the picture, a red teep and glass bangles. Also she wore silver jewellery and alta on her feet. The season is also busy professionally for Shanta. For instance, Jugalbandi -- a talk show hosted by her -- will be aired today on Rtv. The show will feature newly married couple Tinni and Hillon, both popular actors.

Shampa Reza (Singer, actress): "For me Bashonto Utshab is more relevant than Valentine's Day. I celebrate the colour, flowers, sky of the spring with the practice of Basanta Mukhari (a raga)," says Shampa. She finds her spirit lift at the sight of flowers such as marigolds, bougainvillea and dahlias, among others. However, she regrets the destruction of greenery in and around the city. As for Valentine's Day, Shampa believes that too much hype surrounds the occasion. She regards it as a western import, which rides on the "commercial viability" of the South Asian market. But for those diehards of Valentine's Day, Shampa has a message: "I would like the younger generation to respect love in every sense. Both in our country and abroad people have lost the essence of true love."

Tamanna Rahman (Manipuri dancer): At the outset Tamanna points out that Bashonto Utsab is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Bengal. To mark this day, Nrityam, a dance school founded by her, participated in the daylong programme organised at Charukala Institute, Dhaka University. Tamanna is unequivocal about the irrelevance of Valentine's Day for her. As she asserts, "Like many others of my generation, I had no exposure to this day in my childhood and teens. Though today's generation celebrates the day in a big way, I somehow cannot relate it to our culture." So what did she do on Bashonto Utshab? Tamanna spent time with her Nrtiyam students and watched other dancers go through their paces.