Festivals in Bangladesh and the Campus Generation
If you started your university education in Bangladesh prior to 1991- the year Bangladesh entered Parliamentary democracy- you will probably agree that university life was more carefree and much more laidback than it is today. Students then and before were not exposed to the competition university students in Bangladesh are exposed to today.
Young people are much more innovative in voicing out and getting heard in the 21st century Photo: Star
Life really was simple. Eid greetings would seldom be given by phone calls. Land phones were a rarity. SMS was unheard of. Eid greetings would mean 'proper' Eid cards from Azad Products and Ideal Products or the 12 pack UNICEF Cards. Private courier service was available but was not popular. The Dak Peon would come to the house in his Khaki dress reminding one of the colonial times. The joy of opening an envelope or a parcel that had a festival card or a festival present could not be expressed in words. The smile would say it all. Some envelopes would be infused with perfume or presented with flower petals that left marks of the beloved. If one happened to be on the sad side with no cards and presents, one could always request Bangladesh Betar to broadcast Please Mr. Postman through which The Beatles and The Carpenters immortalised across generations or Feedback's Chithi that concludes if there's no letter from the beloved then surely the Dak Peon is sick. People would live in hope. Today SMS and e-greetings have replaced the romanticism of envelopes and parcels.
Entertainment was largely confined to addas at friends' houses. Watching videos on spool videotape rented from a shop would be one of the treats of the day. Addas outside the house meant a gathering at a corner shop. Rickshaw rides on the barren roads would be one of the afternoon treats. Electronic entertainment was equal to Bangladesh TV and Bangladesh Betar. No choice meant waiting eagerly for that elusive Eid drama or that Eid special Ananda Mela.
Today everybody is spoiled by too many choices. At the press of a button the whole world is at your fingertips. Distance is no longer a barrier. That small red Dr Who Telephone Booth now has infinite space- gigabytes after gigabytes to roam around and stock data in some cloud nine. One easily loses count of how many programmes one can watch. Life truly was simple before 1991.
SMS and e-greetings have replaced the romanticism of envelops and parcels. Photo: Star
Today's youth may be spoiled by the availability of choices. They may be enjoying life more to the brink than their predecessors. They may be expressing their feelings differently, but some things do not change in Bengal. This is something this region has been proud of for millennia- religious tolerance and harmony.
In Bangladesh religious festivals in all their festivity spill over from one community to all communities. Be it the Eid-ul-Fitr that marks the end of the fasting month, Ramadan or Janmashtami that marks the birth anniversary of Lord Sri Krishna- the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu- Bangladeshis celebrate festivals together. Outside religious festivals there are the non-religious festivals that are based on either historical experience or the Bangla calendar. In Bangladesh there are more parbans than there are months in the calendar. And everybody celebrates together. The religious and cultural harmony is one wealth the young generation of Bangladesh needs to export to the world. Bangladesh has many positive dimensions to reveal. Very few nations celebrate their diversity in unison, as does Bangladesh.
If life was simple prior to 1991- it certainly did not have the colours as it does in 2011. Back then there was no significant platform for the young to voice their opinions and views as there is today. Star Campus of The Daily Star launched five years ago to fill this void. The weekly has slowly become the voice of the young in Bangladesh- developing a unique style and flavour while documenting the transformation of a generation that is much more clever and more innovative than any generation prior to 1991. Opportunities and competition can only make them better. The fortnight Post Campus is a humble contribution from somebody prior to 1991 in sharing his experiences of failures and successes in life with the generation that will guide Bangladesh in the 21st Century.
Shubho Janmashtami- may the magic of Lord Krishna's flute enchant and the wisdom of Sri Bhagavad Gita enlighten. Happy Five Years to Star Campus - may the magazine remain a beacon of light for the young and the brave hearts. And, Eid Mubarak to all. The Campus Generation - Bangladesh belongs to you. It is a gift kissed with lots of love and hope. Take Bangladesh forward. Festival Greetings!
(The author teaches economic theory at Jahangirnagar University and North South University.)