Welcoming the Season of Gaiety
"Now is the winter of
our discontent”, said Richard, the duke of Gloucester later
to become King Richard the third, in his opening line of
the Shakespeare's play of the same name. For Richard, that
particular winter was of discontent compounded by the misery
usually brought by the winters in the Northern Hemisphere.
For us, it is so delightfully different. We await the advent
of autumn ushering in Hemanta (alas! they do not have
a season like this) and finally taking us to the season
of abundance winter. Most of our festivals also happen at
this time of the year. This year, like the last few, Eid
will fall at the advent of winter. This, I am sure, is going
to add greater flourish to this great festival. People can
wear better, eat better, be outdoors without being intimidated
by the rain or heat.
Eid always used to be a favourite festival of ours. Especially
when we were children. My mother used to wait for the moon
sighting night, or the chand raat as it used to
be called, to give a final touch to her Eid shopping. She
used to hop into our jalopy and rush to Patuatuli to pick
up the bottle of rose water or the silk ribbon, attar
et al. We never succeeded in talking her out of this
last minute ritual. However illogical it may have seemed
to us, this last minute chore had a special place in our
mother's heart. Thinking in retrospect, I guess she could
do with this bit of excitement in an otherwise lacklustre
life of a Bangali mother. I remember my younger sister and
I used to walk on the bed wearing our new shoes. We did
not want to get them soiled or tried to prolong their newness
as far as it was practicable.
Visiting friends and relatives in our para
and beyond used to be really exciting. The usual Eid fare
was always there, add to it the company of children belonging
to our age group. Buckland bund by the river Buriganga was
a favourite joint. Children in the hundreds loaded with
their eidie used to land on the bund, usually in
the afternoon, dressed in their finery specially given as
Eid gifts by their parents. Occasionally, we would hire
those horse drawn carriages and travel down the Buckland
Bund to Farashganj on one side and Badamtoli on the other.
On the Eid day we were allowed to treat ourselves with any
food that we had always fancied but never got around to
buy. Kot-koti for instance, or Murali, Hajmi
gooli or Hawai mithai.
Two other festivals that come to mind are
Durga Puja and Christmas.
Both these festivals are sweetly timed from
the point of view of seasonality. Puja comes with the advent
of Autumn when the sky begins to become dark blue, fluffy
white clouds sail across the sky in gay abandon, due drops
greet our bare feet as we embark upon the green grass and,
of course, the Shephali flowers exude its all pervasive
fragrance. Durga Puja was and still is a big event for us.
In the old part of Dhaka where we grew up, a number of Puja
pandals used to be erected and the sound of the drum could
be heard throughout the day. Dhaker baddi or the
sound of drum ushered in the festival of Durga Puja and
the season of autumn. There is no denying the fact that
a kind of exhilaration accompanies the sound of the drum.
There are a number of outstanding poems narrating the magic
of this Dhaker Baddi.
Christmas, on the other hand, comes in winter
after the oppressive heat is over and, because of it being
a global festival, impacts our urban society significantly.
The manner of celebration of these time-tested
festivals has undergone a wanton metamorphosis over the
period of time. What used to be festivals for the sake of
sheer enjoyment shared with friends, relatives and all those
that we knew is fast becoming a show of vulgar ostentation.
In this we are not even bothered to heed the sensitivity
of the people we live with. A bull to be slaughtered could
cost as much as the seller wanted as long as it surpassed
the price my neighbour paid. A saree should be
more expensive than the people I know should be able to
afford. My attar has been flown in from Iran. And
these must not go unnoticed. There was a time when such
values as decency and modesty used to come naturally to
people. Today, being modest is the sign of being a failure
When eternal values are decimated to merrily
accommodate roguish insolence and the society watches it
with helplessness, it is as Richard the Third, someone not
very far from or unknown to us would say, “I am determined
to prove a villain and hate the idle pleasures of these
days, plots have I laid, inductions dangerous by drunken
prophecies, libels and dreams…”. Or like Lady Macbeth had
wailed “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this
There was a good reason for me to turn to
Shakespeare in the beginning of this column.