Aasha Mehreen Amin
At the time of writing this, it is the eve of Nabarsha and everyone seems to have a plan regarding where they will go. My plan had been to just laze around at home enjoying a holiday instead of rushing around looking for pieces of clothing (school duty) and braving through the infuriatingly sluggish traffic, to work. But it is hard not to get a little influenced by all the enthusiasm associated with the first day of summer. It is, after all, a day of pure celebration. But what exactly are we celebrating?
The first day of the New Year is always a good excuse to start on a clean slate. Salespeople and traders will bring out brand new ledgers and hope for a more prosperous year. Children all over the country will try to get hold of a new outfit to go to the mela where candied snacks will please their palates and creaky nagordola rides will make them squeal with joy. Schools will have already arranged mini-melas in their premises before the holiday when children will create a collage of vivid hues in the playground. Couples and families in crisp, new clothes will come out to listen to the soirees at Botomul and watch the colourful processions from Charukala or just roam around the streets taking in the extravaganza of colours and flavours.
All of a sudden our concrete jungle will be painted in primary colours and here is the clue behind what we are celebrating. It is the cycle of nature, specifically the beginning of the first season of the Bengali year that creates this need to be festive. Unfortunately for city dwellers, the glory of this transition is lost in the barren streets where countless trees have been felled, replaced by ugly, cement structures and from where birds and other animals have fled desperately looking for new habitats. The few places where there is any greenery have automatically become the venues of all fairs for how can we feel the Boishakhi spirit without greenery surrounding us?
Outside Dhaka thankfully, there is still enough greenness to make one stop in their tracks in amazement. There are still sounds of songs being sung by countless birds not drowned out by honking and endless drones of generators. It is still possible to inhale the intoxicating fragrance of new blossoms and wet grass after a sudden shower and listen to the soothing trickling of surviving streams. For the village people this is all very mundane, hence the hankering after plastic urbanisation; fairs are a welcome but an ordinary affair. For the urbanites such privileges are priceless gems to be held in memory after rare sojourns to the countryside. The grass is always greener on the other side, except for the fact that on the urbanite's side it literally isn't.
The beginning of the Bengali New Year is a celebration of nature. It is also a reminder of the rich treasures we have been blessed with that need to be preserved and nurtured. Nature has been remarkably generous to the human species, beings that have given little in return to show their gratitude. The first month of the year is a good time to make a pledge to ourselves to take care of these precious gifts of nature that are so essential for our own survival. Shubho Naboborsho!
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