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The Boishakhi procession of charukola: how it all started

We celebrated Pohela Boishakh last week. As anyone living in Dhaka will know, one of the highlights of the Bengali New Year programmes is the Charukola procession, vibrant in all its colours and flavours. We at the RS managed to catch up with some of the people involved in making the magic happen, and now, join us as we take you behind the scenes.

Who were behind this wonderful idea?
The sophomores. In 1989 and in the Bengali year 1397 the sophomores of Charukola (Salek, Sakhawat, Mithu and others) started this tradition of Boishakhi procession.

What was the inspiration?
They were inspired by the Zainul Utshob (when Charukola students used to celebrate Zainul Abedin's birthday on 29th December). Then, in the year 1988 some sophomores of Charukola comprising of a circle of eight to nine like-minded friends wanted to surprise others by doing something staggering. They formulated the idea of a colourful procession. They made big pencils, brushes, palettes, horses and many other things to adorn the procession. It was a success! Everybody liked their idea and the sophomores got so excited they wanted to continue this for Boishakh. They were determined to carry on with this despite the fact that they were the most junior students.

What obstacles did they face?
The budget was the greatest obstacle in their way (being a student of economics I am too aware of this!). They faced an acute shortage of funds, but if you think that stopped them, then you are wrong. In fact, it strengthened their resolve even more. Instead of buying materials, they started to make things on their own. They made the ropes out of bamboo (which they were not supposed to do), collected papers to make the finishing moulds and …yes their loving mothers were there to feed the budding artists!

Was it the sole endeavour of students?
In the beginning the students pretty much did all the work. Unfortunately, after the first rally the teachers discouraged them but later the enthusiasm caught up with the teachers.

What made the teachers change their minds?
The success of the first event. The huge success and the acclamation of people (including the then VC of DU) after the first rally made the teachers change their minds. It was very dramatic that when the director of Charukola was getting ready to reprimand the students regarding the procession, the VC called the director to congratulate the students!

How was the budget problem solved?
The following year they took some steps to solve their financial problem. They started selling the big items that were used to adorn the procession to art-enthusiasts and companies eager to decorate their office premises. In the years that followed, they started to make small items, mainly clay pots and dolls in the purpose of selling to ward off the money problem.

What is the route of the procession?
During the first rally the procession had a much bigger route. First time they got round Press Club, Mogbazar, Shantinagar, Kakrail, Purana Polton and Baily Road. In the years that followed they stuck to a smaller route. The main reason was that that once the procession was out of Charukola, people from outside mingled with the procession and they hardly had any control over it. Once they tried Shahbag but they had to abandon it for its hideous traffic.

Cchayanot complained!
This happened because the public response for the procession was excellent. Once they were passing the botomul and the people who were attending the Cchayanot programme got attracted by the colourful procession. So they left the botomul and joined the procession. It was really mortifying for chayanot. The next year they requested to start the procession after their programme is over. And this way Charukola and Cchayanot the two most dazzling ingredient of our Boishakhi culture got their programmes well synchronised.

Does Charukola have other cultural programmes?
Yes. After the first year of the procession they started cultural programmes on Choitro shonkranti. Not only that, their programmes do continue after the first of Boishakh. In the afternoon they arrange baul shondha. In this programme they shun professional artists and put emphasis on the folk songs of our country. They invite bauls to perform free on stage. They are given token money. On the second of Boishakh Charukola students perform jatra which is an amateur show. On the third of Boishakh they arrange a professional jatrapala.

There you have it, folks, the low-down on the procession that makes every Pohela Boishakh worth remembering. Bet you can't wait for the next one!

Special thanks to Aminur Rashid, Anupom Huda and Shaheed Ahmed Mithu

By Durdana Ghias



My first talk with her was over the phone
The next hour we met!
My first time with her was very special,
Because she gave me hug before I left.
The second time I saw her, she took me straight to her place
As I kept staring at her face, I figured the beauty of her face.
My second time with her was also very special…
Because that's when we kissed!
Then I said something, which made her very pissed.
After a while she calmed down, she asked me out,
I said yes, and thought I was falling in love.
From time to time, I only heard her voice through the phone
Before I could take no longer, I fought to see her at home!
That afternoon, I stormed out of the house…
As our meeting was scheduled for a date,
She and I shared lunch from the same plate.
The next morning she called,
I already knew my fate.
She told me she was confused…
Love: from that onwards, I knew my what I hate!
The last time I met her, was a few days back.
The next person I saw was her handsome (???) boy Jack.
Although I was taken by a deep emotional surge,
But I know that I still love her.
By King Of Hearts

National new year in the international world

Far far away from their home sweet home, many Bengalis will tell you about the overwhelming feelings they get when they meet another "rare" similar kind on the streets. It may be true to say that only special occasions can truly unite all these Bengalis living abroad, and nothing is more distinctive, traditional and entertaining than celebrating Pohela Boishakh.

In countries where there aren't very many Bengalis, the Embassy of Bangladesh organizes a function to get all the people together. In places where the number of Bengalis is quite large, the festival is arranged by others and takes place inside a hall or a hotel.

Most of the time this arrangement is known as the "one dish" party where each family is to bring in customary home cooked dishes such as aloo bhorta/bhaji, panta bhaat and all kinds of vegetable dishes cooked in the most mouth-watering, eye popping, spicy kind of ways possible. The credit however goes to whoever can bring in the exquisite hilsha dish (most probably the biggest and most expensive ones found). This dish, you will find, goes empty within minutes of arrival. So, if you don't participate in the marathon for one of the "hilsha cups", you will loose your chance to taste the miracle of the year and you may also feel miserable on not being able to gossip about it later on!

Among the crowd there is always that group of people (mostly teens) who complain about the party. They tell tales about how they could be having fun hanging out elsewhere or how the food here "sucks" and the extra influenced ones will blabber in the most deformed Bangla and English (!) ever. However, they will never leave the party on an empty stomach because even those who hate vegetables will dig in!

Now, before actually diving into the dinning hall, everyone is seated to be entertained by traditional singers and dancers. Their performances always bring a tear to the eyes of the elder folks. There are also a few skits and mimes displayed in the form of comedy about the daily lives of the village people. The function of course has the presence of the honourable ambassador of both countries and many other distinguished guests take part in giving out speeches about our nation. While all this takes place, many enthusiastic Bengalis take photographs of the performers (probably the only thing that shows the real Bengali culture abroad).

When the occasion is over some people invite others for dinner and so. It is time for goodbyes for most people and they return back to their normal lives, and some even back to their "non-Bengali" lifestyles. Events like these can make them feel like they're at home again for a little while, where one is able to speak Bangla, crack Bangla jokes and definitely start up a hot argument on this country's politics! Away from relatives, these other Bengalis met on the streets become a part of your family and you only wait for another occasion or another Pohela Boishakh to meet again.

By Shayera Moula


Sar·casm. n. 1. A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.' Sharp words from the American Heritage Dictionary. Sarcasm can, at times offer a whole new meaning to the phrase 'piss-off'' and at others, have you rolling on the floor laughing (like in the case of Chandler's quirky ones[Friends] or that Iraqi minister with his 'the infidels will never reach Baghdad' speeches). Sarcasm is an incredibly powerful instrument indeed. It has the ability to charm, it can positively help out in those oh-so-awkward situations and it works great when it comes to self defense (or offence for that matter). And most people who are believed to be gregarious/outgoing or popular know how to utilize it.

There are basically two styles of sarcasm. First and foremost, there is the harmless sarcasm. This is applicable when it is not used to satirize others, but to make fun of, say the situation one might be in, or perhaps to get out of an awkward situation. Sometimes it is used merely to lighten things up a bit. For instance, a couple of days ago my car was at the garage, so my sister and I were taking a stroll when all of a sudden it started raining heavily.

My sister was quick to comment, 'See, if all days were like this, we wouldn't even need a car!' Harmless sarcasm too can get someone irked when it is inapt for the time or circumstances. For example, in one of the episodes of friends, Ross and his friends were at the hospital as his wife was about to have a baby. However, his wife was still in a cab trapped in a traffic jam. When Ross told everyone about this, Rachel remarked, 'Well, how bad could it be. I mean the cab driver will probably take a couple of bucks for the first contraction and then 50 cent for each that follows!'(not her exact words)

And then comes the sort of sarcasm that is intended to mock or ridicule someone. It can be employed as an offensive manoeuvre, like when that geeky kid in your class comes up to you and asks if he/she can come to your party that weekend, and you say, 'oh even Eminem's going to want to come if you come to the party! Sorry, you're just not pathetic enough!' Or when at the Oscars this year, some guy (don't remember who it was) observed, 'the world is so dissimilar from what it was 20 year ago. Bush was the president, the economy was on a downslide, and we had just come out of a war with Iraq' Bush being the mark sounds like a true Bangladeshi, doesn't it?

The defensive comes into play when someone has said something awful regarding you, etc., and its your turn to strike back. Like when a friend says that you're looking 'dreadful in that shirt you have on', and you say, 'yea, and you're looking so much better in those off-the-footpath Ts. Andre must be a one of your greatest idols when it comes to clothing!' Or when somebody says that they thoroughly ripped you off with those curtains and you hit back 'yea, you're right! SHOULD have bought one of those second hand curtains that YOU got for how much again? Ten bucks?'

Hey, I'm not implying that you should pass a bill to make sarcasm illegal (punishable by death by Chinese torture!) or issue licenses for the use of sarcasm or something because that would make life particularly dreary to live (leading to more suicides and fewer people!). Bottom line (literarily and otherwise) is that sarcasm is a very, very powerful tool in the right hands, and a very dangerous weapon in the wrong ones. So use it wisely or you just might end up paying for it later (BIG TIME!).

By Rezwan





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