Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 40, Tuesday, April 12, 2005





A small girl was walking animatedly, with her hands tucked firmly inside her father's and shouting with glee at the sight of almost everything. It was an early April morning, the sun barely peeked over the eastern horizon but the little girl already felt its rays burning down her neckline. But that was not going to stop them.

The walk from Ramna, passing through the university and joining the merry makers on the street, and her first Boishakhi mela on the grounds of Bangla Academy was not like anything she had experienced. This was her first time, the colours, the sounds; the smells were all too intoxicating for her.

The thrills and pleasures for this tot was plenty, riding the nagordola over and over again till her head became giddy, picking on that fluorescent pink cotton candy, was a treat of a lifetime. The joy multiplied by the seconds for her as she discovered new delights at every step on the fair ground. The terracotta pots and pans, those lovely painted replicas of fruits and vegetables, those sugar treats in white and saffron yellow, that first taste of street food, the aam bhorta and that tinkling sound of her glass bangles-red yellow, blue, green. The father obviously indulging his daughter to her heart's fills. The experience was forever etched in her memory and till today come Boishakh, her heart wells up with anticipation of joy and sheer ecstasy.

Well that was my first mela experience and for that single moment in my youth, I could live over and over again.

Many things have changed since that day. For one thing, I grew up. I learnt to be critical of simple pleasures of life, became scared of bombs and of traffic jams, and above all my father is no longer there to share this day with me anymore. The meaning of fun changed-forever.

Then the flavour of the mela itself changed, the mood and the ambience, it all became pathetically commercialized, organized to some extent. Then again many a times the mela didn't take place at all, and the venue changed. The media attention to the Fine Arts colourful rally, the eternal Ramna Botomul gathering that welcomes the New Year, actually overshadowed the Boishakhi mela to great extent.

But somehow I have always related melas with Boishakh and so has my daughter; the only difference is that she looks forward to the one her school arranges every year while I wait for the one on the street.

I can see the same craving for fun, the same anticipation in her when she dresses in red and white shalwar kameez or sari and stuffs her tiny purse with token money and walks right into the school premise hand in hand with a friend. The same elated, happy face after riding the nagordola, the same dizzy feeling, the same glass bangles, the same toys; she is also a true Bangali learning to appreciate her culture. No matter what medium she is studying in or what computer games or cartoons or books are her favourites, she is aware of her roots, her motherland and I am proud because of that.

I don't want her young impressionable mind to be muddled up with thoughts like this is not part of my culture or there is no difference between religion and culture'. I believe culture is the calling of the soil; it is describing your land, your colour, your mind to others, while your religion is your faith, your conviction. Just for the sake of it, think whether a Christian Bangladeshi is the same as that of an American, doesn't he use his fingers when he sits to enjoy his rice and fish curry, or does he use forks? A Muslim of Bangladesh is not doing what Muslims of Malaysia or Turkey are doing; we wear saris to work while they wear suits. Our faith is the same not our culture.

In every country they have their own way of celebrating their new year, of celebrating their carnivals and festivals. Pohela Boishakh with all its vivacity and flavour has been part of our history for hundreds of years. Interestingly it was the time of Muslim Mughal king Akbar when celebration of the Bangla New Year began. And this celebration had nothing to do with religion but with new rice plantation.

To my knowledge, on April 14 or 15, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Cambodia and some other rice-cultivating nations also celebrate the New Year.

I will not disown this merrymaking and celebration for no good reason at all. I will offer my Fajr prayers and hit the bandwagon for I remain equally animated this Boishakh as I was way back in time and so is my daughter, we know our faith and our culture and we are true to both.

By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Star Archive


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