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Pohela Boishak In Our Own Way!

By Rashaam

Back in class six, we woke up early in the morning, and were so excited, that each of us woke up every single person in the house with cries of "Shubho noboborsho!" Our mothers were forced to help us wear the sari ('help' being an understatement).
Our school organized a mela, appropriately known as the Boishakhi mela. Everything was planned, there would be a 'mukto moncho'-where anyone could perform all throughout the day. We would dance, recite poems, perform a play that we the students had written; juniors and seniors together! Even though it was supposed to start at ten, the school-ground was full by nine-thirty! We were all 'sheccha sheboks', which meant that we would take turns in assigned stalls, at that time we considered this to be a major honour, after all we were handling money (even though they were coupons).

All the boys wore pure white panjabis, and the girls, the white saris with red borders. The feeling of being in these outfits on such an occasion was half the thrill. Then came the super-charged onstage performances and people from all over the mela came and sang along. The performances ended all too soon, but then another type of enjoyment kicked in. We realized that there were so many stalls with such a variety of food! So, we ate and ate. Kacha aam bhorta, pithas, jhaal murri, moyas, panta bhaat, bhuna khichuri, tengra maach bhorta, shutki bhorta, the list just goes on. Another hit item on the menu was a product of 'globalization'- the brownie. In the sweltering heat our thirst was quenched with lassi and fresh fruit juices! By the end of the day, we were sun-burnt and tired, but we went home happy with our faces painted, mehendi on our hands, and alta on our feet. We weren't empty handed either! We had bought loads of Bangladeshi traditional crafts!

Years have passed and we still look forward to Pohela Boishakh with equal amounts of hope and excitement. We run around hawkers and other markets, trying to find the best taat or block print cotton saris. And even though fotuas have made a strong entrance in the fashion world, for the guys, pure white panjabis are still the 'in' thing. Then plans about where to go on the big day are made well in advance. And then, finally the day comes, and even though it's just before the most important exams of our lives, we are out, enjoying ourselves.

So when people accuse us, the people of the younger generation, to be out of touch with the culture of the Boishakhi utshob, it really hurts. Yes may be we do not go to places like the traditional Ramna botomul (it might be because our culture cum tradition torch- bearers, the politicians cannot assure any kind of security). But we are finding a way to express ourselves in Boishakh. We go to fabulous melas organized by various schools, enjoy sweets distributed by different stores and business houses while opening the new books of 'haalkhata'.

Of course we enjoy a couple of shows: whether it's in the middle of a road, or in parks. This day, everyone indulges in the consumption of traditional food! No Helvetia or A&W! Dhanmondi Lake and various places in Gulshan attract hordes of youngsters. And at the end of the day, a growing number of us youngsters, have started organizing rooftop get-togethers! Now these are loads of fun. In the evenings a bunch of friends, cousins, (and sometimes, people we barely know) show up. Most of the time, it's a potluck party, and bhortas are found in abundance. And then we sing songs! Songs ranging from the whole spectrum of the Bangladeshi music culture! We kick off with the popular Boishakh songs, (which many people know how to play on the harmonium), try our luck with a bit of Rabindro Shongeet, and then move on to baul geetis! The baul geetis get everyone on the mood, someone plays the dhol, and the guitar and tambourine are fused with our traditional instruments. So our day ends, with unforgettable memories, and with a sense of culture, and a renewed sense of friendship, and with hope: Bangladesh will be fine!

I always feel that the older generation unnecessarily worries about our Bengali identity! So the next time, someone accuses us of not having a sense of culture, tell them that deep down we are Bengalis, may be in a different way! And we do enjoy and love the Boishakhi extravaganza!



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