Bengali New Year

Shortly after our trip to Bandarbans, the entire country was preparing to celebrate Bengali New Year.

To mark the occasion, a national holiday is decreed which meant no work for us. Being the festive type of people that we are, we decided to join in the festivities, waking up early to get into the area surrounding Dhaka University where the main events were to be held. We met with a Bengali we’d come to know through an ex-intern of GTZ and he was of much help to us when it came to navigating the madness that we would soon enter.

Living in Dhaka, you get used to crowds. However, nothing compares to the sheer immensity of people that we encountered in the vicinity of the university. Everywhere you looked, there were throngs of people, going here, there and everywhere. Streets had been blocked off and street vendores were hawking their New Year’s themed wares, mostly consisting of fans and face-painting, which we indulged in ourselves.

As I said, crowds are nothing unusual here but these were different. It seemed that all Bangladeshis had just one day to look their absolute best and this was it. All the women were dressed in the most beautiful red and white, the celebratory colors, saris while the men wore elegant and colorful punjabis. This probably also owes to the fact that I live quite far away from the university but there seemed to be an undeniably youthful vigor about the entire affair. A constant air of positiveness and joy permeated the streets, with people shouting “Shubo Nubho Borsho”, Happy New Year, whenever they passed by us. The usual beggars lined the streets but their presence was drowned by the sheer immensity of the joyous crowds, music and dancing that seemed to come from everywhere.

Though there were clearly many other attractions, the appearance of the four of us in the midst still generated immense attention. We were constantly asked for photographs and while relenting at first to our unwilled stardom, eventually we grew exasperated and just wanted to walk along. One interesting event is that I was grabbed by a reporter and promptly interviewed for the English news of a Bengali TV station. The interview was fun if uncomfortable since I was immediately crushed by 40 people who came to see the bideshi (foreigner) try to articulate himself about the events of that day. Besides crowds, there were some trade fairs, showcasing Bengali crafts as well as musical offerings celebrating the passage of yet another year and the promise of the coming one.

At the end, decked out in all kinds of Bangladesh paraphenalia, we came away feeling blessed to have been able to experience this day of pure joy for this country. It truly felt that, if only for one day, the usual reservedness and oppressiveness that permeates society here so often was lifted and the young men and women could mix freely and without fear of appearing lewd.

As for myself, I am down to not even two weeks of work, in which I have to finish my trade analysis, a fact that has not been made easier by the absence of my boss during those two weeks. However, it is much less the work that I find daunting but rather the inevitability of saying goodbye to the many great people that I’ve been surrounded by.

On the bright side, after my internship is over, I will spend a week in Nepal. My Nepali flatmate is going with me so I’ll already have someone to show me around Kathmandu. Besides the capital, I hope to see Pokhara, a city that serves as the base for all outdoor activities in the Himalayas. Thus, these last few days here will be most bittersweet.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    I can’t wait to hear all of the stories! And of course, I’ll need to see a million pictures.
    -hope you’re ready for some climbing at the Gorge!

  2. 2

    Patty Wise said,

    I hope you have the opportunity for just one more blog and then maybe one from Nepal!

    Your stories have been very entertaining and informative but what strikes me is how you care for Bangladesh.

    I think you have an international career ahead of you and perhaps there will be more blogs in future years:)


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