Published:  01:13 AM, 14 April 2018

Pahela Baishakh: Celebration or Consumerism?

Pahela Baishakh: Celebration or Consumerism?

It has been less than a month the whole nation celebrated the forty-fifth Independence Day of Bangladesh. Now the Pohela Boishakh, the first day of Bangla New Year, has come - another occasion for celebration. But there is a gulf of difference between the two occasions where the former is related to national glory, sacrifice and history, and the latter is to tradition and culture but both are important in their respective ways.

However, nowadays it has become customary to celebrate anything on earth whether it is a win in a cricket match, a friendship day or a day of national significance - there is always celebration. Is it because the people of this country love to celebrate or because they are beguiled into celebrating? Why do they celebrate the way some people want them to? Is there any politics of celebration? Then what is it?

This writing, partly because of my limitation of knowledge which is required to deal with such a complicated and intriguing issue but mostly because of the space constraint, cannot convincingly explore to that politics; therefore it will come up with more questions than answers, which is clearly indicated in its title. And I would like to add that it would be more appropriate to write this article in Bangla, but, as I am writing for an English daily, I do not see any other choice. Moreover, I would request my wise readers not to snub this writing away smelling another politics in it, for you do not always need to be a revolutionary to talk about the social inequalities, exploitation and oppression. Sometimes you can do it by using your rare commonsense and fossilized conscience. 

However, much has been said already but I am yet to come to the main point, ie the Pohela Boishakh. I would like to come to this point a bit later after drawing your attention to another relevant issue. Recently we have witnessed the trend of celebrating various national days being sponsored by some of the leading corporate houses of the country. For example, singing of the National Anthem together gathering a large crowd in an open field or forming the National Flag in the same way. And very lately, in the celebration of the latest Independence Day, we have seen the so called march towards light organized by another company with much fanfare.

The way these corporate houses are intervening and shaping our national consciousness is a matter of great concern if it is not already a horribly ominous sign of an insidious future (or present). We have observed, in that programme, the luminous presence of some of the important members of the government and of the country (though it was not an official programme of the government), particularly of a minister whose ministry is in charge of that company who organized the celebration. Hence, will it be very cynical of me to suspect that this company will not try to gain any undue favour from the government or they have already got any? Who knows what darkness is lurking behind that march towards light? The rhetoric they use to influence people is really deceptive, powerful as well.   

Now, if we focus on the recent celebrations of the Pohela Boishakh, a more or less similar picture of cunningness will come to our mind - various programmes sponsored and propagated by different ravenous organizations very cleverly manoeuvred to their own gain. Celebrating the Pohela Boishakh has become so pervasive that perhaps this is the first time in the history of Bangladesh that the Govt. employees are getting a festival bonus on this occasion. And we know that, unfortunately, all the people of this country are neither Govt. employees nor are they the high-salaried bankers, executives or other professionals.

They are, particularly in the urban areas where the celebration has become epidemic, mostly the working people or the low-earning eyesores who cannot match the colourful festivity of the Pohela Boishakh although the celebration is originally linked with the rural areas. Nonetheless, the massive celebration of the Pohela Boishakh indicates how much this celebration is related to the economy. It reminds me of a business report of a Bangladeshi news channel aired two or three years back after a one Eid festival - "Utshober Orthoniti" ("The Economy of Festival"). The reporter presented a wonderful statistics focusing the relation between the Eid festival and economy, which was really illuminating for a layman like me.

I think such statistics can also be found related to the economy of the Pohela Boishakh. Perhaps this is really something "good" for the overall national economy of the country on which an expert's comment would be more illustrating. My point is how the general people are being baited with festivals for raising profits for a handful of people.  Yes, I am aware that this is the economic system by which the state runs.

 And it would sound cliché to you to propose a different economic system - which also would go beyond the scope of this writing. Then what is the solution? Or is there any problem at all? Should people not celebrate? What would happen if there is no celebration? No, I do not dare to propose restricting celebrations. My commonsensical proposition is against the consumerism in the guise of celebrations because, at the end of the day, the main spirit of the day dissipates by the overpowering presence of the promotions of various products. We should not let our national days or cultural events be contaminated with false ideologies.

Let the people join the Mongol Shovajatra (Peace Rally) spontaneously to celebrate the first day of Bangla New Year being fully aware of the true meaning and significance of the day. Let not the spirit of such days be defined and manipulated by a few. Let the celebration of the Pohela Boishakh be open for all classes of people freeing it from the consumerism of a particular class. I wish a meaningful new year for all - Shuvo noboborsho!                 

The writer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Daffodil International University.Email:

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