Adieu to 1423 and welcome to 1424! It's again Pahela Baishakh-- a day when Bangladeshis rediscover themselves and enrich their culture by adding new colors. Today, a new Bangla year has tiptoed in. A brand new year is unfolding. A new beginning is being forged from the shards of the past-- a new beginning of hopes and aspirations and also of uncertainties that come along. Today is the first blank page of a 365-page Halkhata (a diary). For us, it is the day to start writing in our new Halkhata and turn it into the best story we possibly can.
People in towns and villages will buy today their household articles from Baishakhi Mela. Today is the day for people to wear new clothes and go about socialising. Some people will start their new business or venture on this auspicious day.
Pahela Baishakh is the first day of the first month of the Bengali Calendar, a calendar that was invented by Abu'l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad, popularly known as Akbar, the Great Emperor of the Mughal Dynasty in India. This is the only calendar, different from its Georgian counterpart, which is consistent with the harvest cycle of Bangladesh.
Today, Dhaka people of all ages venture out at predawn, take their seats at the foot of the famous banyan tree at Ramna Park in a relaxed ambience and get themselves immersed in a serene musical soiree that invariably starts with the signature Tagore song:
Hello Baishakh! Come amidst us like a sage's breath
Let all the wastes accumulated over the yester year be stormed out
Let all the old memories and forgotten songs go free
Let tears of pain evaporate
Let all the agonies and distresses be swept away
Let the earth sunbathe and get hallowed
Let all the saps that entrance our minds dry out
Bring in your conch of holocaust
And let the magical net of illusion be crushed
We wake up to smell Pahela Baishakh by the fragrance of Beli Phool (Arabian Jasmine) and taste its morning by Panta Bhat (rice soaked in water overnight) with Ilish Bhaja (fried Hilsha fish), supplemented by Shutki (dried fish) and Achar (pickles). We enjoy the festivity wearing colourful costumes. We wait to hear the tone of Pahela Baishakh: the growling sound of a gusty wind of the afternoon storm called Kalbaishakhi (Nor'wester).
Kalbaishakhi, red in tooth and claw, is notorious. It strikes terror into the heart with claps of thunder and shafts of lightning. Still, after sweating all day long in niggling humidity, our hearts leap up as we enjoy the blast of cool breeze with the storm blowing furiously, making the trees sway vigorously. Who can forget the sight of children scrambling and foraging for raw green mangoes littering the ground beneath a mango tree after the storm is over?
Pahela Baishakh heralds the advent of summer. It's a day steeped in traditional festivities, a day for elaborate cultural programmes and carnivals, a day to celebrate with aplomb and zeal. It's a day when mouths water anticipating seasonal fruits, especially the luscious mangoes and jackfruits.
The most extraordinary sight of Pahela Baishakh is the ocean of men, women, and children in red and white, moving on foot, as if floating gravitation-free, composing a lovely tapestry of hues with loud and soft shades. Little girls and women wait for the day to wear their well-starched bright white saris with red borders. It's a day for finding culinary delights on roadsides. It's a day to open Halkhata for business, a well-bound ledger book of traditional red color where the shop owner pens in the first entry of the year of his earnings and expenses. On this day creditors and debtors are obliged to balance their books in conventional manners.
Beauties that must catch our eyes us on every Pahela Baishakh: fairs and streets crowded by people in their best dresses; toys, pots, vases and a plethora of articles made of clay on sale; jhalmuri, phuchka and pink cotton candy open for a child to savour and for an adult to to journey back to his or her childhood.
Time is unfathomable. Time moves forward. Men have taken liberty to break it down into hours, minutes and seconds in harmony with the sun that gifts us days and nights. Two small hands of a mechanical clock of time dictate us to do our jobs in structured timeframe as time ticks away. Time doesn't have time to wait. Time does not pause for our own sake, for our renewals the way the current of a river renews and reinvigorates the living beings on its banks. If we had paused time, life would have been barren, meaningless. So, let us brace up and make resolutions that we will not waste time, will not repeat the mistakes committed in the previous years. Let us celebrate Pahela Baishakh in style. Shuvo Nobo Borsho!