April 14 is the Pohela Boishak. The first day of Bengali New Year 1427. New dresses are designed to go with the day, women wearing flowers on their heads and sweets distributed — in one word, it is a festival of fun, laughter and colour. However, today we mark the day under the attack of an unseen enemy — COVID-19.
Eminent people however are not ready to give up the day’s fanfare, but enjoy the day inside their respective homes as per the directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who has appealed to welcome the New Year by staying home and not venture out to worsen the health situation.
Bangladesh’s internationally acclaimed singer Runa Laila said the situation world over is of epic proportions in trying to fight a battle with an unknown and unseen enemy.
“In this situation I cannot even think of celebrating Pahela Boishak,” she told newsnextbd.com.
She will spend the day as every day in praying to God to save humanity and to keep “us all safe and healthy”.
“Insha’Allah once we have won this battle we will not only celebrate Pahela Boishakh but will also celebrate our victory.”
The moment calls of the control, understanding the urgency of the situation and togetherness, said acclaimed singer Hassan Abidur Reja Jewel.
Isolation at this very moment is the best option to protect yourself and the people around you, he says.
“It is our duty to support each other and remember the underprivileged communities. I request you all to take maximum care. Stay home, stay calm, stay safe!”
Emdad Hoque, one of Bangladesh’s leading fashion designers, said despite being upset for losses in business due to the coronavirus shutdowns, he felt that under crisis situations it is not mandatory to celebrate as usual exactly on the date of the Pohela Boishak.
“It is a date only and we can do it after the health crisis is over … now, we have the opportunity to mark the day in our homes with our family members,” he told this correspondent.
Hoque, known since his work for Banglar Mela boutique, added: “Now, life is important.”
Kajol Ibrahim, the legendary dancer, told this correspondent that all should abide by the call of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to celebrate the Pohola Boishak at home.
“Pohela Boishak comes every year and we will Insha Allah (God willing) do it next year even with more festivities, but this time I will cook our favourite Khichuri (lentil and rice mixed) and watch TV to enjoy the day.”
She added that her 17-year-old grand-daughter flew into Dhaka on the last flight from Malaysia and will join the celebration as she has completed her 14-day self-quarantine at home.
Prominent Tagore song singer Nirjher Chowdhury will mark the day with his mother and sister by cooking his favourite English food.
“On Pohela Boishak I will sing and Deepak Sumon will recite live on Facebook Zoom from 6pm to 7pm, besides watching my other recorded programmes including one on RTV,” he added.
Dhaka Unversity teacher, Abdur Razzaque Khan, explained “It is a day of great fanfare for the Bengalis and it is so difficult to stay home on this day when we are supposed to meet friends and family for adda (group gossip), but this year it is sadly different.”
“But we have to organise home celebrations this time for the welfare of the people by staying home and keeping distance due to the COVID-19 … going out by defying the government order means pushing many people to death, which no sane person can do,” he said.
“I have washed and ironed our last year’s Pohela Boishak dresses to wear this year …. due to coronavirus, no one is really very upbeat in organising anything extraordinary as hearts and souls are sad,” said Laboni Hoque, a housewife and an entrepreneur.
“We have to abide by the stay home order and we have no choice if we want to stay well and live.”
She added that it was a very important part of the Bengali culture which has incorporated many rituals over the ages, but it is not a must to go out in this situation and get sick.