There is no rush to buy Hilsas, nobody to dress up in colourful traditional clothing, no rallies on the streets or no new-year fairs
For the first time in the history of Bangladesh, nobody is going out to celebrate Pahela Baishakh – the new year festival of Bengalis.
There is no rush to buy Hilsas, nobody to dress up in colourful traditional clothing, no rallies on the streets or no new-year fairs.
Rather, people are busy sanitising the ambience to kill the novel coronavirus, businesses are counting losses – or at least the opportunity costs during the ongoing national shutdown – while the government offices seem to have turned into emergency cells.
"The forever known colours of Pahela Baishakh – red, white, orange and yellow – have faded during the public health emergency," said Murtaza Monowar Upal, a fine arts graduate from Dhaka University.
"We still welcome the pale new year with a prayer and hope to collectively overcome the unprecedented crisis."
Like thousands of cultural activists across the country, Upal also spends the day participating in new year events.
This year though, cultural personalities are taking to the Internet to cheer up the nation instead of their usual outdoor events.
Actors' Equity, a forum of acting artists, is preparing a live video conference and Upal, also a member of the forum, is designing the digital poster for it.
The economic toll of the emergency cancellation of the national festival is too high for cultural workers, traditional apparel brands, cottage industry entrepreneurs and their staff.
Rough estimates suggest at least 20 lakh small entrepreneurs are incurring losses while at least 10 times more people are being deprived of some revenues in the event.
"Forget profit and losses. Let us pray for the people who are fighting with death after being infected by the coronavirus. Let us pray for the medical and emergency services people fighting on the frontline," said Upal.
"Let us stay at home to save ourselves, our families, and our community and wait to celebrate the festival in a more colourful manner next year."
"Let us give a hand to the people who live hand to mouth, who are at risk during the shutdown, and those who have ended up with no food in their kitchens," he further said.
Historically a majority of our people have been fighting with food shortage in this very season, he said, adding the crisis had been here even two decades ago.
"Let us get our nerves and recall our own history of collectively overcoming crises."