Yesterday was New Year’s Day in Bangladesh – Nobo Borsho as it is called. Shubho means lucky or happy so my title is literally Happy New Year! This is the traditional greeting for Bangladeshis around the world at this time. Of course, many don’t pay much attention outside Bangladesh itself, but inside the country it is a most wonderful celebration.
Although originally just a means for celebrating the beginning of a new tax year instituted, if I recall correctly, in the Mughal period of India (one friend on Facebook reminded me that it is the new year for Indian Tamils too), the celebration of Pohela Boishakh (the other name for the occasion) is a very special one. Pohela means ‘first’ and Boishakh is one of the Bengali months. Calendar systems are a bit complicated in Bangladesh and this includes Bengali months which start in the middle of the Western-system months. Hence, Pohela Boishakh is the first day of the first month of the new year which, with this system, is 1421.
What’s great about the celebration is that it is without religious connotation so everyone in the country can join in fully as Bangladeshis regardless of their cultural background. Likewise, there is nothing about the awful history of the War of Independence so this celebration is entirely one of joy. This makes it one of the celebrations I most enjoy, not least because – being a fully hot-blooded male (for which I make no apologies) – it’s a time when women look their most beautiful!
There is little which is more beautiful than seeing Bangladeshi women dressed up in their finest for special occasions such as weddings (one of my favourites), the new year or any of the many celebrations Bangladesh is famous for. Though the men can look pretty darned handsome too, it is the ladies who make the effort. The swirl of traditional colours red and white or the national colours red and green which make up the national flag wrapped in a variety of styles and fashions around the women is a pleasure to view as art if nothing else. Much better than the uniform jeans and T-shirt which seems to be the norm in the UK for our New Years Eve celebrations!
But this year, nobo borsho has been sad for me. Firstly because it reminds me that the anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building is soon approaching. Secondly because I’m not there in Bangladesh to celebrate the occasion for the first time in six years. The pain of separation isn’t receding; only life gets busier. I guess that’s something I suppose because an idle mind just goes to waste and festers away – being busy keeps it exercised. But still. I wish I was there celebrating the day with my friends and family at LAMB. This time last year I was recounting these days knowing they were my last. I guess this year I’ll be reminiscing about days gone instead.