Rahman Mia (not his real name) had been supplying flowers to the various event companies of Dhaka for the last 5 years. The business had been so robust that he bought himself a piece of land in Sadullapur, Savar. On this tiny piece of possession, Rahman used to grow roses of all colours and sizes. Business was going well, as usual; but then, the pandemic happened and everything turned upside down!
Rahman waited patiently for things to return to normal and eventually, seven arduous months went by with minimal sales. Meanwhile, Rahman had to let go of his flower shop at the city's Shahbag area, along with most of his employees.
This decision may have reduced his losses to a certain extent, but made no difference to his regular expenses, whereby he has to take care of his ailing parents, pay tuition fees for his school going children and put food on the table.
In order to attend to his pressing responsibilities, Rahman converted his once profitable flower garden into a vegetable yard. Today, he sells vegetables from his farm in the various farmers market of the city. The income is meagre compared to his previous business and the competition quite formidable.
Sausan Khan Moyeen, one of the reputed event planners of the capital and the proprietor of 'Enchanted Events and Prints,' voiced similar concerns.
"Many of my flower vendors (florists) have turned into farmers and vegetable retailers in this pandemic. Bangladesh was doing extremely good in this sector. But the pandemic caused a huge slump in sales as demand fell tremendously. It's extremely hard to source local flowers today, but I have managed to encourage few of my old vendors to strive for production again with the guarantee that my company will purchase the produce. This, I did to boost their livelihood and to promote the Bangladeshi floral industry in my own little way," said Moyeen.
Recently, she had the opportunity to arrange an ornate wedding for a client, taking all sorts precautions and necessary measures to prevent any sort of spread. "I have decided to call my pandemic weddings little-big events," admitted a beaming Moyeen.
During our rendezvous, she showed us beautiful pictures that almost resembled the sets of a 16th century Mughal court. "For this particular wedding, we have hired over 250 local artisans and made use of their fine skills in rattan weaving and mirror crafting/pasting. The stage design has been inspired by the regal Sheesh Mahal constructed under the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. I tried to get a similar feel with the help of the local artisans, where they worked for countless hours to cut-out each mirror, which has no second copy. This was done to emphasise the importance of the artisans and their craftsmanship," said Moyeen.
And certainly, the backdrop was gorgeous, with intricate rattan weaves adjoining the exclusive mirror work made the ceremony seem nothing short of an imperial wedding!
The gist of the story is not how glamorous the wedding had been, but the fact that a considerable number of Bangladeshi artisans got an opportunity to earn their living — even during the stringent days of the pandemic.
The designer extraordinaire believes that it was about time the artisans of our community got their due recognition rather than charity or pity from the rest of the community.
Finally, our request to the people of our community — halting events during the pandemic is logical, but then again, if some of us choose to have a small wedding or even a mini-birthday party with limited number of guests, we should make sure that the local artisans and their capabilities are put to use in these events.
There cannot be a better feeling in the world than the smiles of gratitude from the hard-working, and super talented thousands of our own beloved country — Bangladesh.
Photography: Reminiscence Photography and Snap Moment
Event Organiser: Enchanted Events and Prints by Sausan Khan Moyeen
Special mention: Wedding of Parisha and Rahat