Once upon a Pahela Baishakh | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 12, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 12, 2018

Once upon a Pahela Baishakh

H1mu: Sunlight peeks in through my curtains and gentle rays glimmer into the corner of my eyes helping me wake up earlier than usual. “Okay B!ng, prepare my morning coffee,” I mumble to my home assistant as I get ready to take a shower. The cold water sends jolts all the way to the small of my back till it finally alerts me to how important today is.

As I dig through my wardrobe I come across the yellow panjabi Ammu had given me last year. She said that it was worn by a simple hero from a simpler time. I decided to slide right into it without thinking too much about its significance. Before I head out, I do one last thing, however – close off all my Blockchain Wallets and calculate my earnings for the year, thus ushering in the new Bengali year as per tradition.

Zar1n: My eyes open slowly, taking in my surroundings. I realise that I'm brushing my teeth. Or rather, my teeth are being brushed. Being asleep didn't matter to my toothbrush, as it hovers over my face and then onto my gums, scraping away plaque with a vengeance. Once I remember what today is, I take matters into my own hands and grab hold of it. Can't be late for Pahela Baishakh, can I?

As I rush to change into my jamdani saree, I notice my mom shooting strange looks into my room. Her worried expressions speak volumes. That's why when she barges in, I know what to expect.

 

Ma: Mamoni, are you sure you want to go out today?

Me: Of course I am, I've been planning this day for weeks!

Ma: But look at the temperature, dear, it's boiling outside. Are you sure being out there is something you'd enjoy? Look at the state-of-the-art VR kit your Baba bought. You could put it on and you would practically be there in the midst of all the celebrations.

 

Trying to explain why a second-hand experience wouldn't be enough is futile, so I just mumble a non-committal response and hurry up. Don't want to be late and miss the Purple Line AirBus service. Whether the AirBus itself is on time is another matter.

H1mu: I decide to take VRTC's AirBus instead of Purple Line's premium executive service because I still have some credit left on my AirBus pass. Unfortunately, the carrier's packed and this started to feel like a big mistake. It got worse when the air-conditioning started to fail halfway into the journey. However, before the scorching heat could spoil my mood, the AirBus made it to its destination and I could get on to the more important tasks at hand.

As I reach my stop at Mongol Shobhajatra, I'm met by colourful birds in the sky which cast huge shadows and all of a sudden, memories of stories I had heard as a child all come back to me. The hand-painted ornamentations have all been replaced by LED lights flashing shades of green, red and blue. My eyes become transfixed on the fluorescent lights flashing out of the eyes of gigantic animatronic tigers – a creature now extinct, and the red and green hues emanating from their regal displays. The euphoria in the air and the excitement in the crowd is just how I imagined it to be.

From women in neon sarees and men in Wakandian panjabis, there was an energy in the air unlike anything I'd ever felt. Each passing anti-gravitational elephant and each wave of colourful hoverboards brought out more cheers.

Zar1n: Now that I've hummed along “Esho hey Baishakh” with the choir-bots at the Central Recreation Zone, I'm left standing in the crowded street, feeling the heat. Just like Ma said I would. There's an easy fix to that, however, as I take out the personal cooling unit (PCU) from my satchel. It's just a drone-like device which hovers around you with a built-in fan, and emits ultra-fine mist. As I'm cooling off, I try to imagine how my parents used to tolerate this summer heat without a PCU.

I check the smart display stuck over my nail polish: “1 new text message”. My heart skips a beat. I quickly follow the Moogle Maps' holographic waypoint arrows to where I'm supposed to go, hailing an Urao to carry me above the surging crowds.

The Baishakhi Mela has never been my thing, but even I have to appreciate the aesthetic beauty that is TES:C. Even though real trees have been extinct for about 20 years now, their artificial counterparts are just as beautiful and surround all the stalls. Under the soft green glow of the LED-powered banyan tree, I wait.

Soon I spot him. He is a vision in yellow, and even the heads of the robot servers turn to look.

 

“You look amazing,” I tell him.

“No, I look H1mazing,” he coolly replies.

 

H1mu: She laughed at my terrible joke, not a bad start. I ask her whether she wants to roam around and check out the stalls to which she nods with a smile.

Zar1n: I already regret making the effort to meet, and let him lead me to the stalls, albeit with a smile on my face. The stalls are packed to the brim with little trinkets a younger me would have loved. What the hell, I still love them.

H1mu: As we walk around I notice the glimmer in her eyes; her childlike enthusiasm is a sight to behold.

Zar1n: I reach out and grab a dugdugi off the shelf at the Thakur Ma'r Khelnar Jhuli stall. It's almost the same size as the ones you'd find at the Central Museum of Culture and Traditions, but when I shake it my ears are filled with the soothing tunes of lo-fi hip-hop chill beats. Moving on, we see a bunch of kids duking it out in the corner with their new latim sets. As the tops spin at blinding speeds, hologram projections emerge from within and engage in physical tussles with one another. With so many layers to your average latim fight, it's no wonder people moved past the WWX and their farcical physical action.

At one such stall, I'm drawn to the dark and mysterious vantablack churi. Unfortunately, they don't exactly fit the day's celebratory vibes and so I settle for a set of electric blue ones. As I pass them to H1mu, the light electric shocks tickle my fingertips. Once the purchase is complete, he takes my hand and slides it into the churi. Or should I say, tries.

H1mu: As I manage to finally put the bangles on her, I feel the tinge of electric feels and all other good things. I don't remember the last time I was this giddy. As we leave the churi stand, I spot a nagordola and immediately grab Zar1n's hand and rush in excitement.

As we wait for our turn to get on, I tell her about all the new bells and whistles of the anti-gravitational nagordola. While the behemoth wheel up in the sky had me thrilled, I could sense Zar1n's nervousness. “Everything's going to be alright,” I tell her as I grab her hand and hold on tight.

Zar1n: My already-frayed nerves weren't helped by the ominous-looking sign proclaiming “0 days since last accident”. Wonder when the Health and Safety Department will notice this. As we are zoomed up to new heights, however, my fear gradually subsides. I take in the sights all around me, and begin to appreciate the city spread out beneath me. I also reserve some appreciation for the person by my side. No one else could have made this day as special.

H1mu: Starting from meeting under a banyan tree, to all the sights we had seen, today was a blissful day indeed, made all the more special by her company. Right when these wholesome thoughts were going through my head, the nagordola decided to grind to a halt. To my surprise, however, she was just as calm as I was. I told her unceremoniously that I had panta-ilish capsules on me.

As I was about to pour open the ilish capsule in a bowl, she stopped me. “It's panta first, ilish later,” she said. I gasped in amazement, “I've always had it ilish first, panta later.”

The best part was that even as our argument escalated, our hands only took hold of each other's tighter.

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