Here's how I'd pictured my month of February this year: Catching up with my friends and fellow bookworms amongst the crowded gathering at the annual Ekushey Boi Mela held at the Bangla Academy premises, feasting on a plethora of fuchka, chotpoti, shingara, and malai cha, and having the time of my life hauling mountains of books.
The pandemic threw an undeniably large wrench right into the middle of my plans. The wholesome picture I'd painted earlier had now proven itself to be rather difficult to be converted into reality.
To attend or not to attend this year is a confusing question for many. I can always just put it all on the pandemic and consider that the deciding factor. But the pandemic is merely the driving factor behind many more factors that are poised to influence our decision.
Safety must be a priority at a time like this, when there's an infectious viral disease on the loose. The most sensible thing to do would be to avoid crowds, wherever they may be. We ought to remain at home, isolated. It's perhaps this isolation that has now resulted in a significant amount of the population to become increasingly accustomed to all the social distancing protocols.
Adhora Ahmed, a regular attendee of the Ekushey Book Fair, spoke about her reasons for not attending this year, "For me, it's like a ritual to attend the boi mela every February at least once. But this year, my fear of contracting the coronavirus has managed to override the nostalgic pull I've always felt towards this fair. Besides, even if I get vaccinated this month, it'll still take me some time to get used to public gatherings again."
Hiya Islam, a massive fan of the Unmad stall at the Fair, expressed safety concerns as well saying, "I honestly don't want to miss it this year as it's something we as a family attend every year. I hope the organisers are taking appropriate safety measures against the coronavirus, otherwise I'm not sure if I'll be going."
Long-term residents of Dhaka are thus largely undecided, weighing nostalgia against the fear of contracting a fatal infection. Meanwhile Bangladeshis who've been away from home are finding the nostalgic pull rather difficult to resist.
Currently residing abroad, Shafqat Shafiq recounted his fond memories of book fair saying, "Boi Mela felt like this huge chaotic library where you didn't just go to buy books, but also to catch a break from your everyday Dhaka-dwellings, and spend some quality time with your friends and family whilst celebrating Bangla literature. For the youngsters out there, I believe Ekushey Boi Mela offers the best avenue to step into the world of books. The main theme of attraction in my opinion was the aura of the boi mela."
Given people's indecisiveness and fear surrounding the pandemic, I don't know whether or not you'll be attending the Ekushey Boi Mela this year, but I do know that we won't be running into each other. The uncertainty poses too much of a risk. What do you think?
Rasha Jameel is your neighborhood feminist-apu-who-writes-big-essays. Remind her to also finish writing her bioinformatics research paper at email@example.com