The nation-wide celebrations of Pahela Baishakh — the most significant festival of the Bengali calendar — will not take place this year. As sad as it sounds, we have to come to terms with it. Covid-19 has stalled the entire world, and with growing concerns over community transmission and how social gatherings can accelerate the spread of the virus, cancelling the celebrations was the only viable option.
There is, however, ways you can actually celebrate the event. If online classes and work from home can be a thing, why not "bashay boshe Baishakh?" As odd and unsatisfying it may sound, this is perhaps the only way we will able to keep our minds off the panic, and celebrate the festivities from within the safety of our home. Here's how.
Well, you start the day like you would normally on the morning of the Bengali new year.
Get up early and take a quick shower. Then, put on the colours of the day — red and white, preferably. Stay away from the dark tones. Given that you will be spending the entire day at home and away from all the heat and chaos, you can wear that saree or panjabi without a worry. If you could not care any less about traditional attire, just put on anything you are comfortable with. Thankfully, aunties cannot judge you for your wardrobe while you are indoors.
For breakfast, you might have to skip on the panta-ilish supreme mega combo offer, assuming that you could not get the ilish because of the shutdown. Hence, you will need an alternative. You could try muri with a mix of your choice, most likely chanachur and morich. Boom! The jhalmuri. Or, you could do a typical quarantine experiment and make an abomination out of it; puffed rice with Nutella.
After a hearty breakfast, it is time to meet up with friends. Sadly, you do not have the option to "Melay Jaire" this year. You will need to come up with yet another alternative to hanging out with your friends. Luckily for you, applications like Zoom, Messenger and Discord can connect you without you or them having to come out of social isolation. One group video call, and you will get to be with all your friends on the same platform.
As you engage in the casual Baishakh conversations, you will suddenly realise that this might be the first Pahela Baishakh where you cannot take pictures with your friends. Of course, that is not entirely true as you can just take screenshots of your video conference. You can use all the beautiful filters just like you would in a normal selfie. Some of those filters will even put flower crowns on your head, just as fake as the ones they sell at the fairs, but free.
At the fairs, you usually get to witness a wide range of live performances arranged for your entertainment — concerts, puppet shows, and the occasional argument between a food-stall owner and a customer over the price of a plate of fuchka. These are nothing you cannot recreate at your home. With a little effort, you too can entertain yourselves just like they do at the fairs.
Speaking of food stalls, it is possible that delivery services will be running full operations that day. So, if you feel like it, you and your friends could simultaneously order the same food from the same place. You can even play a mini game to see who gets the fastest delivery. Fun, right?
The mangal shobhajatra is the biggest Pahela Baishakh attraction every year. However, this year the procession will not be carried out due to the ongoing crisis. Should that stop you from doing a "mini" shobhajatra at your house? Absolutely not. Make some giant paper masks, and parade around the house with them. Your family members will either be elated at this cultural display, or probably grow more concern about your mental health, something you do not see that often.
By evening, you and your friends are supposed to be at a coffee shop somewhere in Banani or Dhanmondi. Since that is impossible right now, you guys should go back to talking over social media. Make some Dalgona coffee to give yourself that coffee shop feels. In case you want a more realistic experience, just take all the chairs at your home and bring them inside your room. Occupy those chairs with anything you can find around you, like stuffed toys or dirty laundry. Afterwards, wait in the corner with your coffee, and as it gets cold, see if any of those inanimate objects gets up from their respective chairs and leave. Chances are they won't, nor will they get anything to eat or drink, and that's as real as it gets. With that cold cup of authentic Dalgona, your Baishakh celebrations will have officially come to an end.
At the end of the day, what we need to remember is that this pandemic has the entire human civilisation with its back against the wall. For now, our best and perhaps only chance at keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from this disease is through social distancing. We will have to keep maintaining this precaution until we find a cure. We know, this Baishakh will be different for all of us. For once we will be entering a new year where we cannot just forget the past and move on.
For your safety, as well as the safety of your loved ones, stay home, follow the rules, and help flatten the curve. Shubho Noboborsho.
Faisal wants to be the very best, like no one ever was. To survive university is his real test, to graduate is his cause. Send him memes and motivation at firstname.lastname@example.org