Despite the dire straits and lamentable circumstances, the fervor among the attendees surrounding the DLF continued unabated. Groups would trudge across the mud and through the rain from session to session
The third and final day of the ninth Dhaka Lit Fest was expected to have closed with panache and revelry. But with Cyclone Bulbul approaching from the Bay of Bengal, it was, for lack of a better term, quite rained on.
But the pernicious rain could barely faze the crazed people in attendance, undeterred and oblivious to nature's shower. Even as the drizzle grew more intense with the day, the entry line did not shrink.
Announcements were made, proclaiming that power would be cut to stalls, sessions would all end by 6:30pm, and no more would be permitted to enter the festival.
Despite the dire straits and lamentable circumstances, the fervor among the attendees surrounding the DLF continued unabated. Groups would trudge across the mud and through the rain from session to session. And in almost every session, there was hardly any standing room.
The closing ceremony opened with a recitation by poet and journalist Tishani Doshi. Bathed in warm, amber light, her poems were homages to feminism and womanhood, to 80s heartthrob Patrick Swayze, the relationship between writers and readers, and the place of poetry in a world of politics and commerce. One would not be remiss if they were led to believe a dance would be apt. Perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps the inflection in her poetry or how she carried herself. But she did dance, feet bereft of footwear on the wooden stage, measured and precise.
If the opening dance performance by Shadhana was a whirlwind of motion, like time lapse footage of flowers blooming in a grove, the deliberate and glacial movement in the closing dance was akin to dog-earing a good book, careful not to crease the pages, and providing the assurance of picking up in the future where we left off yesterday.
In the closing remarks, title sponsor Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan said: “The values of the Dhaka Lit Fest transmit the values of Dhaka Tribune and Bangla Tribune.
This has always been, for us, the root of the Dhaka Lit Fest, to allow for the understanding that our right to free speech, our right to own thoughts, to be ourselves, is one of the crucial rights we can have as individuals, as a nation, as members of the human race.
“In a world that is becoming increasingly baleful and intolerant, increasingly violent, what else can we strive for? What else can be more important than the knowledge, this understanding, that each one of us has a role to play in the betterment of the world and that all our goals are the same?”
Following Zafar, Prof Rachel Dwyer from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London took the stage. After jesting that she had brought a bit of the London weather with her, she recalled her first run-in with Bangladesh.
“In 1971, when I was a child, my mother made me give some of my money to pay for sweets for the children of Bangladesh, and I really resented it. Why should I have to give my sweets to children from somewhere else? But then I think one does, even grudgingly, come back, and here I have had that hospitality returned many times over. It really has been wonderful.
She complimented the festival as being “the best-dressed festival” she had ever been to.
She said: “I have never seen women fashion like they do here, all different styles, individual and organized,” to resounding applause.
And in the vein of so many foreigners who give in to the temptations of the language, she spoke in Bangla: “Amar Dhaka eshe khub bhalo laglo. Abar ashbo, ebong ar ekta jamdani sari kinbo.” (I am very happy that I visited Dhaka. I will return, and buy a jamdani sari)
Mashrur Arefin, managing director of City Bank, platinum sponsor of DLF2019, said: “We at City Bank strive to give meaning to money. As a corporate entity, our sole purpose should not just be increasing the net profit. We have a responsibility to society to nurture and cherish the arts. We hope to continue as partners with the DLF.”
Poet Habibullah Siraji, director general of the Bangla Academy, said: “It is important to have literary festivals. We have Dhaka Lit Fest, we have Ekushey Boi Mela. The more we are intertwined with literature, the more we will be interconnected with positivity, love, and benevolence.”
Sadaf Saaz read off a list, naming numerous people and institutions involved with the production of the Dhaka Lit Fest, thanking them for their tireless efforts to ensure the festival was a success.
The speakers also thanked the organizers, the audience, and reaffirmed their commitment to future Dhaka Lit Fests, promising they will be bigger and better.