Winter is looked forward to in our country.
It is a season that arrives towards the beginning of December and lasts till the end of February. It also assumes special importance because of the various festivals and significant occasions that dot its landscape.
This winter, like every year, handed down to us a procession of events of national and cultural importance.
It has been a holistic experience that has brought happiness to the urban as well as the rural citizens of this country. Their inter-active engagement has been an important factor.
This process was initiated with the observance of the Victory Day on December 16. There were formal as well as informal aspects that marked the occasion. After that came the regular convening of the Dhaka International Trade Fair, held in January with great enthusiasm and presented to the nation the advances made by our manufacturing sector in different directions.
Visitors streamed into the fairground to savour progress and diversification in terms of choice. Stalls set up by foreign institutions also opened up new dimensions for the consumer.
This was followed by the month of February -- a time-span that includes several dimensions. As usual, it started with the Ekushey Boi Mela (book festival) from the first of this month. Then, we had the commemoration of Ekushey February and the International Mother Language Day.
During this time, we -- both young and old -- recalled the sacrifice made on this day in 1952 and how it helped to evolve the Bangali identity. We recalled its contribution towards the awakening of the dream that eventually led to our independence as a sovereign country.
This season of rejuvenation is furthered through the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela. A love for books finds expression during this time. More than 100 new titles were formally presented to the Boi Mela visitors every day.
This included collections of short stories, novels, plays, poetry, juvenile literature, and serious academic work based on research. It may be mentioned here that a new book of mine also found its way to the Boi Mela.
There were nearly 700 book stalls (allotted to over 400 organizations) in this Boi Mela -- scattered within the compound of Bangla Academy and Suhrawardy Uddyan adjacent to the Academy.
The publishers stated in the media that the turnout of visitors this year has been on the higher side, and that this has resulted in higher sales. It is consequently anticipated that this will promote greater activity within the publishing industry in the future.
Academics have, however, expressed their anxiety over the fall in the average standard of books that are now being published and presented to the audience in the Boi Mela. They have suggested that the publishers need to restrain their profit-making approach and abide by the rules associated with copyright laws. They have also suggested that greater efforts be made with regard to the use of improved Bangla both in terms of writing as well as in its usage.
Towards the middle of this month, Falgun (spring) arrived with all its splendour. Yellow, red, orange, and amber -- dominant colours permeated the scene as Valentine’s Day took over the horizon.
Flowers of all description added to the ambience. The Jatiyo Boshonto Utshab Parishad organized cultural programs in different parts of Dhaka.
Tolerance, culture, and love dominated the urban life and its media coverage.
Some economists estimate that the annual turnover of the flower industry in Bangladesh is no less than Tk500 crore
When the Boi Mela comes to a close at the end of the month of February, we prepare ourselves to observe our Independence Day on March 26. The days leading up to this important national occasion is filled with numerous workshops, discussions, and seminars. This ends with a parade that demonstrates the pride of the nation and its people for having the determination to initiate the War of Liberation that brought us an independent country.
As soon as this is over comes April, and with it, Boishakh and the Bangla New Year. Cultural events in the form of music, drama, and poetry dominate the scene.
Winter has, by then, left the scene, but certain common elements remain within the cultural paradigm -- flowers, handicrafts, music, dramatic presentations, and books. These factors contribute to the dynamics of celebrations and growth not only in our rural economy, but also in certain tertiary sectors like handicrafts and publishing as well as in arranging multi-media presentations, workshops, and seminars by the entertainment industry.
Readers will agree with me that no celebration during the aforementioned period would be considered as complete without the presence of colour as represented through the freshness, fragrance, and glow of colours as present in flowers. This year, as indicated in the print and electronic media, has not been any different. The demand has been higher, the profits more, and the transportation cost less.
Florists in Godkhali in Jessore have heaved a sigh of relief. It has been reported that the last few days ahead of Pohela Falgun and Valentine’s Day celebrations saw sales of flowers associated with these two events jumping to over Tk80 million.
Shahbagh in central Dhaka and Khamarbari in Tejgaon have emerged as a major hub of flower trading -- both wholesale as well as retail -- because of its proximity to the Dhaka University campus and the Central Shaheed Minar.
A representative of the Bangladesh Flower Society has mentioned that they produce flowers throughout the year but they always target the special days like Victory Day, December 31, Valentine’s Day, national days, and religious festivals. Some economists estimate that the annual turnover of the flower industry in Bangladesh is no less than Tk500 crore.
It has also been revealed that flower cultivation, because of the economic opportunities that it provides, has now been extended also to Birulia of Savar, in Kushtia, in Jhenidah, in the Chittagong Hill Districts, and also in Cox’s Bazar. Those associated with the flower trade have however pointed out two significant existing difficulties -- a lack of adequate refrigerated transport and cold storage required for storage of the items are hampering expansion of this sector.
Our digital progress is also making itself felt within the cultural scene -- in the form of printing relevant pictures for each occasion on t-shirts, mugs, and other accessories. Bangladeshi handicrafts producers, mostly disadvantaged rural women, are also active participants within this matrix. Their hand-loom fabrics and toys generally find their way to Japan, Denmark, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. This helps to boost rural employment and reduce poverty among thousands of rural families.
This principle of sharing the cultural horizon is expanding the scope of economic activity and also its fallout for the rural economy.
We have our National Day in March and Pohela Boishakh waiting in the sidelines, ready to make their entrance on the stage a little later. We need to continue to share our happiness through our cultural and intellectual aspirations. This will also enable the rural sector of our economy to move upwards by fulfilling our goals.
Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]