The cake-cutting ritual when celebrating birthdays certainly does not belong to the culture of this part of the world, originally. It has been imported from the West. Having lived in the West for more than three decades, I have observed, first hand, the significance of the candle-lit cake to numerous individuals every year, young or old.
Birthdays have become a key occasion for individuals from all walks of life, be they rich or poor. But when one’s birthday falls on a black day -- such as a death anniversary -- it is seen as being inauspicious.
One may, as a result, ask what the proper etiquette is when wanting to celebrate birthdays under this circumstance. In these cases, I believe, the celebration should take place either a day early or a day late.
One of our nation’s leaders has been celebrating her birthday on August 15 (coincidentally, our National Mourning Day) in the company of her followers, and, in celebration, cuts several cakes every year. I have not seen any leader in the world do this publicly, even in the West.
Of course, we all know is that this celebration, one of controversy and debate, is politically motivated. I will, for the sake of my readers, refrain from that debate today. This year, political leaders, columnists, and commentators, including Sayed Ashraful Islam and Bangabir Kader Siddique, requested BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia not to observe her birthday on the day of national mourning.
This call fell on deaf ears. However, unlike other years when she would celebrate it at the stroke of midnight on August 15, this year, she observed it at eight at night. One of her followers suggested that she had celebrate her birthday this year, delaying it by more than 20 hours, to show respect to Bangabandhu.
Indeed, she did a good thing, but one can’t help but ask: Why couldn’t she wait another four hours, past midnight, on August 16? If she had, this nation would have been grateful to her for her whole-hearted compliance.
Delaying by another four hours could have paved the way to assuage the problems which have plagued this bi-partisan political landscape, and could have been the beginning of the end of trust issues in the political arena. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen. Bangladesh’s reputation as a country of misfortune and disaster -- both man-made and nature-made -- will continue to persist. However, in this respect, Sayed Ashraf, Bangabir Siddiqui, and others ought to be applauded for their effort and courage in making a stand to change the status quo. This could have been a game changer if they had indeed been successful in convincing Begum Zia to wholly change her mind.
Khaleda’s effort to delay her birthday, even by 20 hours, raises some questions. Is this a sign of hope that, one day, she will walk the last mile and celebrate her birthday a day after, on August 16? In the current context, BNP has been keeping its political foes at bay for taking part in the celebrations and wishing her a very happy birthday. No doubt, by doing so, BNP has kept the nation divided.
After struggling for 40 odd years, our nation has found an economic momentum, and prosperity is in sight in an era of global uncertainty, both financially and environmentally. As a result, at this moment, political and economic stability are key pre-conditions for sustained economic growth.
This is the first time in recent history that Bangabandhu’s dream of a “Sonar Bangla” is within reach. In a democracy, the opposition has a crucial part to play, and the goal of “Sonar Bangla” is not a goal of one political party alone.
It is, in fact, a bi-partisan goal, a goal of achieving economic freedom for all. One must, however, remember that, under no circumstances should a leader allow anarchy to grip the nation with a view to dislodging a sitting political government before its term expires. If it does, this will, indeed, set a bad precedent for the years to come.