A New Dawn – Happy Bengali New Year

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Hey nutan,
Dekha dik aar-baar janmero prothamo shubhokhan.
Tomar prokash hok kuhelika kori udghatan
Surjero moton.

O’ new beginning,
Let’s recall the gracious moment of birth once again.
May you shine like the sun as it clears the fog.

-Adapted from geetabitan.com

Our morning began with this Tagore song playing on YouTube, just to remind us of our roots. Yes, it’s the first day of 1427, as per the Bengali calendar. Today is often referred to as Poila Boishakh or the first day of Boishakh month.

As I explained this to my teenager, the playlist was paused on its third song. It’s so embarrassing that our neighbours hear Indian music wafting out of our windows, complained the teenager.

Fair enough, their generation prefers K-pops and J-pops over Indian classical. I switched to my earphones and enjoyed the songs as a flurry of Naba Barsho messages were exchanged with cousins and friends across the length and breadth of the whole wide world. Wow, I felt so connected!

By afternoon, I was exchanging notes with my Bengali friends in Auckland on what they did to herald the new year, if at all. Debjani Sen from Henderson shared a photo of a bowl of langcha dipped in sugar syrup – over WhatsApp. A cook par excellence, and always too modest to accept her advanced culinary skills, her message accompanying the photo was apologetic. “Sorry, this had to be virtual’. But the sweet dish had my mouth watering. If not for the lockdown, I would have surely headed over to her place for a taste of this delicacy.

My next call was to Arka Basu, a PhD student at the University of Auckland. “Oh, I did absolutely nothing,” he said, adding as an after-thought, “Unless, of course, you consider the fact that I marinated some chicken pieces in tandoori sauce. Will put it in the grill before dinner. That’s my lockdown treat!”

Does the day mean anything to you or did you even know it’s Poila Boishakh, I probed. “How can I forget – there’s always someone there to remind me on social media,” he said. There you go; I was reminded by my cousin’s early morning WhatsApp message from Melbourne. Just before I Zoomed in for my work meeting.

June Chakraborty was the next friend I turned to. An IT professional, June and her husband Vishal (non-Bengali) have been working from home during the lockdown. Not sure how they manage to keep 4-year-old Vihaan engaged. “Woke up and said to myself: okay let’s get to work,” replied June. “Vishal told Vihaan and they wished me together. Everyone seems to be connected to Naba Barsho and cooking stuff… somehow I am so disconnected this year.”

Researcher Ishita M Mendonsa also claimed she had done nothing. “It’s intense managing two under-5 kids and work,” she messaged back.

Oindrila Gupta called to tell how both her husband and she were busy with WFH. They will call up and wish their parents back in India. But with two kids at home, one is only 2 years old, it’s a challenge to just get through the work day. “We cleaned the house over the weekend because we knew today is Naba Barsho,” she added with a laugh.

As we were about to end the call, she added, “Last night, when I was cooking dinner, I found a rice in the husk – perhaps that’s symbolic of a new beginning.”

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