Mahfuz Sadique on Dhaka’s winters…
Awaiting the blood-red krishnachuras to set ablaze the coming afternoons, and usually the boulevards of politics too, with the recurrent lull of fluffy Falguni saris, Dhaka is again creeping out of its hibernating cultural cocoon to the eternal Mardi Gras of literati, glitterati and dramatics of her elegant winters.
Almost like a snake coming out of its scales to the glow of a new body – new identity – of life, of nature, Dhaka will shed its old skin. As the morning mists of winter thickens, the cultural identity of the capital in particular, and the entire country in general, shows its true colours again.
With poets, novelists, and the essential die-hard amateurs of little magazines, all scampering over proofs of to-be-published titles, publishers go on an overdrive of zeal in the promise of taste, and talisman of overturned fortunes – as do their weary presses.
Winter is truly Dhaka’s literati high-tide. Despite the Dhaka International Book Fair in full swing, sceptic readers are holding back for the grand coming of Ekushey. Like a magic wand, the Ekushey book fair springs life in not just the world of words and rhymes; but the entire city becomes a congregation spellbound in the sometimes mild, and sometimes vigorous, sermon on ‘identity crisis’ as the circus of cultural pandemonium rages on.
The theatre houses find their seats filled to the brim, not just with audience but also with ‘constructive’ criticism. With a new experimental theatre in operation, and a vibrant street theatre movement gearing up to bring drama to the dramatics of the street, Dhaka’s theatre scene is all fired up. Big groups planning new plays, and the trend of staging pieces from the golden days all add up to the crescendo.
Though the celebration of the silver screen had an early start this time, and that too with much commotion, be sure to see a few more highs and lows in the film festival scene. Retrospectives are in these days – Bergman’s, Kurusawa’s, Tarkovsky’s – name it, and the quite able film societies of the capital will tickle your taste of artsy celluloid slice of life.
Photographers had a field day in early winter with the grand congregation of their kind at Chobi Mela III in December. And there are still a few exhibitions of those who claim to ‘stop life with a click.’
And then to the canvas. Zainul lover’s had a feast for their eyes with a monumental gathering of the Shilpacharya’s work all over the capital. From the supple Santal women to the maestro’s brush strokes to envisage ‘Rebellion’ and the endearing ‘Famine’ sketches, all were there. It was a colossal show of Bangladesh’s greatest gift to life’s impression on canvas.
The world of glamour, not to be left out of the fanfare, will contribute its part to the carnival. Fashion shows, award ceremonies, the essential Eid star-hype, and the unavoidable baggage of glitz is sure to distract a few.
Regional brouhaha during the SAARC summit, sometime in February, is sure to create a lot cultural soul searching for the subcontinent. But nothing to worry as the hype is sure to die down even faster than its rise. Thanks to it, Dhaka got a face lift – partially though.
Not to let lose of its grip on life, commerce will have its share of space too. And a lot of it in fact, as trade fairs – international, national and local – all to bring new fads in between those tight budgets of books and bangles.
There is something about winter though. Slow mornings, mellow evenings, roadside bhapa pithas, warm clothes, and warmer hearts are the quintessential delights this Dhaka of ours offers in her most beautiful season.
Enjoy winter, enjoy Dhaka!
Published: The New Age/ January, 2005