Today is the Bengali New Year’s Day — the first day of Baisakh, the first month in the Bengali calendar. Today is also the Punjabi New Year’s Day — Baisakhi.
In many other parts of India and Bangladesh, today is a very special day. On this day, small merchants and business owners — along with their employees — celebrate their trade with worshiping Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi, the two Hindu deities of wealth, success and prosperity.
Many parents decide to give the first formal education lesson to their children on this auspicious day. A Hindu or Muslim priest or an elderly in the family hand-holds the child and makes them write a vowel or a consonant with a piece of chalk or a pencil. Then, there is a sumptuous Bengali feast: the proverbial fish and sweets. Bengalis and Punjabis are both known for their food, fun and festivities. No fun festivity is full without food. Food. First! Food. Fast! 🙂
Today is also the day when at Vishva Bharati, Rabindranath Tagore’s university in the West Bengal village of Shantiniketan, they celebrate the birthday of the poet of all poets. It’s the tradition of the school to celebrate it today, even though Tagore’s real birthday is the 25th day of Baisakh, which normally falls on the 8th or 9th of May.
In Bangladesh also, many people follow Shantiniketan’s tradition and celebrate Tagore’s birthday on this day. In all, globally, at least a couple of hundred million people celebrate this day as their traditional New Year’s Day. Western media do not know or care to know. They never report it.
Regardless of the West’s ignorance, apathy and exclusion (I now call it Journalism of Exclusion OR Education of Exclusion), today is a very special day in our lives — lives of Hindu and Muslim and Christian and Sikh Indians and Bengalis across the world. It’s a happy day. It’s a day to forget about the ills of the past and move on to embrace the future.
I wish you all — my readers, friends and sympathizers all over the world. I wish you all a happy, prosperous and peaceful year ahead. May Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha bless you. May all your wishes and dreams come true.
The poet of all poets Tagore wrote:
“Jeerna ja kichhu jaha kichhu kheen
Nabiner majhe hok ta bileen.”
“জীর্ণ যা কিছু যাহা কিছু ক্ষীণ
নবীনের মাঝে হোক তা বিলীন”
whatever is old ‘n doomed and whatever is low
may they all vanish in the young and green’s glow.
I hope we can usher in a new era of knowledge, wisdom and insight. I hope we can learn from the mistakes of the past, and walk together on the shiny, glowing path of a prosperous, progressive future.
Brooklyn, New York