Adopting the newness
Only two days left till Shakrain, but the thrill of the festivities can be felt in the air of Luxmibazar , Shankhari Bazaar and Gandaria. While moving from one lane to another, the colourful floating kites can be seen, though in small numbers.
According to locals, with time, the festival has adapted new features. A lot has changed during these years of celebrating it. Initially, Shakrain was all about sharing the joy of flying kites in the Poush air, and enjoying the delightful tastes of winter pithas with near and dear ones.
However, the young adults and children -busy making kites in different shapes and colours, preparing threads while learning techniques of how to fly kites on the roof - is not a picture we get to see anymore. “Kite- flying happens, but not on the same scale as before. Practicing kite-flying would start at least one month prior to the event. If anyone could time travel to this place 15 years ago, he would enjoy more flying kites than birds. A minimum of eight to ten kites could be seen being flown from each building. That pretty much explains how massive it was.” said David Gomes, a local of Luxmibazar.
In the past, throughout the day, people of different ages and genders would either fly kites, or enjoy watching them being flown, in the sky. “Right before sunset, people would start lighting up lanterns and fireworks. The festival would end with the Maghrib Azaan ” he added.
Currently, everything from kites, threads, kite reels and lanterns are available in the market. Many local groups like Kiterz, Dholai Khal etc arrange flamboyant programs throughout the day, adding other features like music, DJ and fire breathing. The activities on the roofs are mostly partaken in by males. David Gomes said, “Activities like fire breathing or kite flying require certain skills, thus women usually take part as spectators.”
Tasnuva Karim Tisha said, “Women usually take part in kite flying ceremony, but very few.” However, many young women work with different Shakrain based groups to arrange the entire program, but not on a big scale.
Playing with her cat, Sheikh Sumehra Rahman shared how excited and active she remains on the very day of Shakrain. “I love watching colorful kites flying across the sky. Attempting to learn the skill of flying kites and playing with my friends on the roof is the best part of the day.” While speaking, the six year old turned to her mother and asked, “Maa, can I fly kites this year?”
But Tasnuva Karim thinks the festival is more digitalized now, and thus has lost its old glory. “People are more focused on the other activities like DJ and dancing to the music rather than flying kites. That is what hurts me.”
Mahfuzur Rahman, General Secretary of Bangladesh Nriyashilpi Shongostha, talked about the changes in the kind of food people prefer on that day. The current generation prefers to opt for western foods like pizza, burgers, etc. The trend of making pithas is declining. Historically, the festival was all about preparing different kinds of pithas, as mentioned by him.
Although from the surface, women’s involvement in the festival would showcase them only as spectators, but the inside stories portray the other side of the coin. Their contribution from behind the door has been making the Poush Sangkranti a vivacious one since the beginning.
The resident of Faridabad said, “On this day, relatives visit the old city to enjoy the occasion. I have seen my mother playing the key role in preparing 5 to 7 types of pithas for the guests. Women have immense involvement in Shakrain.”
Inside the homes, women plan on how to make different arrangements. One of the biggest roles of the women was providing rice starch to make the threads to fly the kites. Nostalgic with the happy memories, Jubaer Ahmed said, “During my childhood, my mother would arrange rice starch so that I could prepare the threads. But there is no need for that anymore, because they can be found in the market.“
A resident of Faridabad, Iffat Ahamed Shoshi would wait eagerly to visit her aunt’s place in Gandaria on the occasion of Shakrain during her childhood. The actual preparation would start one week earlier. Aunties would be occupied with making different kinds of pithas such as dudh puli, shemai, chitoi and what not.
Women from more religious backgrounds still practice the tradition of making a few pithas to celebrate Shakrain. Chandana Roy said she never missed making seven types of pithas, including dudh chitoi, malpoya chushi and pathishapta.
Mahfuzur Rahman thinks change is inevitable. “Everything in this world has gone through change or modification. Modification is tolerable to a certain extent, as long as the core essence doesn’t get lost.” he added.