Taking solace in past celebrations amid another Eid during the pandemic
As people grow older, memories become priceless. Perhaps, this is what is meant by taking solace from nostalgia. Eid 2021 is a masked affair -- a celebration with the anxiety of Corona.
After living with the virus for more than a year, the fear level has diminished considerably. Are people afraid of the virus? If you come to Gawsia Market, Elephant Road you might think that Corona has disappeared totally.
Only the masks remain. Jostling, pushing, shoving, haggling are topped with the smile of triumph -- yep, you got one of the last remaining sets of an exclusive dress. Corona be damned!
As we are only a few days from Eid, the past comes back -- a time when all of Dhaka thronged at Elephant Road because this was the major shopping area in the city. That was an age before shopping malls.
When trainers were must-haves
We now wear trainers/sneakers either to go out for an evening walk/run or on weekends for relaxed movement. However, back in 1984-85, trainers were major fashion statements. One could wear trainers to weddings, birthday parties, and even formal occasions -- though, for the last one, the preferred colour was either full black or white.
The ’80s belonged to Nike, Reebok, Roadstar, Pan, LA Gear, and Adidas. Nike trainers cost between Tk800 and Tk1,000 and all of these were imported from Thailand. Reebok’s main attraction was the Union Jack and the logo, while Roadstar had several zipped sections. These were all priced above Tk500, which meant that only the upper-middle class could afford to buy a pair.
For those with a lower budget, Khadim’s blue hockey boots were the next best thing. Another local brand called Pegasus appeared in the mid 80s to challenge foreign imports.
Jackson shoes added to the thrill
Yep, I am talking about Michael Jackson. In 1982, Thriller came out and took the US and Europe by storm, but it took about a year for the album to reach Dhaka. So, by the time the album and its songs were hits in Bangladesh, it was almost 1984.
The videos came soon and, naturally, Michael Jackson’s loafers caught the eye of local shoe makers. Thriller reached all segments of society and to cash in on the craze, Jackson shoes came to the market.
The leading fashion outlet was Pearson’s, with its main store in Elephant Road, near the Hatirpool Bazaar. From sandals to shoes to perfumes -- Elephant Road was the main shopping zone.
In 1984, a perfume called Jovan Sex Appeal appeared and scandalized society. The country was still very puritanical and the blatant usage of the “S” word on a perfume made many blush. But the perfume claimed to enhance male appeal and, to add in a dash of notoriety, the word “Sex” was used. Obviously, many could not buy it lest it offended the seniors at home and had to remain satisfied with Old Spice or Brut.
The garment industry had not developed into a full blown enterprise back then and for denim, most had to rely on imported ones, usually from Thailand. The most preferred brand was Hara, followed by Bugzo and Puma.
Eid evenings at Snow White
Snow White was an ice cream parlour which appeared in 1983, selling scoops on wafer cones. This was the place for teen hangouts at the time, and Eid afternoons were reserved for a couple of hours of adda and chinwag in front of the two outlets, one in Moghbazar and the other in Dhanmondi Road Number 3.
Groups of teens came in cars, played loud music, and waited outside Snow White to flirt with girls who came with their families. It was possibly the high point of Eid day for all youngsters.
If someone was lucky, then he got a phone number on a napkin; otherwise, eye to eye contact and a few smiles were all that a guy or a girl took back home.
If serendipity struck, then they possibly met once more either at Video Connection or Filmfair Video while renting recorded VCR movies.
Trust me, adults mainly reserved Eid holiday afternoons to watch marathon films.
One of our Eid holiday afternoon sessions went like this: Pukar, Naseeb, Shaptapadi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, An Eye for an Eye, Rambo, Back to the Future. Film lovers thronged at Video Connection, the largest VHS film renting store, and took home a bag full of films.
Eid day inevitably ended with a Jabbar Ali drama on BTV. For those who are not familiar with Jabbar Ali, here’s a short intro: In the late 70s, with the Middle East worker migration at its zenith, the first Jabbar Ali drama was aired on Eid day about a man called Jabbar Ali (played by the late Amjad Hossain), who is a religious person, speaks of ethics but cannot resist the temptation of dubious business enterprises offering instant riches.
Usually, he gets involved in something dodgy during Ramadan, ending up in jail. The last scene almost inevitably showed his mother admonishing him and then extracting a promise from Jabbar Ali to discard his vices, eventually feeding him shemai in the forgiving spirit of Eid.
As another Eid appears, an image of an Eid from 36 years ago remains vivid in mind: My pals from school break dancing on the sprawling premises of the parliament under a magnificent twilight to a song that will always remain a favourite -- “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes.
Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of Dhaka.