For Bangladeshis, yesterday was not only about paying respect to the brave language martyrs, but also to take a moment to realise why the martyrs sacrificed their lives, and what events led to the Language Movement of 1952.
And the Dhakaites found that one of the best places to look back at history yesterday would be Amar Ekushey Boi Mela 2016.
Needless to say, the fairgrounds were filled to the brim with visitors yesterday.
Moshtaq Ahmed, a resident of Old Dhaka, was at the fair with his wife and two children when this correspondent met him.
“I bring my children here every year to make them aware about our history, culture and the sacrifices of our heroic ancestors for our mother tongue,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
“Coming to the Ekushey book fair is always something I look forward to. But book fair on February 21 is something special,” said Nabile Tabassum, a student at Dhaka City College.
She further said she had bought two books on the Language Movement and the Liberation War.
Marking the Language Martyrs’ Day, the fair opened for visitors at 8am. A poetry recitation was held at the fair, presided over by poet Asad Chowdhury. There were other special events that took place through out the day.
The anthem of Ekushey, “Amar bhaier roktey rangano Ekushey February, ami ki bhulite pari,” played at the book fair all day, adding to the solemn vibe.
Most of the visitors were adorned with traditional clothes in black, white and red colours to symbolise Ekushey. Many of their clothes had Bangla alphabets printed on them visitors; some even had images of Salam, Barkat, Rafiq and Jabbar, the four renowned language martyrs, printed on their clothes.
A majority of yesterday’s crowd were those who came to pay respect to the martyrs at Central Shaheed Minar and decided to drop by the book fair. The road between the fairgrounds and the Shaheed Minar turned into a stream of people. As the day progressed, the fairgrounds became overcrowded.
The massive turnout of visitors gave a sharp rise to the book sales at the fair, as reported by the publishers and sellers. Long queues of readers were seen in front of nearly every book stall.
With big smile on their faces, publishers and stall owners said they were very happy with the day’s business.
“The amount of sales today has been very satisfying,” said Syed Zakir Hossain, publisher at Adorn Publishers.
However, some publishers were not as happy as the others and said they had not had sales as much as they had expected from such a big crowd.
“The number of visitors today [yesterday] was massive, but compared to that, the book sales were not as impressive, Most visitors were only looking at the books,” said Sharifa Bulbul of Balaka Publications.