Thirty-first night & brand New Year 2017

It can hardly be normal to express joy or celebration on the dot of an exact date and time. There?s hardly any spontaneity in that.

It just doesn?t seem natural to choose the late hour of midnight when all are asleep to bring out the fireworks and create a deafening noise. Why not celebrate during the sunlight hours or the evening? The wild frenzy of a handful of people can hardly be considered a celebration.

What sort of festivity is it that has no involvement of the major political parties, of the labour organisations, of the cultural groups, most importantly, of the administration and government? How can an occasion be celebrated at the expense of civic sense and the peace of others?

Slumber had turned into deep sleep when suddenly all hell broke loose. The bed shook. Patients in the nearby clinics and hospitals were rudely awoken from their drug-induced sleep. There were persons with weak heart asleep in their homes. What about the birds? Don?t they deserve a shuteye?

I stumbled to the roof to see what was going on. Birds were fluttering everywhere from the trees and the window ledges, but where would they go? Their sky was filled with sparks and fire. It was heartbreaking to see the poor birds taking refuge on the roads, shivering in fear and confusion. How were they to understand that the Bengali boys and girls were celebrating the thirty-first night?

Our forefathers and fathers never saw all this. This wasn?t there in 1971 or all through the 1970s. Suddenly this has been thrust upon us. We are proving ourselves to be more modern in our ways that the icons of Bangla culture and tradition, Rabindranath Tagore, Nazrul Islam, Kudrat-e-Khuda, Jasim Uddin and other revered personalities. They never celebrated such an event, but we do in all fanfare and festivity. We are adding to the culture what never existed for the past two thousand years. Adding to the culture is fine, as long as it is in keeping with the traditions and enhancing it, adding to its beauty, not detracting from it. What has the midnight frenzy added to our culture?

January the first has significance because we officially follow the Gregorian calendar and our school year commences in January. But celebrating in a manner that disturbs others is hardly a UN-prescribed universal human right. In fact, people?s rights are violated when a section of upper class kids go wild on the thirty-first, creating a nuisance and a public security threat.

There are no dearth of evil-minded people who can take advantage of all this festivity among the rich. The police can easily raid the slums and search the poor people?s homes. They can?t do so in the homes of these rich kids. They can?t check to see how many fireworks are stacked in their houses and how much whiskey in their fridges. The intelligence can hardly then determine what firearms and weapons are hidden away by secret killers.

All over the world there were untoward incidents on the thirty-first night, some accidental and some deliberate acts of terrorism. It is a matter of research as to who carries these acts out, and why they do so. It was expected that the Holey Artisan incident would have given rise to a degree of introspection and refurbishing our thoughts.

The massacre at the Istanbul nightclub was no isolated incident. Such events occur the year round all over the world. When the whole world is facing such horrors, it would be prudent to be a bit more controlled in our celebrations.

Economy and politics are at the root of everything in today?s world. The people do well in countries where these two factors are stable. These factors are not doing too well in Bangladesh. When one year ends and another begins, there is naturally a sense of hope that things will change for the better. It is good if the GDP grows, but that is not everything. GDP cannot determine security. The beggar by the roadside and the rich man in his mansion are equally concerned about security. Security, peace and order are vital factors of life.

Bangladesh is not outside of the neo-liberal economic system. It faces both the pros and cons of such an evolving system. Conscious people are aware of the pitfalls in globalisation and ways and means must be devised to safeguard against the risks. No one has really come up with a solution to the problems of the new world order. It is far more vital to look into the advantages and disadvantages of globalisation for a developing country, rather than spend time in frivolous festivity.

The eighties saw a rise of a new wealthy class in Bangladesh, some earning their wealth by the sweat of their brow and others making their money overnight. It is not unnatural for their offspring to be unruly. Whatever the quality of education may be, it has increased. The government can?t ensure employment for all. Liberalisation and privatisation is not the answer to all maladies.

They don?t think of the sufferings of the unemployed educated populace. They sprout speeches, saying a worker who would earn one and a half kilos of rice from a day?s work, now earns ten kilos of rice from a day?s word. What they leave unsaid is that after a backbreaking day of hard labour, the worker cannot afford to buy half a small hilsa fish, a bit of lentils and a few vegetables. A person?s diet cannot consist of just boiled rice or flour. If that was so, the Bengali would be the happiest man on earth and not a single Bangladeshi would live below the poverty line.

We spew out rhetoric of our development, but if 95 per cent of the people do not come under the purview of this development, if it does not embrace everyone regardless of age, gender, race or any criteria, then this can hardly be considered development. The nation is certainly not doing well if only One hundred sixty thousand people out of 165 million people are doing well.

Our economy may be doing all right, but our politics is not. Economy cannot remain healthy in an unhealthy political environment. The government cannot be blamed alone. The opposition cannot sit back with its eyes closed. Civil society also has a role to play.

The people are no longer steeped in stoic acceptance, but demand education, health, employment and civic rights. People are aware of the evils of child marriage. People?s awareness has increased and they cannot be duped any longer.

Social values are important in all facets of life, from a personal to a state level. When we raise the issue of boundless corruption, social values must come to the forefront.

There is a degree of stability in our national life at present. There is much to be done to ensure that this stability is sustainable. That should be our focus in the New Year.