Poila Baishakh of my Childhood and Now
Poila Baishakh of my childhood was somewhat different. Poila Baishakh would be the time of Haal Khata (new account books for businesses) and of new Ponjika (Almanac). I would see my Ma pour over the Ponjika and look up the Durga Pujo dates and then dig out her Bhromon Songi (a travelers' guides of sorts, there was no google at that time) to plan our annual vacations. My Dadu (Grandpa) would visit the local businesses that had invited him with me in tow. It meant that we will get countless Bengali calendars boasting the faces of many gods and goddesses (which slowly gave way to glossy pictures of nature) and boxes of yummy sweets. Sometimes I would accompany my Baba to the local fresh produce and fish market. My Didu (GrandMa) would be whipping up delectable fares and waiting up for her kids and grandkids to show up! There would be alpona (decorative patterns) adorning the entry ways and fresh flowers.
In many households there will be Lakhsmi and Ganesh Pujo.
Prabhat Pheris are perhaps a thing of the past. But it was a beautiful tradition where men and women, dressed in their traditional best (Dhooti-Panjabi for men and Laal Paar Saada Saree for women) and walk in a procession, belting out melodious renditions of Rabindrasangeet and greeting friends, families and neighbors with the customary 'kolakuli' and wish each other 'Subho Naba Barsho'.
Even though the celebrations changed over the years, somethings never changed. The day would always be spend with family. We would all get together, dressed in our best. There would be lots of food and lots of adda. And gifts. And more adda over the evening cuppa tea and beguni/piyaji (fritters).
The Poila Baishakh menu would most definitely boast of Mutton Curry, Mishti Pulao, at least two different kinds of fish, shrimps and of course Mishti Doi. Food is still the center point of the celebration, but now with a host of restaurants offering an extensive Poila Baishakh special menu, many prefer eating out than cooking at home.
There would always be something new for me to wear. And my Ma would buy something new for the home - cushion covers, bed sheets, bed covers, something from the Chaitra Sale. Now, the malls dress up to attract the crowd. There are exhibitions and handicraft melas now. This is the time to freshen up the décor. This is a tradition that I have religiously followed. Who doesn't like new clothes! And it gives us an excuse to dress up in sarees & pajama-panjabi! And buy something new for the home!
My earliest memories of Poila Boishakh apart from the rolls of new Bengali calendars, boxes of sweets was of my Ma going on a cleaning spree. Now my Ma is borderline OCD when it comes to cleanliness - and just before Poila Baishakh she would go into a deep cleaning mode. Every year without fail. Every nook and corner would be dusted and cleaned over and over, every inch of the floors scrubbed and every piece of drapery and washable upholstery cleaned/washed. This year is no different. She is in her spring clean mode. And the cockroaches and other creepy crawlies would stand no chance against her trusted Godrej Red Hit.
Some of those elements still remain. Somethings never change.
Subho Naba Barsho you all!
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Disclaimer : This post was written in association with Godrej HIT.