A musical event dedicated to Lalon's baul songs was hosted on January 26, by Rensje Teerink, the ambassador and head of the delegation of the European Union (EU) in Bangladesh at her residence in the city. She spoke for providing a bigger platform for Lalon song, true to the universal appeal of the mystic bard's messages. Acknowledging the richness and beauty of his genre of lyrics, the German ambassador in Dhaka Peter Fahrenholtz expressed his desire to attend the Lalon festival at the Lalon akhra (ashram) at Chheuria in Kushtia. The festival is organised every year to mark the day of demise of the great mystic saint.
There is ample reason for us to rejoice in this. The usual guests have now become the hosts. Truly, the foreign diplomats have acted as our cultural ambassadors! Through their genuine love and respect for Lalon a bonding has been forged with the best of our cultural legacy. It is a shared joy over an unalloyed pristine sense of belonging to humanity.
There is no question that Lalon's music has its special appeal among the Westerners seeing that many of their scholars have been studying Lalon's songs and his mystic philosophy since a long time back. The poets like Rabindranath Tagore who thought highly of Lalon having footprints on the tales of time and Nazrul Islam stand out with their unique contributions to our literature. The likes of poet-philosopher, Allen Ginsberg, from America's Columbia University, an exponent of the counterculture of Beat Generation were among many of Lalon's Western admirers. One may recall that their movement opposed war, selfish materialism, corporatism and bureaucracy. In many such respects, the world at large has hardly changed since. As such, Lalon's eternal theme of humanity, peace and love, remains not only undimmed but also even relevant to this day.
While none must fail to appreciate the high merit of the intellectual and philosophical contents of Lalon's thoughts, one cannot also ignore the brand value of the messages his songs and poetry do embody. Let's take a cue from the demonstration of Lalon's growing popularity emphasising the need for exploring eco and cultural tourism of which we have a truly great unrealised potential. Our folk traditions, rich and diverse and enchanting as they are can give the country a superbly complementary branding, something that needs to be focused on as the country goes forward.
The government and the ministry concerned with tourism are aware of the value for eco and heritage tourism in today's materialistic and consumerist contexts. What is needed now is pushing such agendas underpinned by a fiscal policy that encourages private investment on a large scale in the fields concerned. While the public sector will facilitate fulfilment of the goals through infrastructure embellishments including security which is in stronger hands now, the private sector has to come in a big way partnering for progress in the tourism sector as a whole. Quiet retreat and drift in today's noisy world are of the essence in what is termed an indeterminate 'new normal' where peace of mind is the prized goal of everybody.
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