The gore and tragic deaths had occurred at Gulshan in the city on July 1, just five days before Eid-ul-Fitr. The country, including Dhaka, soon found itself caught in a haze of gloom and fear. It could not have been otherwise. Yet the urge to come out of this claustrophobic stranglehold and the search for an outlet to release the agonising sadness remained at work in the subconscious of the people. Perhaps driven by this urge, large numbers of people in Dhaka explored in this year's Eid festival a multi-hued splendour. Keeping apprehension and worries aside, people in general finally joined the festival that continued for days together. All the urban points in the country were on a long holiday, which continued for nine days.
The Eid celebration has been enjoying a major place in Dhaka's traditional festivities for hundred years. Despite being laced with an insidious fear, this year proved no exception. Evidently, the mood was subdued in Dhaka on the Eid Day. A pall of gloom hung in the air. As was natural, almost everyone planning Eid outings applied extra caution before they stepped out of their home and neighbourhoods on the day; because, to their great shock and horror, a mindless terror assault took place at the largest Eid congregation in the country on the Eid Day. The venue was not too far from Dhaka. However, thanks to the prompt action of the law enforcement agencies, there was no large-scale mayhem at Sholakia Eid congregation in Kishoreganj. But the appalling incident sparked a lot of popular anger and panic in the country, including the capital.
People began coming out of their homes in great numbers as the day wore on. By the afternoon they were found in droves at almost all the fun and recreational hubs of Dhaka. As this year's Eid-ul-Fitr fell amid a 9-day general holiday, many had left Dhaka and other large cities for popular tourist spots across the country. Holidaying people rushed into the solitude nestled in the sylvan woodlands of the greater Sylhet region, with many heading for pebble-tinkled hilly rivulets. A lot of others, in couples or with families, chose the Patenga sea-side in Chittagong or the widely preferred Cox's Bazar beach. The Kuakata beach, too, did not have any dearth of visitors. A number of the venturesome, frolicking youths set out for the Chittagong Hill Tracts forests. However, despite the fact that large numbers of people had already headed for their village homes, leaving the city comfortably breathing-worthy, Dhaka found itself filled with its natives. These Dhaka-centric people hardly leave the capital during the two Eids. They have their own and unique sources of pleasure in this very city.
Presently, the metropolis has on offer dozens of entertainments for its fun-seeking residents on the Eid Day. Male and female youths along with children comprise the largest segment of them. As has been seen in the recent years, it is the city's middle and lower middle classes that make the most of the festivities. In the earlier days, most of the entertainment and recreational activities were confined to Dhaka's Ramna Park. There was no zoo in the city at that time. The 'animal corners' in the present Matsya Bhaban area and inside Ramna Park would attract a handful of visitors on the general holidays. Lots of people living in the city and on the suburbs thronged the old airport at Tejgaon to have a closer view of the grounded passenger airplanes. To many, the spectacle of a semi-jumbo Pakistan International Airline (PIA) 1950s-model DC-3 Dakota or the later Boeing 720-B landing on the runway and taking off for a far-away destination was indeed awe-inspiring. In those good old days, watching planes from the roof of the one-storey airport building and even seeing off passengers from the apron did not pose security threats. Plane-watchers passing the whole Eid Day around the Tejgaon Airport gawking at the 'magical' aircraft and the local and 'sahib-mem' passengers were a common sight in the 1950s through the 1960s. Plane-watching continued up to the first few years of the opening of the country's busy international airport at Uttara. Later, the civil aviation and other authorities slapped restrictions on the common people's favourite recreation on the special days. The airport apart, many people, especially those in the older part of Dhaka, would take afternoon strolls along the Buriganga River and its distributaries flowing through the city. On the day, some would rent 'dinghis' for boat-rides. Pollution had not yet started stifling the Dhaka rivers and canals. Moreover, the lakes in Dhanmondi and Gulshan and the water bodies in Karwan Bazar and Maghbazar used to attract a number of people on the Eid afternoons. However, the Eid Day crowds around the lately re-excavated and renovated Hatirhjheel lakefront may remind one of the Dhaka-dwellers' special love for spending time near natural water bodies.
It was only since the 1980s that Dhaka's Eid pastime had begun noticing varieties. Shishu Park (children's park) in the Ramna area and the expanded Dhaka Zoo at Mirpur emerged in those days as popular spots. So did the vast botanical garden in the Mirpur area. In the following couple of decades, Dhaka witnessed the spree of opening state-of-the-art amusement parks. These massive parks, offering modern-day rides and lots of other amusements, began topping the charts of Eid Day attractions. They kept drawing the affluent middle-class families in greater numbers. Fun and frolic during Eid holidays in the recent times have been seen concentrated on these entertainment outlets.
Against the backdrop of the present Dhaka's varieties of colourful entertainments on the day, Eid pastime forty to fifty years ago may now seem insipid. To the teenage and young fun-seekers today, those days only expose their limitations and humbleness in offering amusements. The younger generations now cannot even imagine the immense pleasure that people would get in the past from watching a newly-released movie on the Eid Day. Throughout the 1960s to mid-seventies, Dhaka cinemas used to remain abuzz with movie-goers frantically searching for tickets. As could be seen every year, advance tickets would be sold out 2 to 3 days before the Eid, the movies' release day. But they were available with the omnipresent scalpers or ticket 'blackers'. And the frenzied movie-goers did not hesitate to buy the tickets at prices five to ten times the original. In reality, in those days fun-loving people used to consider watching a new movie, be it Bangla, Urdu or one from Hollywood, an entertainment ritual of sorts. The lone state television opened in the early sixties. The telecast hours would start at 6pm and close at 10pm. Monday was a day-off. The concept of broadcasting special entertaining programmes on the Eid days remained unknown for many years after the state-run TV's opening. The country's TV viewers, including those in Dhaka, had to wait until the late 1970s to watch pure entertainment programmes during Eid. In a couple of years, Bangladesh Television (BTV) began telecasting colour programmes. In the 1990s, private TV channels entered the scene with their arrays of new-format and innovative programmes. The single and serial dramas, glitzy music and dance, magazine shows and children's programmes, etc. did not have to wait longer. Not much people these days want to spend the otherwise fun-filled hours inside dark theatres. The whole year is there for watching movies. The Eid days could better be passed watching TV programmes with friends and the close people at home. Notwithstanding the fact that the TV entertainments have lately become repetitive and hackneyed, with little innovation in concept and presentation, large numbers of people still remain glued to the mini-screen. And to their utter delight, these Eid special programmes keep being telecast for seven long days.
Monotony or fatigue is an alien feeling on on occasion like this. Even if one does feel overcome with them, he or she can go out of the confines of home. The roads are free of gridlocks. Why not take a rickshaw or get on a car and move around the city as long as you like! After all, Eid is in the air.
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