The country is celebrating spring and Valentine's Day this year differently from other years due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In the gentle morning of Sunday, nature took on a different form with the rising of the new spring sun. Amidst colourful new flowers on the trees, the cuckoos appeared, as if announcing that today is the first day of Falgun. Nature, with its all-encompassing beauty, reminded us that spring has come even to this mechanical city.
Despite the hustle and bustle of the city, Monir Hossain went out early in the morning to celebrate the day with his family wearing eye-soothing spring colours.
His daughter Muntaha Monir, a 9-month-old girl, his wife and another 5-year-old girl, all accompanied him for a walk in the spring. In the morning, Monir and his wife took pictures with their daughters at Hakim Chattar area of the Dhaka University campus, after visiting Ramna Park and Suhrawardy Udyan.
After a long one year, Monir Hossain had come out with his family. Ignoring the risk of Covid-19 infection, he came out to celebrate the day as well as breathe a sigh of relief.
Monir Hossain told The Business Standard (TBS), "As my daughter is young, we havenot attended any kind of social function in the last year. I came out today wearing a mask. Even then, the fear of being infected is always there."
"I have never celebrated such a pale spring and joyless Valentine's Day in such a fearful and risky situation," he added.
Four lawyer friends – Rasu, Chhanda, Nabila and Shashi – went out early in the morning. Although the four are at the court on other days, they deserted their workplaces on this special day to pass a joyful time visiting different areas of Dhaka.
Asked how they spent the day, they told TBS that this year, the number of different cultural events is fewer than that of previous years. "And people do not look as joyful as they usually do during such celebratory events," they added.
Celebration knows no fear
The spring festival was celebrated on Sunday morning at the open stage of Suhrawardy Udyan despite the fear of a sudden surge in novel coronavirus infections. The event was organised by the National Spring Festival Celebration Council, welcoming the spring amidst the panic of the pandemic.
Attendance at this event was enough but less than in previous years.
Spring songs, dances, instrumental music, Santal dances, etc., were performed to celebrate the spring festival.
Inaugurating the festival, playwright Nasir Uddin Yusuf Bachchu said, "We are celebrating the most joyous season of spring. It is definitely the best season. Leaving the pandemic behind, we hope, the spring will bring back the normalcy in our lives."
Manjar Chowdhury Sweet, an cultural activist, said, "According to the new Bangla calendar, we have been celebrating Pohela Falgun on 14 February since last year. I would like to share with you the love and spring of today. Let the six colors of spring reach everyone's house that is what we want in this horrific time of pandemic."
Flower prices high, fewer buyers
Visiting a few places in Dhaka – including Ramna Park, Suhrawardy Udyan, Dhaka University campus, Shaheed Minar, Hatirjheel and Dhanmondi – it was seen that this year's spring festival was not as crowded as other years. The fear of being infected by Covid-19, among the public, has made all the festivals lose their glamour and colour.
However, the attendance at the spring and Valentine's Day celebrations was slightly higher than other festivals during the corona period.
Not only in popular visiting or tourist places but also in various food restaurants, the number of people was few, even though discounts were given on the occasion of this day to lure the customers out of home.
Flower sellers said this year sales have halved compared to last year. Flowers worth Tk1 lakh are sold on this day during other years; the business booms every year on this spring and Valentine's Day, increasing sales by three to four times over other times. But the sales have decreased by 40% compared to other years.
Visiting the flower shops in Shahbag, it was found that the presence of shoppers is more than usual but the number of buyers is less than half.
This year the supply of flowers is less but the price has almost doubled, said flower seller Monir Hossain, adding that the demand for flowers is less this year.
People avoid transport, prefer to walk
Although the impact of the novel coronavirus has lessened in the country, many people seemed indifferent to the imminent danger of being infected by the virus, lost in the celebration of spring and Valentine's Day.
To celebrate spring and Valentine's Day, most of the people were seen visiting various places of interest in Dhaka on foot, or by rickshaw, with their loved ones.
People did not get on public transportation in great numbers, instead they walked on the sidewalk.
Young couple Sourav and Dwipa Nath told TBS, "We plan to walk around Hatirjheel, Ramna Park and Suhrawardy Udyan today. It will be great fun as for the first time since the onset of the novel coronavirus, people are feeling that getting rid of the deadly virus is not far away."
Masks rarely used
Nowhere the use of masks was seen, neither at roadside gatherings of friends, nor at different festive venues where near and dear ones visited to celebrate the day.
Maintaining social distancing also fell by the wayside as many people were not willing to abide by the health regulation.
Talking to some people, they said, it is not possible to wear a mask all the time. Moreover, one has to remove one's mask to take pictures, they said.