Last year during the entrance examination days of Dhaka University, my friend's younger brother was accepted in both Charukola - Faculty of Fine Arts and Institute of Business Administration (IBA). And guess where he chose to study? Of course IBA! He had to, because it was his mother's wish, and most importantly - what would people say? If anyone had come up to you and said that he chose fine arts over the most reputed business school in the country, you would have frowned and said, "Is he nuts?"
He had not done anything stupid according to the local social standards, but the boy whose Instagram account was brimming with artworks have now embraced the life of a corporate hotshot.
Do not get me wrong as I have nothing against IBA. This is just a contextual example but we see this every now and then. All of us have a friend who loves to write but chose to study engineering because his parents wanted that, or that one person who is studying law but his heart lies in acting. Your cousin might want to pursue higher education in dancing, but her mother might say, "What career would you build by dancing?"
We are familiar with such characters. But you may think that why I am talking about this when the world is fighting with life and death. Is this an appropriate time to talk about these issues?
As a matter of fact, this is the perfect time. For those who are privileged enough to stay at home in this shutdown, how are they coping with the situation? Most are engaged in common activities such as watching movies/series, reading books and listening to music, to name a few.
Now just imagine this shutdown without any form of entertainment. Every day you are waking up, eating, working from home, cleaning, cooking, spending time with your family, chatting with some friends online and then going back to sleep. Each passing day will be a series of repetitions for an indefinite amount of time. And your head will want to blow up out of boredom. This is why entertainment of any form is important so we can remain sane beings in such trying times.
The same artists who bring joy in our lives are one of the most undervalued professionals of this country. Could you have enjoyed the mind blowing performance of Scarlett Johansson in the movie Marriage Story if her parents forcefully sent her to a medical school? Can you imagine Shayaan Chowdhury Arnob becoming a banker instead of pursuing a career in music that puts his enchanting voice to good use? Could the Russo Brothers have dragged you into a world of fantasy if they thought "There's no money in filmmaking?"
Without artists, the world would become a catastrophe.
Before the shutdown, the first thing I used to do is put on my earphones to listen to music. A friend of mine used to regularly visit Dhaka Shilpakala Academy to watch theatre performances during his spare time. But whenever we see someone actually pursuing art, we make fun of them. Suddenly they become less respected in society. There is a popular urban saying - "Without 'art' the earth is just eh."
Now that we have nothing productive to do, we might actually understand the meaning of this phrase. So, let us take some time to ponder how these artists have been serving our hunger for recreation by their thoughts, effort and creativity.
Everyone is saying that the world would not return to our version of "normality" once the pandemic is over. We do not know the magnitude of the changes but surely we can make small changes individually.
The next time you see your younger sister aiming to become a singer, support her dreams. Surprise your friend by visiting his stand-up comedy show randomly. If your designer friend is launching her own clothing line, buy her products by paying the fair price instead of asking for free goodies. Encourage anybody who wants to be a writer or screenplay writer - he might become the next Woody Allen! Apart from taking pride in them after they become successful artists, we might as well play small protagonists' roles in their theatre of life.
It is about time that the artists and their creations are valued as per their worth and dignity. Because at the end of the day we, the so-called "ideal job holders" need to surrender ourselves to their creation for unleashing our souls. We should take this as a lesson that when everything else was out of reach, artists' creation kept us sane till the end.