Spotlight on the Bangladeshi Community
By Ras Siddiqui
The Bangladeshi community in northern California is certainly growing in numbers just like other South Asian groups here in the Golden State. But it is not heard of as frequently as those from other neighboring countries, till the month of April, 2017 that is, when not one but area two events (both well attended) were held here and warrant a spotlight not just on Bangladesh but also on the Bengali community and culture as a whole.
On April 1st the Bay Area Bangladesh Association (BABA) held its ShadhinotaDibosh(Independence Day) celebration at the Evergreen Valley High School in San Jose where dignitaries including US Congressman Ro Khanna and State AssemblymemberKansen Chu participated along with a leading member of local police.
And on April 8th, a very colorful BoishakhiMela (New Year Celebration) for the year 1424 was put together by the Anandamela Team at the Orangevale Community Center in the Sacramento area. Both events showcased the vibrancy and the colorful culture of ethnic Bengalis with music, dance and some seriously good food, so participation in them was an enriching experience in more ways than one!
In San Jose, guest artists Chandan Zaman Ali (Winning Band), singing sensation Rashed Uddin Ahmed Topu and celebrity MC and Singer AlifAlauddin were slated to perform, and officials from the Los Angeles Bangladesh Consulate were expected for consular services at Cougar Hall. Incidentally, that remote site, a short walk from the main theatre, was also buzzing with activity, mainly because that was where the food and other items were located. A special thank you is in order here to the young lady who prepared a plate of Jhal Muri for me. It was some of the best that I have had outside of Dhaka and a reminder of many years spent at St Joseph Higher Secondary School, consuming this snack delicacy outside its gates.
Inside the main theatre at the high school, US Congressman Ro Khanna gave a short speech during which he expressed his appreciation for the Bangladeshi-American community and its support during his (successful) bid to get to congress in last November’s elections. He reflected on the rich heritage that this community has brought to America and congratulated BABA for providing leadership to it since 1985. Khanna was presented a plaque of appreciation here by the Chairman of the BABA Board of Trustees. California State AssemblymemberKansen Chu also added his appreciation for this organization and shared a story of his own immigrant roots with us. And Santa Clara Assistant Chief of Police Dan Winter said a few words and was presented with a token of appreciation by the BABA Executive Committee. In the end it was not just the good Bengali snacks that carried the day, but the colorful performance by the children and the great music which combined made this Bangladesh Independence Day celebration (which is officially held on March 26th) a success.
On April 8th in the city of Orangevale (Sacramento area) we moved on from a country to a culture as the Anandamela Team celebrated Bengali New Year with its 10th BoishakhiMela, drawing participants from Fresno and the San Francisco bay area and from as far away as Reno, Nevada. One can foresee that in the near future, the local Bengali community is going to have to seek even larger facilities to hold this event because the main hall was packed. The performances too were quite elaborate with the kids outshining the adults on occasion with their own dance segments. The schedule here included fashion shows, dance, vocals and a whole lot more. There was so much going on that event emcee NajmusSaquib had to stay busy both on and off the stage. The group songs, dance, folk fusion and a host of other performances were well done. It was also great to observe immigrant Bengali parents giving direction to their American born kids on how to present themselves on stage.
There are estimated to be over 200 million people in this world who are native Bengali (Bangla) language speakers. They are mainly concentrated in the country of Bangladesh and in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam. Much of this area is densely populated, but it is also quite literate. Bengalis have already made their mark in the world of cinema, economics, the building of skyscrapers, and, of course, in music and literature (the first South Asian Nobel Prize in literature was awarded to a Bengali, Rabindranath Tagore). Today, it is good to see this community flourishing in America too.
These two events opened for us a small window into Sonar Bangla or “Golden Bengal” in northern California. Let us look forward to many more such events. (Belated Bangladesh Independence Day and Bengali New Year greetings to our readers).