Pahela Baishakh is just three days away. But for the second year in a row, the day is set to be less of an occasion for joy and more like just another day spent at home.
But that’s for regular people. For artisans and traders of the south, who look forward to the day to pocket a big portion of their yearly income, this year’s Barshoboron will be an occasion for frustration and despair.
Buli Rani Pal, a potter of Gaila village in Barishal’s Agailjhara upazila, said though she has made a few clay toys, but she’s yet to find any takers as of yesterday, and it’s unlikely that she’ll find many buyers in the coming days.
Besides, Artisans from Barishal say beyond the money, they’ll also miss the happiness the day always brought them.
”It’s become a habit, so I have made some clay dolls and toys, even if only for my family and close ones,” said Purnima Rani Paul of Ujirpur upazila. “It’s not just about the money, the very act of creating the toys used to bring me a lot of joy.”
Like her, more than five hundred families from the division’s Paul Paras (potter’s villages) will be left in similarly dire situations as no fairs will take place this year.
As a result, many are considering leaving the profession. “Traditional products like ours depend on social gatherings to sell. We are suffering immensely,” said Bishweshwar Pal, advisor of Barishal Mritshilpi Shammelon o Shammanana”, an artisan’s collective.
On top of this, the lack of public transportation means people will be discouraged to move around, while intercity transportation is not possible as well.
Member secretary of the collective Bappi Majumder said, “Around 300-400 potters scattered around south used to make products worth Tk four to five lakh, centering Pahela Baishakh festivities. But this time, they made only a few products,” he further said.
Apart from Barishal, the situation is similar across the greater south too. Kamal Pal of Madanpura Palpara in Baufal upazila in Patuakhali said they cannot even send their goods to Dhaka, due to vehicular restrictions during the lockdown.
As a result, around 10-12 potters and traders from Madanpura and Boga areas in the district stand to lose more than half a crore taka combined.
Over in Jhalokathi, Tapan Pal of Shimuleshwar village is worried over how he’s going to pass the next year. His clay-made tea cups and toys used to bring in a substantial money, which helped him pass the off peak months in relative comfort.
Hasanur Rahman Maksood, District Cultural Officer of Barishal, said Tk 10,000 was given to 230 folk artistes, including some artisans, each to 230 folk artists to help cope with the difficulties of last year.
However, potters said this paltry amount doesn’t really help solve their financial woes. Besides, only a few of them received it, whereas thousands of people in the south are involved with the craft.
Nazmul Hossain Akash, president of Barishal Shangskritik Sangathan Samannoy Parishad, said all folk artistes suffering due to the lockdown should be given allowances by the government, otherwise soon they’ll start leaving the craft and the country will be at risk of losing a big part of its cultural heritage.