Bangla Festival & Book Fair in NYC

Bangla Utshob and Boimela
Bangla Utshob & Boimela

Muktadhara Foundation organized a 3-day long International Bangla Festival & Book Fair at the William Cullen Bryant High School of Long Island City from June 13 to 15, 2014. According to the organizer, it was their 23rd Bangla Book Fair. The fair was attended by many people, mostly of Bangladeshi origin. Some attendees were from West Bengal part of India and some from Europe. Hence, it was international in nature.  The objectives of the fair 2014 was “to project the cultural heritage of Bengali to expatriate Bangladesh and West Bengal and other communities living in the North America. And to build a sustainable link between the expatriate Bengalis and the land where they or their ancestors were born in field of information exchange, literature, culture & business.”

The festival brought together plenty of Bangla writers, readers, poets, artists, reciters, musicians, book publishers and spectators. The event was full of programs – general discussion, literary discussion, QA session with writers, song, dance, drama, recitation, children’s essay competition, youth forum, photo exhibitions, writer’s corner, short film, etc. Different programs were held in various parts of the venue – some event space were given names like Ali Anowar Room, Salman Khan Room, Aminul Haque Room, etc. There were also book stalls, cloth and jewelry stalls, food stalls, NGO stalls, and other kinds. A nice souvenir was published and a program leaflet was always available to pick up.

It was a festive, hectic and inspiring event. I went there last two days to enjoy and observe the festival. The list of guests and programs can tell that it was quite a big event. Organizing such an event successfully was certainly not an easy job! A big congratulation to organizers, sponsors, attendees, participants and all interested parties. It was better than a great festival.

Some discussion on technology, sports and more spotlight on youth forum could have been given!

I ventured different parts of the event and enjoyed them. I, however, also expected a bit more futuristic flavor from the festival. Felt that the festival was kind of past oriented. Here is my two main observations (and suggestions):

  1. The festival was full of programs but there was no science/technology related discussion of any form! Why not, who knows! Today, our life, ‘liberty’, literature, language, likings inundated by so many technological innovations (facebook, twitter, sms, apps, robotics, vr, etc). When we are gradually moving from writing to typing, typing to touching, touching to gesturing, and gesturing to ‘thinking’ – hundreds of topics can be think of to discuss about related to science and technology. Let’s do a quick, fun exercise about possible topics: (Again, this is just for fun)
    • ‘The Face of Bangla e-books’,
    • ‘Internet and Bangla Language: Today’,
    • ‘Possibility of a Bangla Bing/Google’
    • ‘One and Unified Bangla Typewriter’,
    • ‘Publishing Top-notch Online Bangla Newspaper’,
    • Bangla Language: Year 2100′,
    • ‘Self-publishing Technology and Bangla Book Publishing’,
    • Moimonshingho Gitika and the Psychology of Bengali’,
    • ‘The Science of Charchapod‘,
    • ‘Neurology of Language: Bangladesh Perspective‘. (ok, time’s up)
  2. Out of the all the programs, I enjoyed youth forum the most. Ok, I would not say it extraordinarily fancy and fantastic but it was very dynamic, hopeful, energetic and in English. This 2-day youth program was “designed, coordinated, conducted and presented by second generation Bengalis“. Young Bangladeshi-Americans presented and discussed various topics about entrepreneurship, politics, importance of volunteering, first generation immigrant experience, history of Bangladesh, making film in USA, community connection through photography, response to domestic violence, etc. Even with poor audio system, and hard to show their slides (due to bright light in the room), the youth presenters tried their best to make it interesting, informative and engaging. The discussion was entirely in English, which was natural and a right thing to do. While adults were debating whether new generation Bangladeshi-Americans should learn Bangla to be a Bengali, in the next room, the young’s were busy presenting their ideas in English in full swing. Unfortunately, not enough first generation audiences were there to listen to them! A meaningful dialog/conversation between the first and the second generation immigrants about how to represent Bengali could have been arranged! What the new generation of Bangladeshi-Americans think of the Bengali culture remained unknown!

Other observations where things can be done differently:

  • Photo exhibition of Bangladesh Liberation War 1971 on the 2nd floor was an excellent inclusion. This should have been given more highlights. I almost missed it! Photo exhibition of Pavel Rahman was also interesting and maybe bit nostalgic for adult-enough Bangladeshis. It could have been displayed in a corner by creating a little more appropriate atmosphere.
  • Organizers can utilize internet to provide more information. Few simple spelling mistakes on the home page could be avoided where ‘New York’ became ‘Ney York’, ‘Bengali’ became ‘Benglai‘, etc. (Now, I am concerned about my mistakes!)
  • The event is over now. If someone need information about this festival (writings/pictures/videos) in coming years, how will they get them? Archiving the program of the event is an important work that can be done.
  • Next time, maybe a big prominent display at the venue entrance with clear directions of the room, programs, time etc. can be displayed; audio system can be improved, etc.

Lastly, looking beyond the limit is like loving the limitless – this occasion was a good practice of that. Thanks again, for organizing such a wonderful event.

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