Two separate prominent groups celebrated patriotism to the Bangladeshi community and to Canada this past Sunday, and turnouts paled in comparison to the past.
It can be considered a theme, really … a theme for 2020 in and of itself. And it’s a common theme and perhaps one that was certainly to be expected when the summer began after Covid-19 swept through our nation and others all over the world. It was known that the events planned for the summer would surely take a hit in terms of attendance, and these Bangladeshi celebrations were obvious evidence and proof of just this.
But unlike other events reported about this week, perhaps the first of two organizations that celebrated the event this past Sunday was a little better prepared as for what to expect. They didn’t throw all the bells and whistles into the preparation that they usually do for this event, expecting a small turnout from the get-go.
In the end, it certainly was for the best, but the essence of the event and the celebration was felt regardless, no matter how small it turned out to be.
I spoke to Jahangir Alam, who was present for the celebration at Howard Park, and he told me that the event was very different in scope than it usually was. Usually there would have been dancers, singers and much more food than was prepared. This year, as stated earlier in this piece, they were ready for what was to pass, so they decided to make it a small gathering of those that wished to come for the festivities.
Essentially there were a mere few dozen present, but they wanted to gather, said Jahangir to still show a sense of community and a sense of patriotism. In the end, it did show strength in the face of adversity and their presence in the community was still felt despite Covid-19.
City Councilor, Mary Deros was present, as she was present at all three events that were put on over the weekend, and she even spoke a few words to the gathering, urging safety and hopes for seeing everyone again the following year at hopefully a bigger celebration. After her speech, one community member said: “You are part of our family, Mary Deros,” at the mic … a sentiment that many in attendance and across the borough certainly share, as is evident at many of these gatherings.
Event at Jarry Park
And of course that wasn’t all for the day, not for me covering the events and not at all for City Councilor Mary Deros. After the above gathering, I made my way through some pretty heavy traffic and entered Jarry Park. Initially I expected there to be very few people, but the park—the entire expanse—was teeming with people, clusters of folks here and there, some respecting the rules in place because of Covid-19, and some not.
I walked through this multitude of people, not really feeling the effects of Covid-19 on society (many were playing sports and sitting and/or lounging here and there very much without a care, as perhaps it would have been in the years of the recent past), and finally I made it to the second gathering of the day, the second Bangladeshi Celebration, and here I found many more people celebrating than at any other event that weekend. There were multiple barbeques going, the smell of chicken emanating and rising to my nose and high above towards the trees shading the picnic area around the gazebo on the St-Laurent side of the park, and of course there was Mary Deros, once again, speaking with members of the community, and giving freely of her time.
This event was supported financially by entrepreneur and Tim Horton’s mogul Nazrul Alam Shanu and his good friend Rashid Khan, a local real estate broker and businessman. In addition to the BBQ, there was a massive amount of Tim Horton’s doughnuts and coffee, and the overall feel at this gathering was certainly one of community and family, many enjoying themselves and the essence of the celebration regardless of any constraints put upon them by the pandemic. Many other members of the Bangladeshi Community chipped in to help for this event, volunteering, manning BBQs and handing out drinks.
Hopes for the future
And in the end, the sentiment shared by one and all at both these events was certainly one of hope, a hope for the future and perhaps a return to the way things were before, especially when it comes to celebrations like this.