My first Pohela Boishakh – New Year’s Eve in Bangladesh

Published in a supplement by The Independent on 14 April 2010 (not available online)



On the morning of Pohela Boishakh I will wake in the dark. I will groan and grizzle and wipe my tired eyes as I put on a red and white salwar kameez before heading off to Ramna Park with a friend. If there’s time I’ll go to the Institute of Fine Arts to photograph the colourful procession of decorative floats that students were excitedly preparing yesterday. I am looking forward to seeing how Bangladeshis see in 1417 and I want to make the very most of it.

Lovely little ladies
Lovely little ladies

When I first heard that the Bangla New Year was approaching, I had something else entirely in mind. I assumed there would be parties on April 13, much like there are on January 31st. I didn’t realise that it is New Years Day rather than New Years Eve which is the focus of celebrations, and I was impressed to learn that people here actually do stuff to celebrate the occasion, rather than standing around in someone’s apartment at a party. This came as a bit of a shock to me, I admit. As an Australian, New Year’s Eve is all about going to a huge party, staying up really late, and sleeping through New Year’s Day. It is not an event of national or cultural significance – we have no Tagore, no memories of repression, nor any Banyan tree to gather around. But New Year’s Eve is definitely considered an opportunity to start afresh – making (and breaking) New Year’s resolutions is popular.

My favourite New Year’s Eve was in 2005, when I stayed in a rented beach house with friends. On the afternoon of the 31st we took part in a “mini-Olympics”, which involved drinking a can of beer while jumping on a trampoline and other such feats of “Australianess.” Before midnight we went down to the beach, lit a fire and had a swim in the unruly and jellyfish-infested ocean. Other young people staying along the beach road had the same idea, and it turned into a wonderful and long night.

Last year’s New Year’s Eve was a disaster in so many ways. My chief complaint was that I spent the night alone in a cold hotel room, which just felt so wrong. I was in Iran, and the year was officially 1388. I was on a doomed mission to find miniature Caspian horses, which were bred back into existence by an American woman who had spent the last 40 years living in Iran. Once I heard of this, I decided that finding the fabled horses was much more worthwhile than pursuing a cold beer in a dry country. I’d invited an Australian photographer to come along and our plan was to catch a train on New Year’s Eve and to reach Gorgon by the evening. I saw myself seeing in the new year beside a campfire in the grasslands with teeny-tiny  ponies snoozing nearby. Heaven.

However on the morning we were due to depart, Adam called to say his travel plans had changed – he was continuing south to Oman. When I finally managed to get hold of a phone number for the stud farm – just hours before the train left – I was informed that the stud owner was dead and her children had dismantled the farm.

It wasn’t too late to cancel the plan altogether, but I didn’t – I’m still not sure why. After sharing a ladies’ train compartment with the goalkeeper of the Iranian women’s football team, I was deflated when I finally arrived at my guesthouse, which was tatty, depressing and had no TV. The only other guests were a handful of men from Turkmenistan. No one spoke a word of English. And yet, regardless of the fact that no one knew or cared that 2009 was about to be ushered in, I decided with characteristic stubbornness to celebrate on my own. My attempts were meager: I’d saved a new book to read and I bought beautiful Persian pastries that were dripping in honey. And because I couldn’t talk to my friends or family, I made a pathetic Youtube video clip documenting my plight (see below).

Afterwards I indulged myself by smoking a cigarette. Needless to say after all that excitement, I fell asleep before midnight. However I subsequently decided that the upside to this rather peculiar experience is that I can remember it – clearly. It stands out among a long series of pleasant New Year’s Eve celebrations that have blurred into a single, hazy memory. Fortunately, as I have never before celebrated the Bangla New Year, I am confident I’ll be incapable of forgetting it.

Here’s the “sad little me” video I made on NYE in Iran –




PROMOTE BANGLA – Saurav Chatterjee

First of all i would say “LOL” !
People dont party on 13th april as in there’s no New Year’s eve. As its a solar calendar.
There’s NEW YEAR’S DAY As the day begins wit the sunrise 🙂
Was a nice read through ur post.

List of articles about Bangladesh « Jessica Mudditt's Blog

[…] 46. My first Pohela Boishakh – New Year’s Eve in Bangladesh, The Independent, 14 April 2010 […]

Anannya Rahman

nice I enjoyed.Anannya

vimax asli canada

May I just say what a comfort to uncover
somebody that really understands what they are talking about on the net.
You certainly know how to bring a problem to light
and make it important. A lot more people should check this out
and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you’re not more popular given that you
definitely possess the gift.


Dear Admin sir. Thanks for your awesome Post. i am looking for Pohela Boishakh 2016 Collection . please can you give me any update ?


Leave a Reply

About The Author

Jessica Mudditt is an Australian freelance journalist whose articles have been published by The Economist, BBC, CNN, Marie Claire, GQ and Australian Geographic.





Meet Jessica Mudditt

Jessica Mudditt