Culture binds people together. In home country, or in a different one, festivals and cultural events help people to stay connected and continue with their traditions.
The ‘Bengali Society of Queensland’ (BSQ) has made it possible for Bengalis and Indians living in Brisbane, to continually cherish the Bengali heritage. Beginning with a small group of people, BSQ is currently a community of over 500 people and continues to grow. Over the years, BSQ has continued to celebrate multiple Bengali festivals and organise cultural programs, sustaining the Bengali spirit in a land more than 5,000 miles away from home.
Unfortunately, 2020 posed a never-seen-before challenge to the entire world, including BSQ. The COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and social distancing protocols posed significant challenges in organising regular festivals and cultural events. Overcoming the challenges, BSQ Executive Committee organised virtual events to engage with the members and keep up the spirit of BSQ.
On 7th May 2020, BSQ Executive Committee published a video on BSQ YouTube channel featuring its young and young-adult members performing “Akash bhora surja tara”. An ensemble of musical instruments such as saxophone, tabla, keyboard, flute, guitar, piano accompanied by beautiful vocals were performed and recorded by individual members at their home. These were then combined together and published as a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore on his 159th birthday, commonly referred to as ‘Rabindra Jayanti’ by the Bengalis.
Following this, BSQ Executive Committee urged members to record performances for a virtual cultural program. The submissions were assembled and broadcasted via BSQ YouTube channel on 16th May 2020, to celebrate ‘Baishaki’, a traditional event organised by BSQ every year to mark ‘Poila Baishakh’ – the beginning of the Bengali calendar year. Following the success of Baishakhi, on 18th July, another virtual cultural program was broadcasted live on YouTube by BSQ. While some BSQ members participated and contributed to the cultural events, the appreciation, enthusiasm and support from members was overwhelming. Engagement of the wider community through likes and comments on BSQ Facebook page was a welcome compliment.
On 17th September 2020, to mark the beginning of ‘Devi Paksha’, BSQ in association with their exclusive media partner Australian Indian Radio presented ‘Mahalaya’ on radio that was enjoyed and appreciated not only by BSQ members but also by Bengalis residing in other Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne.
With ‘Durga Puja’, the biggest annual Bengali festival approaching soon, followed by ‘Laxmi Puja’ and Diwali’, BSQ plans to bring out the talent of its members through more such virtual events.
The BSQ Executive Committee wishes a very happy Durga Puja and prays for the well-being of its members.