Bengali Ananda Mela: A Carnival of Joy বাংলা আনন্দ মেলা: জয় এর একটি কার্নিভাল

By Susie Cheong, Elizabeth Dubon, Kimberly Guifarro, and Nabeeha Ahmed

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The Bengali community of Southern California congregated on August 5th and 6th at the buzzing and bright Virgil Middle School field to honor and celebrate the joys of their culture.

This event, which was held from 12 PM to 12 AM, accommodated several special guests: Herb J Wesson Jr.,Tareen Jahan, Abu Hena Rony, and many more. The occasion of the fair was a medium for many to connect with their native people and embrace their ethnicities. This festival created a sense of unity amongst the South-Asian guests and provided a night to remember.

Throughout the entire event special guests were performing, and games were going on for people to have fun and enjoy the rest of their day. A special guest speaker was Herb J Wesson, City Council President of Los Angeles, and he was there to present an award by mayor Eric Garcetti to the Bengali TV actress, Tareen Jahan. Jahan, 41, has been acting since 1988 and has been a part of almost forty tele-films and dramas. She was honored for her talent, participation in the Bengali entertainment industry, attendance at the festival, and being positively influential for spreading Bengali culture through her actions.

It is celebrating the small joys that life has to offer that keeps the Bengalis close to their roots.”

Dilruba Khan, a Bengali folk singer, graced the event with her presence as well. The music artist, who is in her early fifties, has had many hit albums, Sona Bondhure and Nirjon Jamunar Kule being amongst her most popular. She stated she was very happy to be in America, but was apologetic towards the audience as she had developed a sore throat due to the climate change. Despite it all, she performed to the best of her ability and gathered a cheerful crowd when she sang the “Sona Bondhure” track with the Swaraj band. The Bangladeshi band sang hit songs of other famous vocalists and kept the lively environment continuing at the Ananda Mela.

Other performances included dances by local talents Ishu and Zeeshan, two cousins who have been dancing over eight years, and Abu Hena Rony. Rony is a Bengali comedian who was the co-winner of Mirakkel Season 6, an Indian reality show. At the festival, Rony made audiences of all ages laugh. A popular joke of his was when he related that he was going around asking for food for his family from different people, whether it be from a restaurant, a convenience store, or a neighbor. He ended up asking a police commissioner, who felt sympathy towards him and gave him his lunch. When he arrived home, his mother was surprised and said, “Where did you get that food? You stole it didn’t you? One day you are going to make me eat the food in jail!” The comedian was pleased because he had fulfilled her wish.

There were also several food stalls that were set up and managed by local residents. The ethnic delicacies ranged from street foods to authentic dishes. The quick snacks that made the visitors feel at home included dahi puri, or fried crispy bread pieces covered in yogurt, tamarind, and mint sauces; chotpoti, or spicy chickpeas; mango lassi; a sweet mango yogurt drink. Many local bengali restaurants like Bangla Bazar also promoted their business by selling hot dinners like biryani, or a rice and meat combination dish, and Bihari kebabs, or beef kebabs in creamy masala marinade. KFC was also a vendor and provided a halal chicken option to the mostly Muslim group. In addition, South-Asian clothes and jewellery were on sale by experienced women associates. Photo booths were available for children and teenagers to enjoy as well.

The culture of Bangladesh refers to the way of life Bangladeshis. It encompasses the cultural diversity of several social groups of Bangladesh and many Bengali writers, saints, authors, scientists, researchers, thinkers, music composers, painters, choreographers, and film-makers have made a significant in the development of the Bengali Culture. Rabindranath Tagore was a well-known Bengali figure who once won the Nobel Prize for literature, as he reshaped music and literature in that region. His influence remains stamped on West Bengal area.

Those who attended the Ananda Mela were able to get a feel of their native land, despite being over than 13,000 miles away. They got to experience a home away from home that included not only the food and culture, but most important, the people. Being a minority group in America, let alone California, it means a lot to be able to gather and embrace their mother-tongue, familiar sights, food, fashion, and art. It is celebrating the small joys that life has to offer that keeps the Bengalis close to their roots. 

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