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Hilsa still unbeatable on Pahela Baishakh menu

Hilsa still unbeatable on Pahela Baishakh menu

Dhaka – Despite a strong campaign over the last few years against keeping hilsa on Pahela Baishakh’s morning menu as an ‘artificial’ culture, the demand for the delicious fish among city dwellers looks still very high this year too, pushing up its prices disproportionately ahead of the Bangla New Year. -UNB
Fish traders at different city kitchen markets on Thursday and Friday said they have started witnessing a huge rush of hilsa buyers, even over a week before the Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bangla calendar year, leading to its soaring prices.
Customers said they are buying hilsa early for celebrating the Pahela Baishakh fearing its further price hike before the mega festival.
Taking to UNB, prominent academic and writer Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury and noted cultural personality Ramendu Majumdar said taking hilsa with soaked rice on Pahela Baishakh morning is a culture created by some urban people which has actually no relation with the nation’s long tradition and heritage.They said an extensive campaign by the media and the government should be carried out to discourage people not to follow an artificial ‘panta-ilish culture to save the national fish during its spawning season and break the syndicate which is making huge money by raising its prices on the occasion.
Some customers also admitted that they know eating hilas on Pahela Baishakh is not the traditional and original culture of Banglaees, but a whimsical trend.
“I’m buying hilsa as my daughter told me that her some friends will visit our home on Pahela Baishakh morning to take panta-ilish. I tried to convince her to arrange some other foods to entertain them, but she is adamant…,” Tasmin Sultana, a housewife told UNB at Malibagh Bazar.
Fish traders at Karwanbazar, Shantinagar, Malibagh, Segunbagicha and Rampura kitchen markets said the prices of medium and big size hilsa have marked a rise by around Tk 250-400 per kg in a week due to its growing demand ahead of Pahela Baishakh.
The more Pahela Baishakh will get closer the more hilsa will be overpriced, they said.
Big size hilsas are being sold at 1,600-1,800 per kg and traders are displaying those in a limited number showing its scarcity as rich people mostly prefer those. A hilsa weighing 800gm is selling at Tk 900-1,500 while 600-700gm one Tk 800-950 and 400-500gm fat Tk 550-700.
Traders can sell hilsas at higher price if they can convince their customers that those are from the Padma River.
“My wife and children requested me to buy hilsa for Pahela Baishakh morning. So, I’m buying it early. The prices of hilsa are now very high, and I think it will be costlier a couple of days later,” retired government official Selim Bhuiyan told UNB on Friday at Karwanbazar kitchen market.
Abul Bashar, a fish retailer at the same market, said people in their numbers are coming to buy hilsa though still eight days are left to celebrate the Pahela Baishakh.
He, however, claimed that they are making a reasonable profit as still they are selling the national fish with little higher prices. “Due to the huge rise in demand, we’re collecting hilsa at high prices. So, we can’t make good profit.”
Another fish trader at Shantinagar Bazar, Abul Kalam, said the price of hilsa will increase further two to three days later as the rich and higher-middle income people will choose to buy it just one or two days before the Pahela Baishakh.
Contacted, Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury said having panta-ilish on Pahela Baishakh is nothing but a luxury of the middle and higher-middle income groups though it has no root in the old tradition of celebrating the Bangla New Year. “I think those who take panta-ilish in a festive mood on the Pahela Baishakh are just making a mockery with our original culture.”
Alongside campaign against such ‘concocted’ culture, he said traditional Pahela Baishakh programmes like Baishakhi fair, magic and circus-shows, and musical events can be popularised to discourage people from indulging in having panta-ilish to mark the day.
Ramendu Majumdar said taking panta-ilish to celebrate Baishakh celebration is an invented culture. “A section of people tries to become Bangalees for a day by having panta-ilish as a fashion on Pahela Baishakh.”
He said a section of businessman is making windfall profit on the occasion of Pahela Baishakh by raising hilsa prices due to its huge demand in urban areas.
The noted cultural activist said the media should highlight the issue and play a role in bringing a change in this artificial culture and save hilsa during its breeding season.