A Gulshan resident, who goes by the name Sanzida Mishu, has been in anticipation ever since she heard about ‘Paara Utshab’. Finally on 2 December, she visited the event with her sister and her mother. Organised by the Gulshan Society, Heroes for All, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and powered by Prime Bank, Paara Utshab was held at road 56, 60 and 62, Gulshan 2, beside Gulshan Park. Simple pedestrian streets took the form of a festival from 9 AM to 8 PM. Music, food, crafts, souvenirs, arts; the event had it all. A parrot picking tarot cards, popping balloons with an airgun and painting what you like on a long white drape were among the fun activities to be enjoyed by the visitors at Paara Utshab.
“It is very difficult to get to know each other in Gulshan,” said Sanzida. “On top of that, getting together in this manner is not quite possible. At Paara Utshab not only am I getting to meet and greet my neighbours, and my neighbour’s neighbour, I am also getting to meet many of neighbours’ pets!”
As is in the name, attendants were in a festive mood. Visitors got to know each other, shook hands, hugged, and shared stories of their lives, and how the kids are doing. They got acquainted with the people they have been living with in the Gulshan ‘paara’ in the most animated manner.
“Paara Utshab was a resounding success. It brought together people of all ages, young and old, and their pet companions too! By blocking off streets for pedestrians only, we were able to transform neighbourhoods, for the better,” said Shayaan Seraj, convenor of Paara Utshab on behalf of Gulshan Society.
Many visitors came with their pearl or golden labrador retriever, lhasa and pomeranian pet dog companions. The lovely pets had to dodge through the crowd and they too enjoyed just as much as their ‘hoomans’ did. One couple were telling each other, “Wish we’d brought our Jimmy (pet dog), he’d have loved it!”
Pampered Paws, a popular pet grooming shop, owned and run by Ahona Rahman, saw a lot of support that day. “We are almost out of pet products,” Ahona said at only around 6 PM. Beautiful stalls dotted the event. It was at a boutique stall where Sanzida was enjoying her younger sister dipping her hands in a vat of dye to design a dress herself. The whole day she had been enjoying the other fun stuff in the event. In the centre, a stage was set up where there were music recitals and performance art. Well known drama troupe Prachyanat also performed on stage.
‘It’s Humanity Foundation’ showcased and sold sunglasses, mugs and all sorts of glassware adorned in rickshaw paint. ‘Fleur de Lis’, a flower shop, was the best smelling corner of the event, with all the kinds of flowers it sold. At ‘Aka Aki’, photorealistic watercolour paintings were sold. The artist was doing live sketches of visitors as well.
‘Ambis’ was a gift shop, ‘Dadur Bari’ was an ‘achaar’ shop – selling homemade pickles and condiments, ‘Chaap Chai’ sold beef food items, ‘Aranya’ set up a stall too where they sold their signature items made from organic materials, ‘Shahi Mishti Paan’ was there too, allowing visitors to colour their mouths a little in the colours of the pre-winter fest. ‘Banglar Mishti’ had their own stall there, selling sweetmeat and it was a fairly crowded corner throughout the day. Stalls promoting mental health from ‘Mone Niye’, ‘Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic’ were also there. Besides those, ‘Charity Shop’ sold used and new items, the proceeds of which would go to charity for underprivileged children. Near the entrance/exit, Sabuj Miah, a busker playing and selling flutes, was playing ‘Milon Hobe Koto Din E’ on the flute. As they left the bustling fest, visitors were waved goodbye with the sweet sound flowing from Sabuj Miah’s melodious playing.
The founder of the Salma Adil Foundation and a former Safe Hands representative at the US Embassy, Ln. Salma Adil, MJF, expressed her happiness with the locals’ widespread participation in the “Paara Utshob.” She stated: “It is great to witness neighbors participating in long-standing cultural traditions together. This will encourage more social engagement in the neighborhood.”