Monday, February 13, 2012

An evening at Pitha Utshob 2012

Pitha Utshob, in the Washington DC metro area, has become one of the largest festivals for Bangladeshi community members for more than seven years.  Since it was first organized by the Bangladesh Center for Community Development, Inc. (BCCDI), it has become an annual extravaganza for hundreds of Bangladeshi descendants living in the greater Washington DC area who pleasantly rediscover themselves in a pure Bangladeshi traditional home-made cake (called pitha in Bengali) festivity right here, so far away from home.

On Saturday, January 28th, folks joyously flocked to join this year’s event with their family and friends in a large auditorium at the West Springfield High School in Fairfax County to have an exclusive taste of Bangladeshi delicacies. His Excellency Ambassador Akramul Qader inaugurates the evening, following a group of students from Bangla School who solemnly sang the national anthems of both Bangladesh and the USA. While the crowd grows in a large hall room around pitha stalls, students and performers line up to present traditional Bangladeshi music and dance on a small stage to entertain the audience.  This is the time when BCCDI usually changes its stewardship and the newly elected Board of Directors takes charge through an oath-taking ceremony for the New Year. 

Please watch the video highlights of the event:

BCCDI, the only non-profit organization in the DC metro area, is dedicated to teaching the youngsters of Bangladeshi descent to Bangla language and culture. Its weekend school at the Gunston Community Center opens its doors every Saturday morning, where children come with their families to learn their parent’s language in a formal classroom setting.  As they learn how to read and write in Bangla, or how to sing and dance, they learn how to live and immerse themselves in a living and thriving Bangladeshi culture. Bangla School strives to resonate pure authentic Bangladeshi culture and traditions through year-round festivities like; Pitha Utshob, Language Martyr’s Day (also called as International Mother Language Day), Pohela Boishakh (Bangla New Year), Upahar Bangla Mela (Annual Bangladeshi Cultural Showcase), Eid/Puja Festivals, and so on.

Pitha Utshob takes all of us back to our traditional Bangladeshi lifestyle where pitha (cake making) means sweetness crafted in delicacies.  Though it’s usually made of rice, coconut, sugar, or molasses with different designs, textures and flavors, its offerings promise passionate love and care. It shows creativity of women in kitchen who take pride and trouble to prepare the ingredients and finally prepare them with patience.  Because it takes an enormous amount of time and energy to make pitha, it could be said that “Pitha” is a desert stuffed with sweetness and passionate love. To name few of these delicacies, they are: chitoi, patishapta, pakan, bhapa, andosha, kulshi, kata pitha, chit-pitha, gokul pitha, muthi pitha, jamdani pitha, chapdi pitha, nakshi pitha, pata pitha, tejpata pitha, jhuri pitha, phuljhuri pitha and bibikhana pitha.

Pithas are the pure embodiment of Bangladeshi sweetness and delicacies, and need to be carefully cherished and preserved.  It’s a time-consuming endeavor as I look around different stalls featuring varieties of pithas. I travel through time as I suddenly become very nostalgic.  I could remember my mom making pithas for us when I was young and serving them on a winter morning.  I could remember my grandma putting a bite of pitha in my mouth and insisting that I have more.  Pitha Utshob takes all of us back to the root of our popular culture of food festivity. I quietly salute the BCCDI and its volunteers who have so painstakingly organized the Pitha Uthsob 2012 to offer us a taste of Bangladesh. As I leave the premises, I simply say in my mind, a community thrives when it learns how to appreciate its deep rooted culture and identity.  Pitha Utshob, indeed, is one of them.

Please click here for more pictures.