Travelling home on grand festivals like Eid in Bangladesh is getting tougher by the year. In the last couple of years, the long journeys have virtually been exercises in tests of how much and how long one can endure the ordeals of day-and-night-long travels. No matter to which part of the country people set out for, they cannot avert trouble availing transport on time. Mid-travel hazards like getting stuck in long tailbacks, difficulty finding enough space to spend the travel time, unforeseen mishaps like missing the ferries, to delays prompting many to say their Eid prayers on way are common. Be the homebound travellers on long-haul buses, motor launches or both the express and local trains, almost everyone seems fated to go through these miseries. Surprisingly, none seems exhausted or perturbed. The reason --- they are going home. Their sweet home.
Universally, there has been no place like home. Centuries ago, a home has been regarded as safe shelter. The concept of 'home' far away from workplaces began being widely used with society becoming urbanised. It meant lots of people had gone to the urban centres leaving their near and dear ones behind. But they didn't go for good. They would return to their native homes once or twice a year, especially on events of traditional celebrations. These festive occasions ranged from harvest-time, religion-ordained jubilations etc. In the pagan times, the celebrations continued for days in a row. These festivals dominated the regions having different idolatrous faiths. Pre-monotheist beliefs like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism etc had their own beliefs. But those revolved round the mundane activities like harvest in the main. The South, Southeast, and East Asian regions are still distinguished by these celebrations --- especially the Chinese belt. In China, however, the native New Year's festival continues for weeks. The celebration has for centuries been watching the home-centred festival in the villages and small towns. The large cities are nowadays witness to mass exoduses to villages across the country.
The Abrahamic believers once, notably in the early Christian era, had their own conventional treks to their native homes. The trend reached its peak in the two centuries after the Industrial Revolution. The historic shake-up across Europe prompted the working class to settle in the industrial centres. With the approach of the Christmas, these people would be seen taking hectic preparations to visit their native villages, especially their homes. Week-long holidays added greatly to their jubilation. The Christian communities still enjoy Christmas in the highest possible level of its pageantry, which ends in the Gregorian New Year's jubilation. Christmas is now recognised as the largest religious-social festival in the world. The Jews also have their exclusive Rosh Hashanah festival.
In fact, in the context of the festivals centring round the Abrahamic religious celebrations, they emerge as the larger ones. Coming to Islam, these days a vast region in Asia celebrate its largest festival of Eid. Roughly it starts from Turkey, and fans out eastward to Syria, Iraq, Jordan, the vast Arab region, Iran, Afghanistan and onward to the Sub-continent. The Eid celebrations are integral to the nations inhabiting the vast northern Africa. The countries include Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and a number of countries with large Muslim populations. The region in which Eid is considered the greatest of festivals also includes the Muslim-dominated countries of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. In India, however, there are state- or region-level non-Muslim festivals. While the Bengalees in West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and some other pockets celebrate Durga Pooja, the northern India and the nearby areas get swayed by the 'Dussehra' and 'Navratri' festivals. On the other hand, the southern India has been celebrating their distinctive festivals since long. The South Asian state of Nepal has its own version of Hinduism accompanied by pageant-filled jubilations. The most striking aspect of the yearly Indian celebrations is its spectacular observance of Eid in almost all the big cities and towns. Those include Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata, Murshidabad and some other state capitals. Muslim-dominated Malaysia and Indonesia in Southeast Asia celebrate the two Eids amid solemn fanfare.
As many Muslim countries are now highly developed, they are mostly city-centred. They have few close relatives in villages far from the capitals and trade centres. Like in the highly developed countries, the earlier rural part of life has disappeared in a lot of Muslim-dominated states. The case of South Asia is also somewhat different due to its being bound by tradition. Being an agro-based country, Bangladesh cannot dissociate with its rural past, and its village-based community culture. A century ago, the Kolkata-based Hindu service-men and the affluent businesspeople used to visit their native villages as a ritual. Meanwhile, a new Muslim upper- and lower-middle class social component had kept emerging in Bengal, especially in its eastern part. Comparatively, the trend of going to ancestral village homes on the eve of Eid was picked by Muslim Bengalees a little later than their Hindu brethren. In years, the two festivals coincided on almost similar days. It resulted in the vast rural expanses turning into venues of days-long festivities. Those invariably included staging 'jatras', organising sessions of folk songs, village fairs and many other festivities.
In the recent decades, many Kolkata-based Bengalees reportedly prefer to stay back in the city during the Pooja festivals than going to their villages. The younger and those in their early middle-age have long picked the Western trend of travelling places. As India is a vast land with various types of natural beauty, there is no dearth of holiday spots. The travel destinations range from the Himalayan region, areas offering a cool atmosphere round the year to dense forests and number of sea beaches. Despite the fast-growing popularity of the trend of going out of the crowded Kolkata, lots of people love to spend their Pooja holidays in the city.
It's only in the last few years, excluding the 2-year corona shutdown, that a number of people in the Bangladesh cities have been found venturing out into the domestic tourist spots. Many thrill-seeking youths are seen looking for unexplored sites, like those hidden in the forest-covered hills in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. To the young people, these adventure feats are more tempting than spending time with their near and dear ones back in the now-crowded villages. Of all things, by travelling to unconventional destinations, these youths might find themselves spared the many ordeals of the frenzied Eid rush home. The seemingly endless traffic snarl-ups and tailbacks on both national and regional highways, the jostling crowds on the cheaper modes of transport detract a lot of joy from the travels home. In order to avoid these sufferings, embarking on a mid-length journey to places far from the same old rural spots emerges as a wise option.
To enjoy the benefits of travelling on 6-or 12-lane highways or by perfectly roomier water transport, the Eid travellers may have to wait for some more time. Moreover, they have become exhausted from buying travel tickets at prices 2/3 times the official rate. Like the general people, the city-born youths look forward to those days when the Eid trips will be completely free of these blights.