Today was an usual Sunday Afternoon. I woke up late, grabbed lunch at my local kopitiam mamak stall out of sheer hunger having skipped dinner last evening. The lunch plate is modelled on the banana leaf, on which ‘Sapaad’ or the lunch spread is served upon in southern India. The plate however, was a melamine one, and the fish curry and the fried fish was bleeding colourful. The gravy was on the rice, just as I like it. The fried papad was crunchy.
The Anna or elder brother (as i address him) who runs the Indian Muslim Mamak stall at the Block near to where I reside at Sunset Way, was over keen and served an additional portion of chicken which was not needed honestly. I had this meal with my favourite ginger tea and the Sunday Straits Times, eagerly checking whether I missed any story online, which is there in print.
After a late lunch, i took a cab to avoid the heat to Little India to a space which doubles up as the office of the only Bengali Newspaper in Singapore; Banglar Kantha and the Cultural Space for Migrants- Dibashram, which translates roughly translates to as the day shelter for migrants. The Editor in Chief of the Newspaper Mr. AKM Mohsin, is a community pioneer, leading many cultural initiatives for the Bangladeshi Migrant Worker Community in Singapore.
So, i walked up to his office located at a strategic intersection on Rowell Road in Little India area, located above a popular Indian Restaurant where I drink tea whenever I drop by this area. Mr. Mohsin had not arrived yet, so i wait for him while a couple of migrant workers play the harmonium and sing folk music loudly, all while i read Amit Chaudhuri’s ‘Calcutta’. Quite a combination and a prelude to the latter half of the day.
Mr. Mohsin walks in with Mr. Dewan Mizan, an art teacher and performing artist from Dhaka visiting the region on an exhibition tour. The artiste and a couple of others huddle up as they put together an exhibition of his sketches. The windows of the space converted in to an impromptu art gallery looked unique in a sultry afternoon
The plan was to perform art while a small skit was being performed by Bangladeshi Poets touching upon pressing issues faced by the Bangladeshi migrant. The Poets, enacted the skit in flesh and blood, with the flair of a professional, hardly revealing that they are battle hardened construction site engineers to boot. The emotional flair of oratory indicates a duality, typical of the migrant, who straddles multiple existences with ease.
It was surreal to experience the power of art, transform the ambience in an instant and bring out everyday issues in a silence shattering way.This initiative by Mr. Mohsin and Banglar Kantha/Bangladesh Centre Singapore/Dibashram is to be applauded as the event indeed was special.
I was on the introductory panel for the exhibition opening, explaining to the non Bengali speaking visitors in English. I believe though art transcends language, and the friends who did not understand Bangla, understood the vibe if not the precise content matter of the conversations.
Globalization has many downsides, but the confluence of migration narratives in an art form, certainly made my Sunday afternoon richer.