I never thought of Poyla Boishakh as a “date” really. It was always like the name of a festival like Bhai Phota or Holi. It was my favourite festival for long (as long as I was the youngest member of the extended family, to be more precise). And that was because our family, quite a run-of-the mill family otherwise, had a fantastic nobo borsho ritual which we called “thol-khoroch”.
How it worked:
Step 1 - Wear new clothes and reach Mejo Jethu’s place as early in the morning as possible (that was the only day of the year when didi or me did not need an alarm clock or an angry mother to get up from bed).
Step 2 – Keep a bag, preferably with many pockets and at least a zipper, ready at hand.
Step 3 - Bend down to touch the feet of anyone who is older (even if by a day).
Step 4 – Smile and stretch your hand to collect the “thol khoroch”, which could range from anything between Rs 5 (some miserly pishis) to Rs 50 (generous uncles or aunts with cataract who mistook the 50 rupee note for a 10).
Step 5 – Put it in your bag and add up (for the zillionth time) how much money you have made so far.
Step 6 – Close the bag and keep it with you at all times.
Step 7 – Scan the room/house for anyone who you might have missed…or anyone who you can approach the second time for the same purpose (old dadus with failing memories and a heart of gold were the best targets for this approach).
Step 8 – Stay away from cousins who are a few days/months younger. You never know, they might just drop at your feet for that crazy thing called money.
Step 9 – Call the relatives who haven’t yet arrived at the central venue and ask them to make it fast as you are already “missing them” too much.
Step 10 – Force your father to take you to the houses of those relatives who are sick (or just pretending to be sick).
Step11 – Come back to Jethu’s house and add the money for the final time in the evening.
Step 12 – Decide on a menu with your cousins and order home delivery. Tell the adults that you’ll would pay it with the money collected but quietly sneak away when the delivery boy arrives with the food and the bill.
Step 13 – Eat to your heart’s content while still holding on to your bag (the wicked cousins know that this is the best time to catch you off guard).
Step 14 – Form a committee of “We Have Been So Good All Year; So We Deserve A Raise And Will Not Accept Anything Less Than Rs 10 Next Year” and let the adults know about it.
Step 15 – Go back home and hit the bed, making sure that the bag is under your pillow (own siblings too cannot be trusted on matters such as these).
Years have passed since then and today Poyla Boishakh is about:
Step 1- Set a reminder to call people in India.
Step 2- Exchange wishes and “virtual” thol khoroch over the phone.
Step 3 – Go out to eat (if not too lazy or tired) and sound like your dadu who always said “those were the days…”