There are a number of reasons that make Apr 29 in Bangladesh a very special day, bringing both much joy but also considerable sadness.

Apr 29 is International Dance Day, a day to ‘let your hair down’ and enjoy yourself. Country dances around the world are celebrated with both the old and the young having an enjoyable time. Initiated in 1982 by the International Dance Committee of the UNESCO International Theatre Institute, International Dance Day falls on April 29 of every year, commemorating the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, a distinguished choreographer that brought about significant reforms in ballet production. This year, the distinguished Egyptian dancer, choreographer and educator, Karima Mansour, has sent a 2019 message, part of which is quoted here:

“At the beginning there was movement… and since the dawn of time, dance has been a strong means of expression and celebration. Found on the murals of Egyptian Pharaohs and inspiring dance makers to date. Dance was used to evoke gods and goddesses of dance with all what they represent in meaning and concepts like balance from which justice is connected, musicality, tone, individual and cosmic consciousness and more.”

Karima continues: Dance is a space that allows oneself to connect with their truth, for that, a quiet space is required. Dance allows us to connect and feel whole and it is only in that feeling that we find peace and with peace comes silence and it is through silence that we can hear, listen, speak and through stillness that we learn to dance our truths and this is when dance becomes pertinent.

Karima concludes by saying, “Dance is a healer. Dance is where humanity can meet. I invite people to go beyond borders, beyond identity crisis, beyond nationalism and beyond frames. May we free ourselves of those limitations and find the movement and momentum in the universal language. I invite everybody to dance to their heartbeat, to their inner truth because it is from internal movements, that lead to internal revolutions, where real change happens.”

1991 CYCLONE

In Bangladesh, we remember the devastating cyclone of Apr 29, 1991, Cyclone 2B, which devastated the coastline and off-shore islands of Chittagong, Chakoria and Cox’s Bazar. Although the official death toll was 138,000, it is estimated that very many more perished on that fateful night. It took several weeks to recover the bodies of the victims. As many as 10 million people, by some accounts, were left homeless by Cyclone 2B. Additionally, a million head of cattle were lost. Because of this, and the heavy loss of crops, shortage of food supplies posed a critical danger to the survivors.

WORLD NO-GOLF DAY!

Apr 29 is also observed in some countries as ‘World No-Golf Day’ because on this day in 1993 the Global Anti-Golf Movement (GAG’M) was launched at a meeting in Penang, Malaysia by some Asian environmental organisations. At that time, the cost of playing golf in places like Japan had sky-rocketed and golf tourism started whereby Japanese businessmen would travel to countries like Thailand and Indonesia where new golf courses were being built. Small farmers were being pushed off their agricultural land which was gradually transformed. Exotic soil and grass, chemical fertilisers, fungicides and weedicides, as well as machinery were all imported to substitute for natural ecosystems. The environmental impacts included water depletion and toxic contamination of the soil, underground water, surface water and the air. This in turn led to health problems for local communities, populations downstream and even golfers, caddies and chemical sprayers in golf courses.

ADOLF HITLER and APR 29, 1945

This was the day on which Adolf Hitler realised that he would soon be killed by the approaching Soviet Army. He had learnt that day how the Italian wartime leader Mussolini had been brutally killed and his dead body put on public display. Hitler was determined to avoid that sort of end. He and his long time companion, Eva Braun, married that night and a few hours later took their own lives.

(The writer, born on Apr 29, 1945, believes that Hitler, in fact, committed suicide on hearing of his (the writer’s) birth!)

Julian Francishas been associated with relief and development activities of Bangladesh since the War of Liberation. In 2012, the Government of Bangladesh awarded him the ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his work among the refugees in India in 1971 and in 2018 honoured him with full Bangladesh Citizenship. In 2019, Julian has also been honoured with the award of the OBE for services to development in Bangladesh.

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