University of Manitoba is a public university in the heart of Canada in the scenic province of Manitoba. Located in the lovely city of Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, and over 139 years old, this is Western Canada’s first and oldest university. The university houses approximately 30,000 students in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs fromall over the world. Among them, there is a good presence of students from our motherland Bangladesh too. Over 400 students from Bangladesh are currently studying and conducting research in various fields of sciences, business, engineering, health etc. Albeit living 11,000kms away from home, friends and family, these wonderful talented people always look for ways to express love for their motherland and their culture. University of Manitoba Bangladeshi Students’ Association (UMBSA) proudly hosts and organizes numerous cultural and traditional events throughout the year on campus like Bijoy Dibosh, Ekushe February, Shadhinota Dibosh, Pohela Boishakh, Eid & Puja Reunions, Annual Picnic, Iftaar Party etc. In much the same spirit, they organized their biggest event of the year to welcome new Bengali students to the university and bid farewell to those graduating – Freshers’ Welcome and Graduate Farewell gala on 15 January, 2016.
Winnipeg’s freezing temperatures of -24°C did not stop the event from being a houseful in Multi-Purpose Room, University Centre. The event commenced at 7:30pm with over 370 guests count that was involved not only Bengalees, but also nationals from other countries. The event soon became a place to make friends and meet new people as soon as it kicked off. It started with everyone singing the national anthems of both countries. Shortly after that, Emdad Haque, professor at Natural Resources Institute at University of Manitoba, and Rahidul Mondol, president of Canada-Bangladesh Association of Manitoba (CBA) gave a welcoming speech. Their talk was an inspiration for the young minds to utilize their talents, the opportunity of studying abroad and love for their country to contribute to the society, motherland and uphold the respect of their roots, and they promised their support in efforts that go along these goals.
UMBSA executive team of 10 student leaders and an invited guest, Vice-President External at University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU), Astithwa Thapa, together handed out gift hampers to new freshers and graduates. Host teams Sarah-Arif and Sayeema-Rifat have engaged the audience throughout the event, making it playful and joyful. The cultural evening was complete with incredible and artistic sequence of events. A beautiful medley of classical Bengali film songs starting from the 90s was exquisitely sung by a team of talented singers, Shatil, Ahmed, Roman, Sarah and Antora, followed by a romantic comedy “Kemne Ki” directed by Waliullah. Notable characters in this drama were played by Sumaya, Shatil, Wali, Sabit and Gazi.
Arif followed by reciting a renowned Bengali poem by Shunil “Keu Kotha Rakhe Ni”. Next up was an extraordinary 21st February themed short film featuring Arman Khossain and alumni Faisal Shibley. The whole room became quiet and emotional for the 10 minutes, and after that at 10pm, tasty traditional food was provided by Dhoom Restaurant andLounge.
The cultural night continued after dinner with a traditional fashion show. Featuring all six seasons of Bangladesh, audience cheered on throughout the course of the show the couple performers Digonto-Sumaya, Jayeb-Tiashi, Arman-Sayeema, Imtiaz-Shatabdi, Gazi-Saika and Sakib-Ishraat. This sequence was followed by a skilled Bengali dance show by Mrittika Deb.
All students have some memory of their first day at school, or first class – and in the same subject, another video production by UMBSA was shown featuring a fresher Jayeb as a representation of new students and their first experiences on campus. The clip briefly shows the main locations on campus and reassures students that the UMBSA executive team – Sakib, Fahad, Surov, Arman, Russel, Iftakhar, Antora, Gazi, Sayeema and Imtiaz – are always ready to be of any help. All concepts and cinematography of UMBSA productions is the brainwork of the creative mind of Iftakhar Ahmed.
Towards the end of the event, a familiar face in the Bengali community Shatil took the stage with his solo performance. Music throughout the event was coordinated by Choton and Roman (guitar), Saad (drums) and Sabit (keyboard). The event ended after a thankful message by UMBSA president Sakib Rahman at 11:00pm.
Md. Ariful Islam
Graduate Research Fellow, U of Manitoba