Men and women in traditional Bengali garb wandered into the dark ballroom Saturday night, where an official welcome and announcements were being made by event organizers.
Among the several hundred guests in the Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State University, the ones in brightly colored saris stood out the most, even in the ballroom’s dim lighting, as the crowd stood for both America’s and Bangladesh’s national anthems. Many men also wore striking kurta-paejama, a combination of a loose shirt that falls near the knees and light-weight, drawstring trousers — popular attire in South and West Asia.
The event, called Bangladesh Night, was the first of its kind to be held since 2010, said Fahad Malek.
The population of Bangali students hasn’t been very high the past couple of years, Malek said. But last summer, about a dozen more joined the MSU population, making the grand total 38 Bangali students, he said. So the Bangladesh Student Organization lobbied for use of the coveted and often-booked ballroom space to celebrate and share their culture with the campus and Mankato communities.
“The purpose of the event is to bring in diversity, to show our culture, like what we eat in Bangladesh, what we wear in Bangladesh, and show a couple of the dances,” Malek said.
The fashion show toward the end of the evening was the event highlight, Malek said. But many folks came for the food, which Malek described as “the main attraction.”
“I’m definitely willing to wait in line for it,” said Ashley Smith.
And she did. They all did. The smell of rice, lentils (called dal), beef curry and chicken filled the open space, inviting visitors to wind around the ballroom in long lines, waiting to reach the tables of traditional Bengali dishes.
Malek attributed the exceptional turnout simply to posters around campus and, of course, Facebook.
Bangladesh, officially called the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, is located in South Asia and is bordered by India on all sides, except for sharing a small border with Burma and the Bay of Bengal.