Date juice, locally called khejurer rosh, is one of the most quintessentially Bangladeshi treats. Date juice is extracted during the beginning of winter to the tail end of the same season, signaling its end in a way.
Date juice is even used as a base when making many popular dishes such as pitha, gur (molasses), and payesh, just to name a few. Personally, khejurer rosh is inextricable from my childhood. When I hear about it, my mind races with memories of cold winter mornings when we would have this beverage and makes me ruminate on how the way we make food for our nation has changed so much, relying on mass industrialization that often ignores public health.
And with the fading significance of items such as date juice, it is sad to see us as a nation steadily lose grasp of our once great heritage.
Rabbani bhai, a juice collector from Jessore I spoke with, lamented about how the profession has long been neglected despite how profitable it can be. He has a business of his own and takes his job seriously. He wants the participation of a new generation in this important cultural craft, since it can easily get lost in the ravages of time otherwise.
Jabbar bhai, a juice extractor from Jhenaidah, echoed the same sentiment as Rabbani. It’s all about heritage and preserving it.
Yet, another concerning issue tied to this field is the number of date trees, which are usually in abundance here in Bangladesh, that have been cut down in order to pave the way for more infrastructure. Urbanization is inevitable, but it can be carried out in a way that doesn’t erode the very soul of our identity as Bangladeshi.
We lost our precious Muslin close to 200 years ago due to sheer cultural negligence, the mind simply boggles how we let that happen as our entire region was made famous because of the quality of this coveted fabric.
To ensure that date juice, perhaps one of the last few vestiges of our culture, does not meet the same fate we have to plant more date trees, encourage its cultivation by offering subsidies and grants to respective quarters and, most importantly, discourage unchecked development and urbanization from simply gobbling up our national and ethnic identity.
Our nation has come far from its humble beginnings as a child of war, and the current socio economic landscape dictates that there are more than enough people whose cups runneth over due to their wealth and influence. But if we aren’t even able to remember our roots and preserve the old ways of living, what is even the point of sipping from that cup?