The New Age
Doyal Bhander, a wholesale rice depot at Babubazar in Old Town, expects at least 200 secondary wholesalers and retailers will visit his shop today on the occasion of Halkhata, the traditional way of updating the account-book.
Not only Doyal's proprietor Nizamuddin, who has already arranged sweetmeat to serve the clients, many businesses in the city and other parts of the country are celebrating Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bangla year, with closing of old ledgers and opening of the new ones.
Halkhata is updating the account-book at the beginning of a Bangla New Year as Banglapedia, Bangladesh's national encyclopaedia defines. "The businessmen complete their accounts of the previous year on the eve of the New Year's Day."
Commodity merchants at Moulvibazar and Shyambazar, fabric merchants at Islampur, booksellers at Banglabazar and goldsmiths at Tantibazar and jewellers in the city and in many other trade hubs around the country are also set to open Halkhatas to meet and greet their clients.
"But, Halkhata has lost its glory," said Abdus Salam, a former senior vice-president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Recalling his late teenage time, in his family's dyeing and chemicals, hardware and shoe businesses, Salam said, "In the old days band parties used to perform in front of big shops at Chawkbazar to entertain the clients invited on Halkhata."
Now Halkhata has become less important for many reasons, Salam said pointing out that businesses were decentralised and financing institutions were working in between the source and the traders that restructured the moods of transactions.
Mohammad Ali, a merchant of edible oil and sugar at Moulvibazar, said, "Very few businessmen nowadays clear all dues before Halkhata, but it does not mean they never pay, rather they pay later."
"I feel Halkhata tradition in business is changing like other tradition, but there are people, who still love it and practice it," said Ali.
"We think dues collection may not be good in this year's Halkhata due to decline in prices of some commodities," said Abdur Razzak, a former president of the Moulvibazar Merchant Association.
There are many businessmen in the country who do not pay dues timely, said Babul Khandaker, a Shyambazar merchant of potato, onion and perishable spices.
Babul, however, expects dozens of wholesalers from across the country would come today and make at least token payments against their dues and exchange greetings with their business partners.
Ashraful Haque, proprietor of Prime Publication at Banglabazar, told New Age that irrespective of the business situation, good clients tried to visit him on the day of Halkhata.
Halkhata is not bad if even one-fourth of my bad dues is realised on this occasion, said Haque, who publishes textbooks for students in vocational and technical colleges and distributes these though hundreds of bookstores across the country.
Due to their direct transactions with retail buyers, jewellers have much less long term credit, even though they traditionally celebrate Halkhata gorgeously in the city and across the country.
Hannan Azad, senior vice-president of the Bangladesh Jewellers Association said unusual high prices of gold and drastic declines on ornaments sales in recent times kept jewellers in depression.
Like before, we have taken preparation to celebrate Halkhata as a ritual, welcoming another New Year to our business with fresh hopes, said Hannan.