A balanced walk on the rail track is so much fun. But not here in Farm-gate area, especially since the train could arrive unnoticed!
There are slums on both sides of the rail track and a very mixed society! Some of you will disagree on the term of society but I strongly agree!
I’m here for a job and it’s an eye opener in many sense!
I had to watch with pain; children crying outside while their mother is selling herself indoor, kids drying weeds by the rail track, people are pooping, half naked women with hypodermic syringe, transgender fights with heavy slags, husband torturing wife (half of his age), old couples at their last age, faces with hunger, families packing drugs, women shouting, She-man entering room with little boys, a family getting evicted; all these scenes combined are enough to make you an angry revolutionary!!
Despite this harsh reality, I’m looking for a sustainable family to take interview of their life.
I got back home last night after few days in Thailand. And now here I am, facing the cruel reality of Dhaka city, Bangladesh! I got this job offer while i was in Thailand and was really looking forward to it. It will help me finance my future venture!
It wasn’t my first interpretation job though. A good few years back, while we were running our traveling business, I did that as a tourist guide. I remember my very first English interpretation certification by an American Italian couple in Bali, Indonesia!!
Anyhow, after a while walking around, we found an abandoned rail track. Ohh yes, my friend and boss of this project, Luc, was also with me.
Imagine walking around slums with a tall Canadian photojournalist!! The amount of curious questions I had to answer is just tiring, although I understand where they’re coming from.
So in that abandoned rail track, we found a family (Salim and Momtaz’s family) of our choice and they agreed to our terms and conditions!
These terms and conditions were a necessary working procedure, which required them to agree with spending some time with us (3 hours) and included some remuneration for the family. There was a special bonus for the kid who helped us for video shooting.
Not all the family was OK with this though, especially considering they would have to share personal information about the family which would be recorded in writing and illustrated with a photo shoot.
I found this really strange, because they don’t have much to hide and at the end they are earning some easy cash! But we faced some anger-shouting too, due to some previous NGO visit. It’s hard to explain that we aren’t NGO’s and not working for any Govt. agencies. God almighty, some hateful screaming that was!!
Another ugly side of slums, elderly women with slang! You need to be careful though, if you lose the plot then you are really doomed out there. Many of you might have left the scene at that point, but we are down to earth spirits and were not ready to quit!
So Salim and Momtaz’s family were living in this slum for seven years and were doing quite well. Mr. Salim runs a small shop and occasionally does manual labour. Ms. Momtaz works as a maid nearby and works in the house. One daughter goes to school and helps her father. Youngest son goes to school and stays with his mother at her workplace.
They were live in a small room by the narrow alley. It’s a densely populated area but a bit better then living near the active rail track. I mean, less chaotic, further from the drug dealing and safer overall(!??).
What was amazing about this family was that they hadn’t been corrupted by the slum area and I wish them well.
I won’t describe much of the work we did but enough to get you an idea. Our job was taking information of their life, photo shooting of their indoor-outdoor, and video shooting of their life styles.
They were jolly good and cooperated nicely. Especially the kids, Captain. Rahim and Princess Shefaly were amazing!! I never forgot their smile!! Faces like them despite the slum life is outstanding! The hospitality they offered us despite their income and facilities was so touching!
We went to many other slums in the city but I would like to share just another one with you!
Korail Bosti means Korail Slum, which is just five minutes walking distance from our diplomatic zone in Dhaka. It’s an island with few thousands home for several low earner workers. Only way to get in was few minutes boat journey on a smelly lake full of plastic bottle rubbish!
This place is different than other slums though! It has kind of home vibe and is less chaotic; probably because of island life. So we were doing the usual family hunting, but this time we had a group of school kids as following tail!
A good NGO foundation runs a school here and as it is close to the diplomatic zone, these kids speak good English too!!
We found a suitable family, Mr. and Mrs Rahaman. Mr. Rahaman works as security guard for an ATM machine and Mrs. Rahaman is a housewife. They lived here for fifteen years since their home was lost by a flood in Shiranjgang district. That means they started their life once again from zero, even though they had already reached their retirement age!!
We stayed bit longer in their house because they wouldn’t let us go without having lunch with them.
Out of this Dhaka slum experience; I found something new in me! All though it has been inside me all along, probably didn’t surface enough.
Firstly I felt close to the inhabitants of the slum. Secondly the more I communicated with them, the more I felt attached. Thirdly despite the many differences we may have, considering gender, class, beliefs, cleanliness, society issues; my face didn’t react.
Now, I understand this might be confusing to you. All I’m saying is I didn’t feel detached from these slum dwellers because of these differences. I also felt an angry green giant inside me and all I want is to change the system.
It was always emotional at the end of the interview though. Some residents asked me if I would ever come back to see them; I didn’t reply except with a sad smile! Because I really don’t know..
In the three working hours we spent with them, we got to know every detail of their life! I also played some role to break the ice as well.
And when we were done working with them, we left some part of us there and came out as renewed people.