Two-room flat. Father, mother, 4 siblings and the uncle; all live together in the 500 sq feet residential quarter. Father, mother and the youngest of the kids live in one bedroom. Other room is shared by the two sisters, one college and one high school going. The other brother, also in high school and the uncle, who is struggling with his small business after graduation, shares the bed which occupies a part of the living room. There is a small balcony, which is occupied with household items like an extra chair, a broken table, a shelf. If you somehow manage to stand in the balcony and try to look out through the clothes hanged for drying, your vision will be obstructed at 2 feet distance, where another multistory building houses another 24 families. The windows at one side of the house are almost of no use, thanks to the neighbors’ flat which is built keeping almost no gap between the buildings.
Dhaka has an estimated weeknight population of 8 million. My guess, the majority of this 8 million will probably live in a condition I just described.
While we remain very concerned about socialist or socialism-leaning nationalism, tangential dealings with Islamism, reforms in idealism turned populism etc, the members of the family have different ‘less important’ things to be concerned with. You go and talk to any member of that family. They will only tell you about the hell they are living in without committing any crime. These days the mercury has risen beyond 4o C in parts of Bangladesh. Those closed airtight boxes called flats are now hot air ovens. The souls living inside those pits are roasted nightly even when the ceiling fan tries unsuccessfully to shed some relief. And lately, with regular load shedding, the hell gets uglier.
Most of you who will read this will never feel how unbearable it can be to pass those sleepless hot humid nights unless you yourself lived that life.
But at least we can try to think. Just think of the girls at home. Dad and the boys can remain bare bodied with a short or a lungi on. But girls would still be adherent to the modest dress code a Bangladeshi middle class family follows. The thing called hatpakha (Hand fan) will be moving with the beat of the heart, only for some relief from the unbearable heat and humidity. There is, in fact no place to escape the oven. The roof is locked by the home owner. The road in front of is already crowded by street people where the members of the family we are talking about are not welcome. You will put yourself down the shower to cool down? That is not going to happen. There is water rationing and over that, as there is no electricity, there is no water supply.
If you feel bad at the misfortune of this family, you should not walk through the slum down the road. One small packing box and sac make shanty houses a family of 6, the oldest one is 28 and the youngest one is 3 month. Let’s keep them to be discussed some other day.
Let’s talk about something else. If you think of issues of Bangladesh, problems of Bangladesh, pangs of Bangladesh, please think of that college going girl first. She, with her traditional salwar-kamis-orna, is roasting every night in an unbearable cruel living condition. For her, the future is to move to another similar box as a house wife and then as a mother only to be assigned to the kitchen, the hottest place of the oven. And for the struggling uncle or the boy of the family, what they have in the future? Live the life in this box? Or somehow become Deshantori through the roughs of the Mediterranean or the arid deserts? Or should they try to change the star at home following the path the guys named Giasuddin Al Mamun or Tokai Shagor or Pichci Hannan etc tried?
Folks, what solution you have to make the life of these 80% a bit more comfortable? What would be your advice that will help them change their stars? Any answer my friends?
The members of the family keep waiting for the sleepless unbearable night to be over with. But these summer nights are too long.