Brief encounter with a little boy at a Dhaka bazaar

This photo shows Karwan Bazar kitchen market in Dhaka on 28 September 2023. Rabiul, 5, (not seen in the picture) lives in the Tejgaon railway station with his grandmother but spends much of the day wandering around this market while his grandmother begs in the area.
Prothom Alo

What is your name? ‘My name is Rabiul.’ What do you do? ‘I just sit around here.’

This is how I first encountered little Rabiul at the capital’s Karwan Bazar kitchen market on Thursday. It was a public holiday on the occasion of Eid-e-Miladunnabi. I was returning to the office with one of my colleagues after having breakfast at a nearby restaurant. As we came near our office building, I saw this little boy in a red T-shirt sitting alone on the stairs of the high rise. I stopped there and and he instantly asked me, “Give me 10 taka.” I asked, “What will you do with 10 taka?” He said he would buy a packet of chips.

Then I called up my colleague who had gone to a nearby shop to buy snacks for tea break, and asked her over mobile phone to bring a packet of chips. As I was talking over the mobile phone, five-year-old, Rabiul drew my attention and said, “Not chips, I want juice.” I then asked my colleague to bring a packet of chips and a box of juice. As I was waiting for my colleague with little Rabiul for chips and juice, we had a brief conversation.

I asked him, who do you sit with here with? He replied, “I sit alone and when my grandmother comes I go home.” When I asked him about his parents, he bluntly answered, “I have no parents. They have gone far away.”

Being the father of an eight-month-old boy, I felt the sadness of his heart. I wish I could do something for him. So, I asked, “Are you sad?” He said, “No… yeah. Give me 100 taka.” Then I became a little curious. What will you do with 100 taka? Rabiul did not hesitate, “I will spend it on my meal later in the day and I will have food after a bit.”

He then said he woke up early in the morning and came here with his grandmother and did not have his breakfast yet. They live in Tejgaon railway station. His grandmother begs, mostly in Farmgate, Karwan Bazar and Bashundhra shopping mall areas. “When grandmother begs in Farmgate, I stay at the Farmgate market,” Rabiul said.

I asked him, "How old are you?"

"I and three or five.”

"Three or five?"

"No, my sister is three."

"How many sisters do you have?"

"I have two sisters."

"Who is the oldest?"

"I am. My sisters are younger. One is Mitu, another is Ayesha, who is the youngest," the little boy said, indicating the height of his youngest sister with an outstretched arm.

I asked the boy, "How long will you be sitting here?" He tilted his head and replied, "I will be here for long. I will go home at night with my grandmother.”

"Where is your grandmother?"

“She is there. We came here from Bashundhara.”

The one thing that caught my attention during our brief conversation was his smile. The little boy had a smile on his face. Rabiul is still a child. I wondered how such a little boy kept smiling despite all odds in his life. So I asked him, “Are you sad?” and he kept shaking his head indicating that he was by no means sad.

Let’s smile then.

Little Rabiul smiled, his face glowing.

As my colleague arrived and we gave him the packet of chips and box of juice. He took the food and ran towards the kitchen market.