This week, Rabeya, a 59-year-old woman, sat beside me on one corner of a bench at a tea stall in Karwan Bazar. The cold winter air was giving us a chill. I had some warm clothes on, but she was just wrapped in a thin cotton sari, hopelessly fighting the cold. For thirty long winters, her life has been like this.
We got talking and she said that she lives on the sidewalks of Panthapath Tejgaon Link Road, near the TCB building, with her family of seven. She lives under the open sky with her family, lacking security and most of her basic rights. In the windy, cold night, in rags, her family sleeps under a mosquito net. In total, six families live in that row.
Regardless of the season, we can see people living in poverty on the capital's sidewalks, bus stops, and footbridges. Some live like this under compulsion, and some are in no mental condition to state why they are living like this. Sometimes these families or individuals have babies as well. Their problems multiply manifold during the winter.
Rabeya’s family and the neighboring families earn their subsistence by selling flowers, lemons, and towels. She helplessly said that the total of 8 children in that row endure the hardest because of the surge in the prices of daily necessities, including clothes. They can't even afford to live in slums at this point. The cost of a roof over their heads will leave them hungry. Rabeya can’t call it a life, which she is leading after losing her husband, and everything with him.
With no way out, she came to Dhaka from Rangpur with her three children thirty years ago. With less nutrition, no education, or healthcare facilities, the third generation of her family is also following the path of homelessness. They are now part of a circumvented problem in the city, which has a growing population of 9,470, according to the recent preliminary Population and Housing Census 2022 report.
In Rabeya’s voice, thousands of those floating individuals’ cries could be heard. No one deserves or wants a life like this. She, too, wants to get out of this situation and begs for assistance. Not surprisingly, though, these families haven’t received any winter aid till now from any quarter; not even anyone came to take a photo with them in exchange for a blanket.
* Asif Mahmud is a learner in the communication sector. He may be contacted at [email protected]