When he was supposed to be busy with books and exams, eighteen-year-old Mohammad Sohel was struggling to maintain his mother and younger brother as the lone breadwinner.
He had to abandon his studies because of poverty, but in his heart he always cherished the dream of raising his brother as an educated and well-established person.
But his fortune took a turn for the worse on a hartal day when he was out to deliver goods ignoring possible hazards. Pickets in a sudden attack set fire to the covered van he was inside. He is now struggling for life at the Burn Unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Sohel, a worker of SMAH Ltd, a distributor of Unilever Bangladesh, suffered serious burns in the attack at Trimohoni of Khilgaon on Monday. During the incident he was handing cartons of goods over to three other men.
His mother Shohor Banu told The Daily Star she faced the harsh reality of life after her husband died last year. With her younger son Jewel, Banu did not have any means to live in her village in Mymensingh sadar upazila.
Sohel, who dropped out of school after class four, had already been in Dhaka for three years doing odd jobs. He took care of his mother and brother with his limited income and managed to keep the family wheel spinning.
With no money or property in hand, Banu does not know how she can spend for Sohel’s treatment or Jewel’s studies.
Ten-year-old Jewel is a student of class three. He has two daughters who were married off by their father. The family has a third daughter aged around 21 who works as a domestic help in Dhaka but does not earn enough to send money home.
“My son was determined to provide for his brother’s education at any cost,” said Banu as tears rolled down from her eyes.
Sohel did not go to his village more than once in every three months so that he could save money for the family. Lying on his hospital bed, he told The Daily Star he used to work as a labourer on daily basis.
He used to do overtime whenever he got a chance to earn some extra bucks, he said, adding that he used to send his mother Tk 2,500 on average every month.
On that fateful day, he could not afford to deny a day’s income and went out disregarding the hartal enforced by the BNP-led 18-party opposition combine.
He said pickets asked him to come out of the van but gave him no time for that. Before he could even move, they had poured petrol on the vehicle and set it on fire.
With 50 percent burns in his body, Sohel just said he had a dream of becoming a driver one day.
Dr Iqbal Ahmed of the burnt unit told The Daily Star Sohel was passing a critical time.
“We are trying our best,” he said.
Health and Family Welfare Minister AFM Ruhal Haque yesterday visited Sohel and Dr Rakibul Alam, another victim of pre-hartal violence, at DMCH.
The minister told reporters the government would provide all-out support to Sohel and Rakibul as per suggestions of the DMCH authorities.
Muktarul Islam, a friend of Dr Rakibul, said relatives and family members were worried about his proper treatment in Dhaka. They were considering sending Rakibul abroad for better treatment.
Dr Rakibul came to Dhaka from Comilla Medical College Hospital on Thursday to enquire about his transfer.
His wife, who is also a doctor of Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, said her husband visited her and their four-year-old daughter in Mohammadpur on holidays.
Dr Samanta Lal Sen, chief coordinator of all burn units of the country, said Rakibul’s condition was critical and remained unchanged.