Ls Editor's Note
The other side of car windows
Fatima and Reba used to sell flowers at Sonargaon crossing. They've been stationed there for almost a decade now. I know this because the two made me their everyday patron on my commute to work at Kawran Bazaar from Kalabagan and back.
Their shabby, dirty appearances couldn't hide their cute demeanour; I took to the vivacious chatter of the girls, hardly a year or two older than my own daughter, and looked forward to their company while waiting at the signal, day in and day out.
I actually bought them clothes and trinkets every Eid. I remember one Eid day I made it a point to treat them to ice cream. I cannot exactly describe the feeling that I had for these two street children but it was certainly love of a different kind. If my daughter was with me in the car they gave her free candies, so you can understand the level of familiarity I had with them. Yet I never for once asked them to leave their vending jobs and live with me, for they once mentioned that they do what they have to do just to fend for their father's ever growing brood.
Anyway, this is a story from eight long years ago, I changed my residence and went to Uttara and my route changed. I never saw them again and for obvious reasons their memories got shelved in some corner of my overly cluttered mind.
By some stroke of luck or maybe a freakish coincidence I met Reba the other day while I was stuck at the Bashundhara signal. She grew a little, was selling lemons and stuffing chewing tobacco in her gums. She came running towards my car and said she missed me and asked me where I had gone. How was my daughter and the rest of my family? While catching up she informed me that Fatima, the relatively fairer among the two, had died in childbirth, that her rogue of a husband remarried and their orphaned child too is peddling lemons; all this within a span of eight years.
I am no stranger to the kind of life these street children live; I know of their ordeals of getting past their adolescence, I know of the exact juncture in their lives when they lose their innocence and have to deal with life at its rudest end. Yet I was shocked to hear of sweet little Fatima's sad demise. The destiny and reality of their lives is hard for me to come to terms with.
Again the snug bubble that I live in was burst; I really can't help any of these children or change their lives. No matter how conscious a citizen I am or how much I abhor the State for not doing anything right for street children; Fatima remains a reality. I wish her peace wherever she is.
These are some unpleasant moments of life when you do want to buy those flowers or candies or lemons for no reason at all and help a Fatima help her father and his brood to live here in a Dhaka slum.
-- Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
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By Olinda Hassan