Any one living or passing through the area has seen bearded old Md. Kismat Ali standing by the trees on Banani Rd. 12, selling his ware. Over 50 years ago, Kismat Ali's older brother went to Burma where he learnt the art of making bamboo screens. After coming back home, he hired some workers, taught them what he had learnt and set up his own business selling the screens. Some years later, Kismat Ali also got involved. Today the brothers and their sons take orders at different points in Gulshan and Banani (because “this is where all the rich people live”) and share a factory located in Moddho Badda, where five or six craftspeople work. The screens are used as curtains in homes and restaurants, says Ali.
With the help of his wife who works at a garment factory and some loans, he collected 5,000 taka to start his business 16 years ago. Today, he makes a profit of around 2,000 taka every month. He and his family get by with this. Though himself not literate, Ali has educated all his five daughters up to Class 5.
He says he could do much better business if he had a showroom where he could display his goods and take more orders, but setting up a showroom would cost much more than he makes in months. No one has shown any interest, however, in helping out the bamboo artists. Just a small place to display their goods could boost their business. Or even placing orders with them instead of at fancy showrooms where the cost is bound to be more anyway. A helping hand could aid the whole family, and through them, the families of many other weavers, to stand on their own feet.
The other day, I was on an intercity bus, running on a Dhaka highway at about 9 pm. The bus stopped at the Savar bus stand. While waiting there, I saw a traffic police crossing the high way by climbing the pavement of the middle pillar at the foot of the bridge on the road divider along with the other pedestrians. I remember once upon a time, when a traffic sergeant fined a pedestrian 5 takas for crossing the road on foot and not using the foot bridge in Farmgate. What an amazing contradiction with the birds of the same feather.
This happened to one of my friends. He was returning from Nilkhet after buying some books when suddenly he was stopped by a man in rags. He was naturally startled, and the man started saying that bad things might happen to him if he didn't give donations to the peer mazaar. He was very frightened because he had just finished off with his O' Level examinatins last January and became frightened. He gave the guy a 20taka note to avoid further embarrassment. I don't have any grudge against beggars. I wonder, though, as to how low one can stoop to trick people into paying money instead of earning an honest living!
Redwan Islam Orittro
Maple Leaf Int. School
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007