She cannot recognise anyone most of the times. She doesn't speak now, she screams, “There it is … it will kill me!”
She is Tahera Begum, a machine operator who miraculously survived last Saturday's devastating fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia.
The blaze killed 111 workers.
Tahera witnessed six to seven of her female colleagues perish in the fire.
When The Daily Star correspondent met Tahera at her home yesterday, she was sitting in the balcony, showing almost no movement. Her eyes were fixed on the ground while her daughter was combing her hair. Flies were buzzing around her, some even tried to get into her nose; but Tahera remained stoic.
“She can't recognise anyone most of the times ... me or the kids, let alone her brother, sister and the neighbours. Nothing can draw her attention these days, even when our baby cries out for motherly affection,” said Tahera's husband Rashidul Islam, who works at another garment factory in Ashulia.
Tahera is now afraid of people, said Rashidul, whenever she sees people she screams for help. She does not eat with her own hand anymore, he added.
“We did not find any burn injuries on her body. When the fire broke out at the factory, she tried to get down from the fourth floor. Despite the darkness and smoke, she managed to get to the staircase, but fell on the ground and got trampled on by workers, as they were rushing madly to safety,” said Rashidul, sharing the story of his wife as told by Tahera's colleagues.
“She got on her feet somehow and dragged herself to a corner where some of the workers had managed to break open a window. They helped her get out,” he said.
“I found her unconscious when I reached the spot. But before losing her senses, she was heard screaming that six to seven of her female colleagues had perished in the fire,” Rashidul added.
Tahera's family of four lives in a one-room rented house at Nischintapur, near their work. The rent is Tk 1,800 a month. The monthly earning of the family is not much to mention. Tahera used to earn Tk 6,500 while her husband Tk 4,000. With the daughter going to school, the family experiences hardship even in their good days.
“What should I do now? I took her to a local doctor, who prescribed her some medicines, but they don't seem to be working. Some suggested taking her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, but I don't know how much it would cost,” said Rashidul.
He said he heard compensation was being provided to the injured but he did not know where or to whom to contact. With these words, he gave a blank look, not much different from that of his wife's.