Woes of a 90 Year Old Oilman
In Lalmonirhat, there lives a man who has been producing mustard oil for the last 60 years. But, at the age of 90, he is old and weak. Continuing to produce mustard oil has become a daunting task for him, that too, without the help of a bull to help to perform the back breaking task.
S Dilip Roy
I'm unfit to pull the ghany (oil-expeller). But I have no options; no other alternative exists for me to earn my bread,” says the 90-year-old Ebach Ali Teli. Ebach Ali lives at Shekhertari village at Mohishkhocha union of Aditmari upazila in Lalmonirhat district. He has been earning his livelihood through producing pure mustard oil for the last 60 years. Before the liberation of Bangladesh, he had a bullock which was used for pulling the ghany (oil-expeller) to produce mustard oil. He lost it during the war in 1971 and after the liberation he didn't have money to buy a new one. So he started to pull the ghany himself, and has been doing so ever since.
Ebach Ali gets up early in the morning and starts pulling the ghany after Fazr prayer. His wife Porizon Begum helps him as he pushes the ghany on the back. The aged couple circles the oil-expeller machine for two to three hours every day for producing mustard oil. Usually they refine 3 kgs of mustard into oil every day. “My wife Porizon the is only person who helps me in my work. She never expresses any dissatisfaction. She is not only my life partner but also my working partner. Only she knows my pain,” says Ebach Ali. “If I had some assets, I would never allow my husband to work like this at this age,” says Porizon. “It pains me to see my husband do the work that is meant to be done by a bullock or a horse.”
In 2007, he received alms in the forms of a bullock and life was good. But, it was infected with foot mouth disease and died in January 2010. After losing the bullock, Ebach Ali Teli had to start using himself to pull the ghany again. But his physical condition is worsening and he could get bedridden anytime.
He goes out every day to sell that day's produce in the village. He comes back home in the evening and prepares himself for the next day's labor. He earns around Tk. 60 per day through producing and selling mustard oil. Two years ago he used to earn about Tk. 80 to 100 everyday. Prices of mustard increased more than the price of mustard oil, so his income decreased.
“I don't get to eat meat, fish or milk round the year, as I'm cannot afford these. Two or three days a year me and my family members consume meat, thanks to Eid-Ul-Azha every year,” he told. He has three children; two sons Josir Uddin (45) and Posir Uddin (40) and a daughter Jorina Begum (35). Unfortunately, Posir Uddin is mentally handicapped. The eldest son Josir Uddin lives elsewhere with his wife and sons. Ebach Ali's, his wife and his second son live in a straw made house on neighbor's land as he has no own land.
Ebach Ali Teli receives an old aged allowance from the government. “Thanks to the old age allowance, I am able to buy clothes for myself, my wife and my son Posir,” said Ebach Ali. According to local people, Ebach Ali Teli likes earning from his work, and dislikes begging. So he doesn't look for hands to support him in the streets.
Mohishkhocha UP Chairman Mosaddek Hossain Chowdhury says, “Ebach Ali Teli is a poor man but he never came to me or the UP office for getting additional relief. I visited him a few times and am currently trying to provide him better support through the UP office. I have personally discussed the matter of providing a bullock to him, which I think the UP office will be able to do by February 2012.”