"My brother [in a crying voice]! I (rickshaw puller) haven't eaten anything that much for a few days. I couldn't stay at home anymore after hearing my little son's cries again and again for foods. We are poor people.
You know, if we go out without a mask, we probably get beaten up by the police. I heard the government has announced on TV that we should wear a mask. I don't know if a virus or something is coming or riding in our country already. I have heard if once infected, he or she doesn’t live so long. Hearing this, my little girl cut a part of her dress and made a mask for me. Brother! look, Isn't the mask beautiful?" Saying this to me (writer), he looked back. “I nodded lightly and said yes”. Then I saw, "uncle had become very happy". He gave a small smile and that seems literally innocent.
After that, both of us remained silent for a while.
Suddenly I asked him [the rickshaw puller], "Well, many people are helping the poor. You didn't get some?”
What will I say my brother, sadly my wife went out to get some help. But none helped her with anything. I asked with curiosity, "Why did not they help?”
“We don't have a NID card here. So they didn't help us.” I said what is the relation between help and NID? I was totally bedazzled hearing this.
“Didn’t get me? We have no NID cards here. What advantages will they [rich people] have by poor people? Will they yet help us who are worthless to them?
People care profit and loss before giving any charity nowadays.” “What a strange matter this is! Can you imagine?People arrange photo session program before helping anyone and take selfie a lot. Perhaps, famous movie’s heroes or heroines don’t do such a photo session like them.
“Still there are some good people in the world. I remember an event, few days back a good polite man helped me with 5 Kg rice and 5 Kg dal(pulses). Even donated me 500 BDT (BD’s currency) to buy some good foods. May God bless him. Actually, all people are not bad. The world is filled with both good and bad people”.
“Actually uncle! Who has more, wants for. Never ends their competition of having more and more. They are tireless machines. Their only purpose is to earn money through whatever the path is. Either halal (legal) or haram (prohibited). “ Ok, we have talked many things over here. Now stop the rickshaw next to in front of that shop. The hotel is all closed. Let’s go to the grocery shop. Uncle parked the rickshaw near to the shop. I asked uncle about what to eat. Bread or cake? He replied, as your wish brother. We poor people don’t care what we eat and when.
I told the shopkeeper to give uncle a cake and a banana. The shopkeeper gave him those. I told him to eat. I am a student. I can’t help you that much uncle. But I want to stand by the side of poor people all time. Pray for me so that I can stand by the side of disadvantaged people. Yes, brother, you can do that. If my eldest son were alive today, he would probably be like you. Why, uncle, what happened to your son? Once there was a fever. I couldn't consult him a good doctor due to lack of money. I couldn't even take proper medicine for him. One day my son told me that bapjan [o papa] don’t worry about me. My disease will be cured automatically. That night, son's hot body became cold. I called him a lot. But my son never called me back father anymore. Sometimes I cry when I remember his innocent face. What else can I do when I cry?
You know, brother, my little girl is very calm and polite. She loves me very much. She doesn't understand anything except her father. When I go out of home after work, she brings towels and lungi (a garment similar to a sarong) for me. She helps me with hand washing water. But you know, I can't take chocolate for my daughter any day. I think if I take it today what will I do the next time. At the end of the day I can't afford to live on what I earn. This time the little boy was the first in the exam and was wishing me to feed him rice with beef. I fall in it with great difficulty. He is a small man. How will I explain him that his father can’t afford to buy meat. My little boy doesn’t understand anything. He needs what he wants.
He wants to eat rich with meat. I went to the market to think about what to do. I went to a shop and asked, "How much cost is one poya (250 grams) of meat?" The shopkeeper looked at me as if I had asked him to lend me a lakh taka [1 hundread thousand bucks].He said that one poya meat is not allowed to sell nowadays. And one poya (250 grams) meat is nothing at all. I said him, we are poor. We don’t have any ability to buy a big quantity. But the little boy is pleading not to eat rice without meat. The man said in a contemptuous voice that such a great demand of poor people is not a good sign anyway. Go to home and make him understand your situation. A man from the side heard me and came to me and asked, "Will it work if it is one kg of meat I buy for you"? I said, "Why not! it will work 100% fine!"
If you have meat, can you take care of the rest items that need to cook with beef? Yes, I can. But why do you need to help me? The shopkeeper's brother is right in his saying that the hobbies of the poor people are not good. The man rebuked him [rickshaw puller] and said that not to talk any words more. There is one kg of meat here. Take it home. Have fun with everyone and eat. And told the little boy to study well. You know, brother, I can't explain to you that how much happy I was that day. You know, brother, we don't have the luck to eat beef without Eid-ul-Adha [2nd Eid Festival of Muslims].
I (writer) noticed that the uncle was almost finished eating the cake. I told him to eat a bread. He tied me up and told me not to buy anything else. I forcibly bought another bread for him. Eat it uncle. Is it enough to fill the stomach just by a cake? Uncle is eating the bread and I am watching intently. Aha! how many obstacles poor people used to suffer. Some people dream of expensive cars and huge buildings and some people dream of eating three meals a day. Some people ask their father to buy them expensive toys or expensive mobile phones and some people ask them to eat rice with meat. Some say it is the fault of fate, some say it is reality.
When uncles’s finished eating his bread, I asked the shopkeeper to give him a bottle of water.
The he told me to get on rickshaw. There was a lot of conversation today. Let's get you to your destination…
Written by : Sujon Mehedy
Edited and translated by : Shahin Alam
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