Have some still moments in a life full of motions. Whatever you do, do for soul feeding. You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved. Instinct and the ability to anticipate are skills that a street photographer acquires with experience, and a lot of practice. The more you walk through streets with your camera, the more you will be able to tune with the world around you. As a street photographer you are constantly scanning your surroundings. No expression or gesture can escape from you, the challenge is to record that story in your frame.
10 tips for encouraging Street Photography
# How to Frame the fleeting moment
You are going to get the best light in a certain moments of the day. You will be finding an interesting element to shoot once in a while. Mood of the people changes very fast, so as their expressions. The environment of a whole scenario can change in a few seconds. The action, reaction, speed, mood, light, energy. color every single detail is moving with time, and you need to capture in a fleeting moment. Freeze the moment before you miss it, you need to active in the street like a pro. You need to be very fast to frame what you want to capture. It can be anything but anyone can read your creativity once they see how you frame elements of a picture. Street Photography is all about capturing fleeting moments, moments of tension, happiness, anxiety, relaxation, fun, and any moments which have a meaning to you. The framing of any moment depends on how you are connecting different elements into one photograph. If those elements compliment the atmosphere of your street photo then it will create magic.
# Easy to feel, hard to express the feeling
Emotions are easy to feel. And easier to see. But it is not easy to forward or make someone feel the way you are feeling. Expressing the emotion of your subject to your viewers is a challenge. Try to be simple with your presentation. If the image is about drama, make it dramatic, if it is fun, bring the funniest thing, and if it is motion create the action. Do not overdo it.
# Stay curious, Stay thirsty
You need to have an urge to know the place you are shooting. If the place does not create an interest on you, do not waste your time there. Without curiosity no good work can be produced. The feeling of ‘I know this place’, ‘I know what is going to happen’; these thought can never bring any newness in your photograph. Instead feed yourself with this kind of thought ‘This can be very interesting’, ‘I need to go to close’. You need to be curious to experiment with your art, you have to be curious to see things from the detail, with different angels, by creating different framing. Always take horizontal and vertical both shots. Your energy will reflect on your photograph. The intensity of your work defines how critically you have worked, how deeply you look through your viewfinder.
# Break the stereotype, there is no rule or role model
You already stored hundreds of image ideas on your mind. As soon as you start taking photograph unintentionally you may want to get the kind of shot you already put inside your head. When you become obsessed to get a certain kind of photographs you are blocking your vision, you stop seeing what you are able to see. It is important to check other photographers work. It can be interesting to get a few shots naturally that many of the photographers had done similarly but this is very important to have your own visuals. It is important to visualize images but to do that successfully you have to free your mind. There is no rule or role model. Release the tension; do not blur your vision of imagination. Challenge yourself at least once in a month to take a shot you never tried before. Get out of that frame of mind of trying to make someone else happy. Be wise enough to take challenge, you can fail, it can be hilarious but if you never tried something new how you will know what you love most.
# Pay attention to patterns, actions and the detail
Pay attention to pattern. Play with light and shadow. Try to capture detail. Make the image interesting. It can be anything. Street Photography is an everyday process of learning. The more you the more you understand your kind of style. No one can take similar picture of one scene at a time. An image is not about what a photographer is seeing but how the photographer is seeing. And adding some patterns, actions and detail will create uniqueness in your image.
# know your camera and how it works, be technically sound
There is no specific camera for street photography, and gear alone will not make your street photography better. Do not stop because you only have a compact or a DSLR or smartphone. Pick up the camera you have and make a step in the right direction and start practicing. We need a camera to take photos and certain lenses for our own style. But beside camera also buy photography books and participate in photography workshop. If you do not have any technical knowledge of photography you will continue to do the same mistake without improving anything. It will go to vein if you invest everything for only gears not for knowledge. Do not become obsessed with gears. Keep one camera, one lens specifically. Take some time during every week to practice adjusting your camera controls, focusing distance and exposures. Be bold, and give yourself your first assignment on the street: discover the world right outside your front door.
# The art of seeing the unseen
When you will master the art of seeing, you will start to see things from your inner light. Street Photography is an art of observation. It is all about have the right of amount patience with energy to enjoy. It’s a representation of how you see things. Every moment has something beautiful, some amazing things that are happening all around you, you just need to open your heart to see that with your eyes. Try to capture what you feel not just what you see.
# How to overcome the fear, hesitation and confusion
Be curious. Travel to unknown and greet to strangers. Have some chat about the place and people. Only start to shoot when you can relate with the people and the place. Find your spirit, your true purpose! If you can really change your mindset then you will be able to change your life. Remember, true learning doesn’t happen in your home. Travel and travel a lot. Do not hesitate to go to an unknown alley. No one can be lost, every road has a destination. And if the road ends you can always come back. Shoot from distance and from close. Always remember, if you believe on yourself the world will believe on you.
# Photography vs income
Have you stopped listening to your favourite music because it is not bringing money to you? Have you stopped reading your favorite story books just because it is not bringing anything in your pocket? Have you resisted yourself to travel all your desired places only because there is no economic return? If not, then do not put your camera aside; do not stop taking images by thinking about money/ awards/ rewards or considering Photography as a tough career. What about pleasing your soul, embracing a creative you, seeing an unknown world, discovering a new you! Aren’t these beyond monetary worthy? Be a priceless photographer who is serving for own
# Make mistakes
I hope you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough. If you fail, pick yourself up, dusk off, learn and grow. This is how you can become great at anything by making mistakes.
Struggling to get good street photographs? Stay patient and trust your journey. What’s meant to be, will happen. You don’t need to find out meaning of everything. Trust your dream that is going to take you where you belong. In this journey you need to stand by your side, you need to be your best friend but also you need to be your best critic. Because it needs a lot of courage to dig into yourself and see what need to improve about you, to see what still have to achieve! Everyone can accept your flaws except you. You have to become a best version of yourself and work on yourself every day, every hour, every moment.
Upcoming Street Photography workshop with GMB Akash:
‘Street Life’ – A Street Photography Workshop with GMB Akash
Dates: 28th July (Friday) and 29th July (Saturday) 2017
Place: First Light Campus, Dhaka, Bangladesh
To apply email to akashimages@gmail or to make any queries call 01989052484. For detail visit: Street Photography with GMB Akash
Calling you to discover mesmerizing aspects of Street Photography. By having this experience you will master the art of seeing; you will start to see things from your inner light. You will be taught how being a photographer requires much more than just looking through the view finder and pressing your finger on a cold metal button. How a photographer needs to have psychological connectivity in every encounter of the journey. The fear, hesitation, lack of confidence will be replaced by empathy, assurance and vision. This two days is not just for discovering a photographer inside of you, it is going to unfold what you have already within you. Let’s come and experience of having some magical moments of walking in the streets of street photography.
Whether you fall or fail, whether you cry or sob, all you can look forward to is that your father believes in you. He picks you up, brushes you off, and lets you try again. Your father will always be your hero.
Sharing ten real life stories of ‘Father’
Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash
Yesterday, I was able to buy a new dress for my daughter after two years. While I handed sixty pieces of five taka note to the seller, he yelled at me by asking if I am a beggar. My daughter held my hand and cried to leave the shop by saying that she did not want to buy any dress. I wept off her tears with one hand. Yes, I am a beggar. Ten years ago I had never thought in my nightmares that I have to live by begging from people. The night coach fell from the bridge and unbelievably I was alive. I was alive by becoming a disable. My youngest son often ask me where had I left my other hand. And my daughter Sumaiya feed me every day by saying she knows how difficult it is to do all work with one hand.
After two years my daughter is wearing a new dress, that’s why today I brought her with me to play for some time. May be I will not be able to earn anything today, but I wanted to roam around with my little girl. I secretly borrowed this mobile phone from my neighbor without informing my wife. My daughter has no picture and I want to make this day memorable for her. When one day I will have a phone I will take a lot of pictures of my children. I want to keep good memories. It’s very difficult to send my children to school, but I am educating them all. Sometimes they cannot attend exam because giving exam fees is not always possible by me. On those days they feel very sad then I tell them, sometimes we can miss exams because the biggest exam is life which we are giving every day.
Now I will go for begging. I will place my daughter in a signal where she will wait for me. I will look at her from distant while begging. I feel shame while she looks at me when I lend my one hand to others. But she never leaves me alone. Because there are big cars, she thinks accident can happen again, these cars could run on me and I would die. Whenever I managed to get some money I return to home by holding my daughter’s hand. We do bazaar on our way and my daughter always carry that bag. During rain we love to get wet and talk about our dreams. In someday I do not get any money, on those days we return to home silently. On those days I feel like to die but at night when my children fall in sleep by holding me I feel being alive is not a bad thing. Only bad is when my daughter waits for me in the signal by keeping her head down. When I cannot look at her eye while begging. But today is different. Because today my daughter is very happy. Today this father is not a beggar. Today this father is a king and here is his princess.
– MD. Kawsar Hossain
I never told my children what my job was. I never wanted them to feel ashamed because of me. When my youngest daughter asked me what I did, I used to tell her hesitantly that I was a labourer. Before I went back home every day, I used to take bath in public toilets so they did not get any hint of the work I was doing. I wanted to send my daughters to school, to educate them. I wanted them to stand in front of people with dignity. I never wanted anyone to look down upon them like how everyone did to me. People always humiliated me. I invested every penny of my earnings for my daughters’ education. I never bought a new shirt, instead used the money for buying books for them. Respect, which is all I wanted them to earn for me. I was a cleaner. The day before the last date of my daughter’s college admission, I could not manage to get her admission fees. I could not work that day. I was sitting beside the rubbish, trying hard to hide my tears. All my coworkers were looking at me but no one came to speak to me. I had failed and felt heartbroken. I had no idea how to face my daughter who would ask me about the admission fees once I got back home. I am born poor. I believed nothing good can happen to a poor person. After work all the cleaners came to me, sat beside and asked if I considered them as brothers. Before I could answer, they handed me their one day’s income. When I tried to refuse everyone; they confronted by saying, ‘We will starve today if needed but our daughter has to go to college.’ I couldn’t reply them. That day I did not take a shower, I went back to my house like a cleaner. My daughter is going to finish her University very soon. Three of them do not let me go to work anymore. She has a part time job and three of them do tuition. But often she takes me to my working place. Feed all my coworkers along with me. They laugh and ask her why she feeds them so often. My daughter told them, ‘All of you starved for me that day so I can become what I am today, pray for me that I can feed you all, every day.’ Now a days I don’t feel like I am a poor man. Whoever has such children, how can he be poor! – Idris
We always wanted a daughter. But we have three sons. I often told my wife only fortunate have daughter. I am working as a rickshaw puller for more than thirty years. Most of my passengers were bad tempered. They always scolded me. One morning a father hired me to take his daughter to the college. He requested me to be careful in the road. He told his daughter to hold the rickshaw tightly. Before we left he told me to go slowly so the girl may not get hurt. On our way after sometime I heard the girl was crying insanely. I tried to look back and wanted to ask her if everything was okay. She scolded me and warned me not to look back. After a while she asked me to stop and started calling someone by her phone. She was screaming and crying all the time. I understood she supposed to escape from home with a boy. He did not show up. Suddenly she jumped from the rickshaw, left the money in the seat and quickly went to the train line. I was about to leave, felt sorry for the father and thought it may be good not to have a daughter. But I was not able to paddle further; I heard her father was requesting me to be careful. I parked my vehicle and ran for the girl. She was in the rail line, moving like a sick person to harm herself. I went near to her and requested her to go back with me. She yelled at me, called me uneducated stupid, in between she kept crying insanely. I was afraid to leave her in that empty place. I let her cry, as much as she wanted. Almost three hours we were there and rain was about to come. Before the rain starts she got up and asked me to bring the rickshaw. We did not talk about anything. In the rain I paddled quickly. I dropped her near her house. Before I left she stopped me and said, ‘Uncle, you should never come at my place again, never tell anyone you know me.’ I lowered my head and returned to home. That day I did not talk to anyone, I did not eat anything. I told myself it was better not to have a daughter. After more than eight years, very recently I had an accident. I was kind of senseless. Public took me to the hospital;. When I got back my sense I saw the girl was working near me, she asked me how I was feeling, why I never went to meet her. It was hard for me to recognize the girl in white dress, in spectacle and stethoscope. My treatment went well. I was taken to a big doctor. I was listening to her telling him, ‘Sir, he is my father’. The old doctor told her something in English. Then she touched my injured hand and replied him, ‘If this father did not support me in the past, I won’t be able to become a doctor’. I was lying in a narrow bed and tightly shut my eyes. I cannot tell anyone how I felt. This rickshaw puller has a daughter, a doctor daughter.
– Bablu Shekh (55)
Six years ago my daughter ran away with a boy. Their married life was one month. After one month the boy disappeared. I found my daughter after three months. When I found her, she was living in the same slum room they rented and discovered something is very wrong with my child. She was abnormal and three months pregnant. I decided to stay at the house with her without forcing her to come with me. I slept in the floor and she slept in the bed. Every night she wake up and screamed by asking me to open the door as she felt the boy is knocking at the door. For every single time I opened the door and showed her there was no one.
After one year we returned to village with no mental improvement. She held her new born boy in her chest and never let anyone to take him, as she used to think the child may leave her as well. A year ago I got a marriage proposal for her. My son-in-law was a widow and had four little children. Everyone told me not to share anything about my daughter’s mental condition. I also realized I would never tell it to him including hiding about her son.
But when we were fixing the wedding date I was feeling like a criminal. The moment the groom was leaving I stopped him and took him to the river side. I opened my heart and started to tell what I had to say at our first meeting. He stopped me and said he knew everything. I was surprised and asked him how. He said the day he met my daughter she said everything and he really wanted to marry her. He left and I rushed to my daughter. I asked her what she said, she reluctantly told me, I said – ‘I am Nahar. I have mental problem. I scream at night to open door and ask to check if someone is knocking. Except this I am all okay. I also have a five years old son, whom I will take with me after we get married.’
My daughter is married for a year now, taking care of her five children wonderfully. This cow was their wedding gift which my son-in-law did not take with him. He told me to keep the cow for myself. No, my daughter is still sick. During my last visit when I asked my son-in-law what he do when Nahar screams. He said, ‘Every night I take her outside to show there is no one’. Tears were rolling all over my face when he assured me, Nahar will be okay. I also know my child will be cured. Because love is the best medicine which my daughter is receiving abundantly.
– Ali Noor
I grew up vulnerably, struggled like an animal because I was an orphan. I ate people’s left over and sometimes snatched food from animals. I had no home and no one ever touched my forehead to check my fever. I hated everyone, every face I met. I only survived for myself, and only cared about me because I was no one for anybody. I suffered for the lack of love more than food. And with time those emptiness went deeper and I stopped laughing, dreaming and hoping. Like a donkey I worked as a labouer in people’s field, at night slept with cattle. For everyone I was a labourer. Only our village doctor was different. He often forcefully took me to his home and asked her only daughter to feed me well. It was very irritating for me because I never ate inside a house; never sat in chair and table. No one ever fanned me while serving food. Doctor’s girl continually talked to me about useless things, about things I never knew exist in the world. Most of the time, I nicely asked her to go back to her study but she always giggled and continued her nonsense while feeding me. Whenever I looked at the girl, I felt if I ever had a daughter she would look exactly like her. She never let me to leave the house without having sweets after lunch. She would come far with me by holding an umbrella and always requested me to go again. Most often my eyes got wet for no reason and I ran away without replying her. The day I last saw her, she was lying in her bed, her skin turned pale, hair was short and eyes were puffy. For the first time, I talked to her first, asked her how she was feeling. Like every day she giggled and said, ‘I become rich uncle, I got a rich disease.’ Her father asked her to stop talking and within minutes she started vomiting blood. I escaped the place without saying her any word. At night I secretly met our doctor, handed him my sixty years savings, asked him to take our daughter any place where nothing will be able to take away her smile. It’s been three months they had gone, I heard she is improving. There is still fair chance of her survival. I have been waiting at this river side every day, with a hope of their arrival. I know my daughter will come back. She will again force me to eat more. She will laugh loudly and say, ‘Uncle, do you know you got a cold heart’.
– Rohmot Miah
I was a honey collector. I was never afraid of tiger or crocodile. And I had a beautiful daughter. My daughter could dance like a peacock. She was like a goddess of the forest. Before I could return from work she used to stand in the jungle and every day waited for me. She could win anyone’s heart with her childishness. But after the death of her mother, she could not talk since childhood. Being a poor father I was unable to take her for treatment. I still can remember her smile; with her smiles she could conquer all my sorrows. It was a rainy day of monsoon. I was coming to the home and expecting Pari on my way. But she was not there. After a twenty minutes search I found her. She was hanging from a tree, her clothes were torn apart. My child died before I arrived. I was screaming in anger, I was trying to kill everyone who appeared to console me. My child’s death still haunts me. Nowadays I spend all evening in the jungle as a guard so that no one ever lose any daughter again’ – Kashem
I earn very little from my job. I work in a factory. So, I could not save anything. I have to meet my children’s educational expenses and my old mother’s treatment. That time my elder son finished his college and admitted into the university. Then all the time he was very sad. After many questions his mother hesitantly informed me that he wanted a laptop. I became very angry and shouted by asking, does money grows in tree. But at night I could not sleep. All the time I felt like all other children will do good result because of a laptop and son will roam around in depression. How is it possible till I am alive! Between the time my son returned home at late night, when I asked him why he replied briefly that due to group assignment he had to go in friend’s house. My son did not look into my eyes. It started hurting me lot. I went to my boss and asked him to give me the night job. He exclaimed in doubt how I could manage both day and night shift. I assured him this will be only for four months. I had to walk one hour to go to work and only returned to home once for dinner. I did not share anything at home, just said them I am paying off my loan. After four months I went to my home with bundles of money in my pocket. I was happier than ever and keep thinking how I will explain to my son what a father can do. After entering at house I saw a cycle standing at our yard. Everyone came out after listening me. My old mother giggled and said, ‘Have a look, your son bought a cycle for you by his scholarship money.’ My son was standing in front of the door by looking at the ground. I wanted to take him in my arms and roam around the entire city again just like we did often when he was a child. But a father cannot express his heart so easily. Even if a father feels to cry, they cannot do it like mother’ – Razib’s Father
Tuni got married with my son when she was in a stage of playing with doll. Her widow mother could not provide food for Tuni and upon her request I agreed for the marriage. While Tuni’s mother handover her in my hand, she said, ‘From now, your father-in-law is your father.’ By opening her long veil little Tuni nodded to us. On our way back to home, Tuni fall down in the wet mud and started crying. To stop her crying I was holding her with my one hand and carried her mud toys in another hand. With time, my eight years old daughter-in-law turned eighteen years. My wife and daughters used to hate our daughter-in-law. Even my son never spoke to her nicely in all those years. In a poverty stricken family, I was too helpless to help Tuni. Sometimes when I heard my son to beat her, I rushed to her door and knocked vigorously to help her, but she always replied, ‘I am fine, Abba’. She was more than a daughter to me, during one winter I had pneumonia, every day she cleaned my blooded vomiting with her hands. There is no one who can be so much caring like my little girl. But she was alone, was living inside her own world. Then one day she apparently became lonely when my son died in a boat incident. Everyone blamed her for his death. She started wearing white saree and I could not look at her condition anymore. Torture of wife and daughters exceed all limits. Neither her family visited her for those ten years. One day, our village doctor came to me; he was a young man, who came from a foreign village. After long period of hesitation he said he wanted to marry Tuni. I stood up in anger, and asked him to leave. No widow ever get married in my small island, how could I agree to break societies standard. I could not sleep for whole night, and then next day I declared I will arrange for Tuni’s re-marriage. Every day I faced people’s questions and humiliation, but I was strict to my decision, because I saw a spark in my daughter’s eyes. The night before marriage, all reputed people came to me and asked to withdraw the marriage. When I declined, everyone told me that they will abandon or evict my family forever, I accepted with laughter. With them, my wife and daughters also left the house and left me alone. I asked Tuni to sleep deeply as she had to start a new life the next day. She assured me that she will solve all my worries. Next morning I found her blue body in the ground and a poison bottle next to her. Tuni left the world with all her sufferings. I tried to hold her hand just like the day when she fell into the ground. That day Tuni was crying but after her death I clearly saw a slight smile on her face like she was saying me, there is no pain anymore, Abba.
– Ansar Ali
I did not get time to mourn for my wife’s death. I could not cry by remembering her memory that very moment. Life didn’t allow me to do all that. My wife had left our daughter to me in her form. When midwife handed me my daughter she was a premature baby, maybe she was just two kg. I had never take any child in my lap, but when I held her first time, I could not drop her off in the bed, I closely kept her with my heart. People used to say, new born searches for their mother’s smell or wants to hear the sound of mother’s heartbeat. But my daughter was fully aware of mine.
When she started crying for milk, I was unable to buy anything. I kept going from door to door to the village women who can generously breastfeed my baby. After seeing my tears no one said no to me. But at night it was hard. She cried for milk and I could not provide her anything. I did not sleep for one hour at night throughout her one month age. When she went to sleep, I used to check her breathing with my finger and checked frequently if she is alive or not, sometime in fear I held her in my chest, as I did not want her to leave me.
When villagers tell me I should give her cow milk at night, I could not buy bottle for her. I had no money. I collected an empty medicine bottle and borrowed a nipple and then fixed both together. With that bottle I feed her cow milk every night. When only mothers queue to vaccinate their child, I was the only father who queued with daughter. By thus I do not know how twenty years had passed. Now my daughter is a teacher in the primary school. She did not want me to work in the field anymore, she is taking care of our expenses, and all the time she wonders why I work in the field. I do not want to share that, I am saving for her. What will happen to her when I will die? I wanted her to get married, to start a life with someone she loves. But she is reckless; she said if someone accepted me with her then only she will get married. I do not want to explain her it is not possible in the world we are living. I want her to be loved by someone unconditionally, I want her to get such love which is more powerful than the love I have given her. This is my last wish to God.
– Joyed Ali (50)
I found out my daughter had an affair with a boy for five years. She never spoke about it as she is always afraid of me. Apart of it I assumed my children always hate me for the job I am doing since my childhood. I asked her to bring the boy and his family in our house. I decorated the house like a new bride and brought the best food for them. I have been saving for my daughter’s marriage for twenty years. That day my daughter was happiest than ever. When they started conversation they brought out a note of demand. They wanted all material things a family needs, I was calculating and nodded in agreement with every word they said. After all it’s about happiness of my daughter. The last point was they do not want me to introduce in front of their relatives and I should never go to visit my daughter. The moment they said it my daughter screamed in anger and by surprising all she slapped the boy. She angrily said, ‘My father can do the thing that no one can do. Not everyone can clean others mess. I am proud of what he does and if you do not leave my house in a minute I will beat you all.’ She broke the marriage proposal and ended her five years relationship in a second. From that day I know how fortunate and happy person I am.’ – Sweeper Monu lal
Be the reason someone smiles, someone feels loved and believes in the goodness of humanity. Life is a beautiful journey between a Human Being and Being Human. Let’s take at least one step each day to cover the distance.
Sharing ten real life stories of humanity
Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash
I had never seen any love or care for us in anyone’s eyes. When I work people give me a feeling that I came out from Hell. We cannot sit anywhere to have a cup of tea. People look at us like they look at dirt. There were days when I hid my tears after being insulted by strangers for no reason. I was sure there was no love left in this world for the poor.
Ten years ago, I was working beside a children’s school. My job was to clean the drain and repair the site. We blocked the road and it was taking a few days so the children had to walk to their school. I attentively did my work every day without noticing anyone who could again insult my job. One day a little girl arrived, smiling widely at me and said, ‘Why are you so dirty?’ Before I could say anything, her father dragged her away by saying, she should never talk to strangers. I felt horrible; imagined he must be telling her daughter how disgusting workers like me were. And then for a week, she came to me every time with same question, why was I so dirty. I never got a chance to speak as her father was always there to drag her away. I could not sleep those nights by thinking about a beautiful reply, ‘why I am dirty’. The poor cannot be clean all the time; we are born in dirt, raise in dirt and die in dirt and no one cares when a dirty thing left the world. I could not say any of this to her. I wanted to quickly finish the job and never wanted to see the girl ever again.
On the last day when we were finishing the work, it was Ramadan afternoon. I was very tired and down. The school was closed and the baby girl did not arrive. I felt relieved, packed everything and was about to leave when suddenly I saw the little girl coming to me by running. She could not breathe properly when she arrived. I was waiting to hear the same question, but she did not say anything and just smiled. Then I asked her where her father is. She showed me a car parked far from us. I waited to hear the same thing. And then she opened her mouth, ‘Uncle, do you like the color red?’ By bringing a packet from behind her she put it in my hand. Her father honked the horn and she quickly said, ‘I cannot clean drain, but I can help you to be clean. This shirt is for you, Uncle.’ I could not say a word and she rushed when her father repetitively honked. The girl left me in tears. She proved to me, humans still care for humans. I do not know where she is now; what she might be doing. I pray to God every day, wherever that little angle is, may God clean all the dirt from her life.
I am very thankful to Allah. I have a home to sleep in, food to eat, children to love. There are homeless people who are living near this train station who suffer from the cold at night; beg for food in afternoon; have no one to look after them. When I see them I stop complaining to Allah about the little problems I have. Though I live in this vulnerable house, eat rice and lentils for lunch or dinner and suffer from illness, I am grateful to The Almighty for all the blessings he has given me.
But I have never done anything for anyone. Poverty made me unable to do something for the people who are less fortunate than me. This thought gives me pain all the time. I often think, what I will take with me when I will die.
Also, I do not know, if I can manage to live another winter or not. People of my age badly suffered this time. No one notices us. When you are old and poor, you suffer silently because there will be no one to hear your pain, no one will come to you to give you warmth. In this crucial season, some of us gather together beside a fire every morning; all of us are waiting for our deaths because every winter one of us is dying. Last year, Safura died from pneumonia. We do not know who will leave us this year.
Life is not easy for me. I have never had any new cloth, but that is okay, there are many people of my age who even do not expect what I have. A few days ago for the first time in my life, I received a winter Shawl. I was not able to open and wear it for days. I keep looking at it and when I decided to wear it, I saw Mariyum, my ninety-year-old neighbor, who does not even have a proper saree. I gifted my shawl to her. I badly want her to survive this winter. If my shawl can keep her warm for some time than it will be the best reward of my life. And what about me? I can manage with this old shawl….and when I feel too cold I do prayers; you can believe it or not, when I pray I feel warm. – Morsheda Begum
Every Friday for almost seven years along my grandma, I continue to go places and I ask people, ‘Do you know me?’ Some days I felt tired and asked her to return. But she always held me, kissed my forehead and asked me to ask the same question to more people. Most of the days we only have green chili to eatwith rice. My grandma is a beggar; she has severe knee pain. She made a wooden stroller for herself and sometimes I push her all the way while begging. She continually told me I need to find my parents. I feel horrible when she tells me one day she will find my parents and then she will give me back to them. But she has no idea how much I enjoy her cuddling and I know no one other than her. But she is always reminding me that I have a family somewhere.
I was lost at the age of three. My grandma found me on the roadside, crying alone in the middle of strangers. No one was able to tell her who was I and except her everyone left me alone on the road. She took me to the local mosque and waited there with me for a week. I had no memory of these things. I am familiar with only the mosque where she forces me to go every Friday along with her. My grandma nicely kept my cloths which I was wearing when I was lost. I continue to walk miles with her and asking people if they know me.
She sent me to school but I hated the place where everyone asked me about my lost parents and how I feel being raised by a beggar. There was a question in the book, ‘What does your father do?’ And I answered ‘I do not know’. My teacher punished me for writing that. Then I never went back to school again. I started working for my grandma, because I do not want her to beg with her knee pain. I do not like when people yelled at her by asking us to leave. While one day my grandma was feeding me I asked her if she can live without me. Then she started crying and replied she has no one in this world without me. After that I stopped asking the question, ‘Do you know me?’ I do not want anyone to know me, my grandmother is my everything and I only want her to know me well. – Abdullah
I cannot sleep at night because of the pain in my knees. I have to carry 1000 bricks every day and then I get 100 taka. I cannot rest at night because at this moment I am suffering from cold and fever. But I have to work for myself and Munia. My husband brought his second wife Munia when my son was one year old. You will not understand how it feels to see your husband living in the same room with another woman. I hated her so much! Ten years ago in a bus accident my husband died and Munia lost her legs. Now for all these years I am taking care of Munia; whatever I earn I spend for both of us. Relatives tell me many times to throw Munia from my home but I can’t. Like me she has no one to go to. My only son never comes to see me. I know very well how it feels to be abandoned – Lijiya (50)
When I arrived from my village I was seven years old. To get one piece of bread I turned into a dog. Whenever I looked into the sky I felt my world was moving very fast, everything was buzzing all around me. I looked into the dustbin; saw how people were throwing food with filth. I wanted to run and snatch the leftover food from their hands; I imagined how good it would feel to have all that food. I wanted to say, ‘do not throw it away’, ‘please give it to me’. But people were stranger to me; they looked at me like the way they looked at a stray dog. I was hungry for two days and two nights. I drank very little water. Whenever I sipped water I felt I would vomit. Water tasted bitter and I was day dreaming for some food. Then I went to the contractor and told him I could transport five hundred bricks; he just had to give me some food. He looked at me and said, I was of no use for him, because he could count the bones on my body. Then what he saw in me I do not know. He gave me the first chance. That day when I had food I felt nothing in this world has meaning without food. My contractor asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up. I touched my plate and said, ‘When I will grow old, I will share my food’. It’s been twenty years every day I am feeding two hungry children: one in the afternoon, and another during dinner. I have no idea from where these hungry children came to me. They also know they are only welcome for one time. After having food they will be asked to write down the name of Pagla Hasan. Many times I smiled to myself after realizing they do not often recognize that I am the Hasan. They only know there is a Hasan who feeds hungry children. I thank God every time when I touch my food. There is no greater pain than hunger. When these children eat beside me I see myself in them. I feel so content when they burp and smile after having a peaceful meal. People of this world have no idea how valuable two grains of rice is for a hungry stomach.
Billu was injured when I found him beside the train track. He was walking with pain and looking at me for help. I am from a very poor family. Even sometimes, my housemaid mother has to beg for rice so that she can equally feed her three daughters. Taking a cat as a pet does not suit beggars. I looked away and tried to cross the road by ignoring him. When I looked back I saw him looking at me with despair. Then helplessly I went back and embraced him.
We, three sisters hid him from my mother’s eyes for three days. Then one morning, we woke up when amma was screaming in anger. Billu tried to sleep in her cozy blanket and when she screamed in surprise he peed on it. My mother briskly took him and headed for the rail line; three of us begged her not to throw Billu away but she listened to no one. The whole day none of us ate anything….with great surprise Billu returned to us secretly at night by himself. The next morning, my mother took him to a far away place. And informed us the cat could never be able to find us again. But the genius came back again. And again my mother furiously took him with her and left him in a place that we never heard of before. That night we were wide awake to welcome him at home but he did not come back.
The next day, we did not take any food or water, including my mother. During the evening she rushed to search for Billu, by skipping her work. My mother found Billu injured in the same place she had left him. Local people informed her some boys had beaten up him for fun. My mother spent her one month salary on Billu and because of our care he is now fat and naughty. I asked amma, why she allowed him to be with us. She said, our father left us in an abandoned place and fled because he never wanted daughters. She could never do the same even with an animal. Billu is now our naughty brother, who eats most of our food and sleeps only with my mother. – Rojina
I am a care taker of a mosque. It was my mother’s wish that I should spend my life in the path of Allah. I accepted it after her death. I studied in the village Maktab and took the responsibility of taking care of the mosque I am serving now. I have met different kinds of people the last twenty years. Some are very pious, some are not, some tell lies all the time, some always speak the truth, some help the poor from their heart, some just want to show off. But I met someone whose story I will never forgot. He used to always arrive at the mosque first in the morning. I have never seen him talk to anyone ever. He was not even from our area. Every day after prayers when everyone left the mosque he stayed there and spent hours there by crying alone. Many days I had goosebumps and wondered what made this man so sorrowful. Eventually I learnt that he is a very rich man who lives far away from our place. He established a mosque, a madrassa, a school and an old persons’ home. He has everything that a man can only dream of. After knowing all this I became more interested in knowing the reason of his arrival in this particular mosque and what made him cry so much. One day when he was distributing clothes and food among beggars and the poor, with all my courage I questioned him. He was looking at me for some time and then surprisingly, he said he will answer me the next morning. I could not even sleep that night. That morning when everyone left, he came and sat with me. Then I got to know what I did not even imagine in my worst dreams. The man was left outside this mosque when he was five to seven days old. When his father (who eventually adopted him) came for his Fazaar Prayer he saw a dog trying to open the tie of a folded cloth and started to push towards him. He went there and opened the cloth where he found the baby boy fighting with death and not responding. Without finishing his prayer he took the baby to a doctor while the Imam helped him all the way. The man who had no child adopted him afterward, and tried hard to find the baby boy’s actual parents. But there was no trace of his identity. They raised him perfectly; he is following Islam with all his heart. But since the day he knew about this truth, he was no longer able to rest in peace. He wanted to know from where he had come, who were his parents, why someone wanted to kill him and threw him in the road. He was wrapped by a mustard coloured cloth which implies that he might not even be a Muslim by birth. When he was talking to me about this I lost the words on how to console him but I tried with my heart. I told him, ‘You are the best human being I have ever met. Know that Allah knows everything and whatever happened to you, there must be a reason for that. You should not spend a single day with this thought of sadness which is insulting your current parents’ love and Allah’s love for you. If you believe in their love, you will not hurt your heart anymore. Please do not come to this place ever again; it will not let you forget your past.’ He did not answer me and left. Since that day, he never came here again, I do not know if I did right or wrong, but I felt being human should be our first identity, and all I wanted was to ease his pain as another human.
– Jainal Abedin (36)
The time I needed my family’s support, they left me alone. I was vulnerable and heartbroken. At that time Potu’s mother gave me shelter. Despite our religious differences, differences of my cast and creed, she treated me as a family member. No one ever talked to me nicely but Potu’s mother was the one who showered me love and respect. I celebrated Eid with her and she gifted me new clothes in my puja. I know how difficult it was for her to take me into their house after facing economic and social problems. But she often said Allah is the one to judge, not the people. She passed away while giving birth to Potu. For me he is my blood grandson. I taught him everything his mother should teach him if she would be alive. Every morning I wake him up for his prayers. I will give him the love that I learned from his amazing mother. Now he is my world.
– Al-Amin’s (Potu) grandma
No one has any concern. Even if somebody dies, even if the whole world gets destroyed, no one really cares! What kind of times are we are all living in? Human are no longer human! Now people do not think of anything else but themselves. After one hour of continuous efforts, I alone brought the fire under control. To bring water I had to cross the bridge and fell so many times, but no one came to help to stop the fire. ‘The fire will not harm my house even if the whole area is destroyed.’ That was the attitude of all viewers. By neglecting our requests, factories, tanneries throw wastage here daily; they do not even care for school-going children. Today may be someone’s cigarette created this fire and it might destroy the whole area. Even my neighbor stopped me from coming here, lightly advised, ‘why endanger your own life for others’? What’s wrong with us? I am very tired; I am very depressed, I feel ashamed as a human being to see how hundreds of people find entertainment by watching me from far, without helping a bit’
– Sumon (27)
‘I lost many things in my life and by standing at the end of my life, now I can tell you how I gained everything back that I had lost. My husband died when during flood, a tree had fallen on him. I was standing just ten feet away from him in water. That night, I was seven months pregnant. After losing my husband, my house and everything I had, I felt like committing suicide. But I became a mother after waiting for twelve years for a child. I had to survive for my child, so I came to the city to search for work. After so many struggles I gave birth to my son. The midwife told me, my son had problems and asked me to be prepared for his death. When he died after seven days, I had no one beside me and had no money. Even if you die you need money but no one came forward to help me. Only some orphan-street children gave me money, so I could do his last work. After I buried him when I returned to my hut, I didn’t cry. From that day, I no longer look behind at what I had lost. Since that day, for thirty years, I have feed one orphan each day from my food. I lost my child but I kept giving the portion of his love to every miserable child I met on my way.
For the last five years, I have been suffering from tuberculosis and heart problems. Now all those orphan children grew up and are taking care of me. I lost one child but now I have hundred’ – Maa Asha
Imagine you are six years old. Left alone on the street. Your ragged clothes are all you have with you. You are bare foot and empty hand. You have no idea what to eat and where to sleep. You roam around at places for couple of hours. Whenever you are trying to go close to people they are yelling at you. And then you are hungry and have no idea how to get some food or a glass of water. You remain hungry and thirsty all day long and there is no place to rest or seat. And finally night arrives when you meet people like you, who are waiting to sleep nearby closed shops and counters. You are trying to sleep but you shiver in fever. There is no one to hold you other than the newly met street dog who is the only family you have now. Welcome to street!
Sharing Ten real life stories of ‘Angels on Street’, featured first on my Facebook page. GMB Akash
I did not get anything to eat yesterday. I slept hungry. But now I am feeling lucky to get this rotten bread. My shoes, cloth and food everything comes from this dump yard. Aren’t you asking me about the odor? I was born in this place, someone left me here after my birth, smell of this place make me feel like a home. This is my home and these dogs, birds are my family.
– Abu (10)
One day my father did not return home from work. We searched him everywhere. We went to hospital, spent days by knocking at police station but we found out nothing. I had two younger brothers who had no idea what was happening. After a year of his disappearance everyone started telling that he flew with another woman. My mother was changing and treating us worse in every passing day. Once she locked me in the toilet and punished me for hours knowing well how much I was afraid of darkness. Then one morning, I wake up and saw she is gone. She as well escaped with someone. I was eleven years old and did not have enough time to find out anything as my brothers were crying all the time. We passed two days without food or any help. After begging to everyone, villagers sat in a meeting with my uncles, aunts and grandparents. My grandparents accepted my two brothers and decided to send me to work as a housemaid in Dhaka. A girl is a burden that is what my relatives told to everyone. On my way to Dhaka, I discovered the woman who was accompanying me was telling my price to someone on the phone. I had no idea who was selling me to whom but I knew I need to escape. I took an enormous brick and hit on her head, she was bleeding heavily but I did not look back. This world is a bad place but I have already learned to survive – Nargis (13)
I have nobody. I live alone. Sometimes I go to play with children of this neighborhood. They do not take me to participate in their game. They laugh at me because I have no idea where my parents live. They mocked me by making my parents name. I do not mind. Humiliation is a part of my life. That’s why now-a-days, all the time I play alone. You will not feel bad anymore when you will learn how to enjoy alone. That’s how I stopped looking for friends. I am happy and can move freely now. By the way, I call myself bird, isn’t this a good name?
– Pakhi (10)
My mother was a prostitute. I was born in a brothel. I never saw her happy but she smiled every single time I looked at her. Everyone at our place was unhappy because my mother gave birth to a boy. My mother was different. She never allowed me to go near her. I wanted to sleep in her lap; I wanted to get her kisses. But she never let me to touch her. Sometimes I wanted to hate her badly. Some days when I woke up, I saw her torturing herself by scratching her hands, feet with sharp blades. I wiped her blood, I wiped her face, but she never cried. She always smiled to me. One day I asked her where my father lived, my prostitute mother pointed at her heart. I tried to hate her with all my heart. Every day, everyone called me a bastard. It was same in the slum where me and my mother arrived after fled from brothel to start a new life. No one gave work to my mother, no one talked to us. Often times people threw stones in the roof of our plastic hut. The day my mother died, she was very clam. For the first time she kissed me on my cheeks. Told me that, she is thankful to me for choosing her as a mother, for giving her love that she never received in her life. My mother left me alone. She cannot come to me. But I can go to her.
– Shadhin (13)
I was very afraid of dogs. Now it’s been one month I cannot sleep, if dogs do not sleep around me. Often times, I cry during sleep. When my friend Jewel shakes my shoulder, I usually stop crying. In the first day, when I arrived in Sadarghat, street boys had beaten up me a lot. They said it is needed to make street boys strong. But I am not at all strong. I cry in simple things. But people around me do not have time to notice my crying and that I feel relieved for that. I cried a lot, when my mother got married after death of my father. When I was following the groom’s group, she called me and said, if I try to follow her, she will throw me in the river. My grandparents also refused me to take inside their home. Now-a-days I do not feel that much bad, my mother was very poor, so how she could take care of me! When we street boys try to sleep at night, we talked about our dreams. One day I will have a house, where I will have a bed. That time if I want, I can eat hot rice by cooking in the kitchen, I do not have to save money for taking shower, and there will be a bathroom in my house. My friend Jewel, request me to give him a place inside my house. I said, if he stop telling lie, I will think about it – Israfil (8)
My step mother was like a rose. After my father got married with my mother, I used to be with her all the time. She could tell all kind of funny jokes; she made various kinds of pickles for me. When everyone used to say, my mother is a witch, I burst into tears and fought with them. I used to love my mother a lot. Even I loved my brother who came with my new mother. I used to play with him and shared all my things. One day we got to know a little brother will come soon into our life. I was so happy, so was my family. Mother one day told me, she wanted to go to ride the boat in river, and wanted me to be with her. She told me not to share this with my father, as he never would let me to go to river, because I am afraid of water. Without telling anything to anyone, I went with my mother and her cousin for a boat ride. That was a beautiful afternoon. When the boat went in the middle of river, my mother asked me to pick a floating wild flower for her. While I bend my head to pick the flower, I was pushed into the river. Before I understood anything I was drowning in the middle of the river. While screaming for help I saw their boat went very far from me. I do not know how much distance I passed while a fisherman boat saved me. With the fisherman, I got into a launch. I did not try to find out my lost home. That one push took my childhood and I become mature. I did many kind of works to survive. Now I help the van owner while he carries sacks. Many years had passed but still I am having the nightmare that I am drowning in the river and everyone is laughing.
– Manik (12)
I have to work with a lot of attention. This is not easy to find usable stuff from garbage. Sometimes after whole day I found one thing to sell in the recycle shop. And in a good day I can find biscuits. Not ordinary biscuits, the one which has cream. That’s my favorite. Some days I find biscuits which tastes very sour but my dog like to have that, so I give him without eating those. And in a very bad day, I cut my feet. I think people do not know that children work in the garbage on bare foot. They throw away broken glasses which often scratch our feet. Sometimes it bleeds heavily. It hurts a lot. I and my dog have had many scars in our legs. That’s why now a days I am keeping clothes with me. If it bleeds I tie and continue to work.
– Jesmine (7)
My name is Rasel and I do not know who gave me this name. I am an orphan. I am living in street for four years. When I arrived in Dhaka I was injured and hungry, but no one cared about street people. I cried so many days because I wanted someone to care for me or talk to me with a smile. But people have no time for love. So, I started loving everyone. I share my food and take care of my street friends. Meet with my new friend, Kutum, it means guest, and she is my guest. I cured her injury with my love and now taking care of her. I will look after her, as long as she will not leave me. But I will never leave Kutum. I know how it feels to be alone and being unloved.
My mother flew with me when my father wanted to make me disable, after my birth, so that he could use me, for begging. I do not know what my mother actually does; she sleeps whole day and works at night when I sleep. We live in street, our neighbors and police calls me ‘whore’s daughter’, mom told me not to reply them, as bad people always talk bad. I am a flower seller, I sell flowers, I do not beg. But people have no time to look at flowers. I pop into the window of big cars and see beautiful children, with their parents. Sometimes I wonder, didn’t their dad want to sell their organ or want to make them disable for begging! One day a rich mom buy all my flowers for her girl but when the girl wanted to give me money, she said not to touch me, I might have disease. The baby girl threw the money in the air and I caught that. The day made me the best flower seller among all – Lutfa
My problem is I am a fool and I cannot tell a lie. A few days ago a beggar hired me to act as her blind child. We supposed to roam around the city’s signal and beg for food. At the end of the day she promised me to give fifty taka and food. I rehearsal well and she was convinced that I acted marvelous. And then we started our mission. For an hour it was going good, but then we went near to a car window and a lady with her child was giving me some money. I saw the boy was playing with a car. The lady seemed generous so instead of taking the money I told her, ‘Madam, I am a blind child, I have no toys, can you please give your son’s red car?’ After a few minutes the car driver was chasing behind me and I was running with my life by leaving my fake beggar mother behind.
– Polash (10)
You can be part of making some of them smile, you can also tell them they are loved, you can give them some hope for a day or life time. Last year I organized three events for more than 2000 unprivileged children of streets, dump yard, brick field and child labourer. This year I want to reach more and want you as well to be part of this happiness. You can send clothes, slippers, toys, dry food for these children. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute for a smile. I will send you detail how you can become someone’s light.
To check my last year’s event with unprivileged children:
A mother’s womb is the place where life and love begin. In her heart we never grow up. No one smells like her and she remains the same even after hundred years. And when she dies she leaves a part of her soul for us; wherever we go her existence follows us. A mother’s heart can travel any time and any distance. There is an invisible chord between us which our mothers continue to nourish forever. This blog post is a Tribute to all mothers. This is for honoring the most irreplaceable person of our life. No one knows the alchemy of mother, she remains the one, no one can take her place.
Sharing Ten heart wrenching real life stories of Mothers, featured first on this Facebook page. GMB Akash
Like everyone you are also thinking that I am a beggar. But I never begged for a single day of my life. But strangely every day after I wake up I found money beside my head. I stopped wondering at generosity of strangers. There are many street children who love to stay nearby me. Because they had seen me giving away my money to other beggars. I never gave money to children, but always bought ice cream for them. My grandson loved ice cream a lot. My secret savings was for his ice cream. The day I was coming to the city with my son for my eye treatment, my grandson hugged me and was not letting me to come. He was telling me I won’t be able to come back, I was laughing on him as he always spoke about strange things. Then I told him to always remember, at the end, everything will be okay. I was sitting on the bench of the train station for almost two days. I waited for my son to arrive with a rickshaw, he told me not to move no matter what happened. The street boy who was selling water repeatedly told me, he saw my son leaving by the next train, he had heard him telling someone that he already got rid of a sick old woman. I did not trust him. I could not trust a street kid more than my son. I was not able to see clearly but as much as I could I was looking forward for his arrival, my ears were alert to hear his voice. I terribly wanted to go back to his house and give my grandson a hug. The street kid stayed with me for all the time, told me his father also left him in that station, assured me, he knew how I was feeling. No, no one can fell what I was feeling. I lost terribly in life many, many times. From the day I arrived to this strange city I never asked anyone to help. But I am asking you. Can you replace my heart? It’s been bleeding all the time without any sign of blood. I am having a terrible pain inside my chest, a feeling of pain that someone has crushed me with this world’s weight. I need peace, rest and love. But in this world there are people like me who may never get any of this. And that’s okay. Because at the end, everything ends.
– Jahanara Begum
My life had always been different. There were some cold nights when my step mother punished me by keeping me outside our home. She wanted me to leave my father. But I couldn’t. I stood all nights outside their door and cried. Their door, liked their hearts, always remained closed. I was deprived of my father’s love and later on, of his property. After marrying me off, they directly asked me to never visit them again. To confirm that decision, my father gave all his property to my step brothers before my father died. I accepted and never questioned my father. You can’t fight to get love, it has to come on it’s own.
I lost my mother during my birth. I learned how to survive cruelty, as the world’s most unfortunate is the one who loses his mother during birth. I was also unfortunate to never know how it felt to be loved. When my husband shut his door on my face as well, I not surprised. I had been losing the battle since my life’s day one. And that day when my husband threw me away, I did not know what was about to come. I had no idea that a life was growing inside me. When I knew about my child, it was too late and I did not want to go to that house where I was beaten by everyone for the crimes I never did. Surprisingly, when I started living on street, I was happier. I slept hungry in my father’s house and as well as my husband’s many nights, but I never went to sleep hungry when I lived on my own in the streets. There was always someone who shared their food with me. There were beggars who gave me food, and laborer who gave me clothes. I was not alone among the strangers but I was so lonely among my very own family.
When my son was about to be born, I started having the fear of death. But we both survived. I passed hours looking at his face and often pinched myself it make sure it wasn’t just a dream. I have never felt such joy in my thirsty years of life. Though there was no one beside my child, I could never say his father’s name, no one cared for him without me, but together, we found happiness in our fragility. I continued to fight for our happiness.
A few days ago, when I had to bring him to this hospital, the doctor told me they will try their best to save my son, but I should prepare for the worst and stay strong.That moment I refused to be strong. I refused to be strong anymore. I refused to let go of my life. I spent the whole night on my knees. praying to God with every word I know, with all the belief I had. For how much longer would God keep putting so much of weight on my chest? When would he understand how hard it was for me? I refused to take any more pain. I do not know how I passed that night . After sun rise, a nurse arrived and asked me to visit my child. I rushed to him. And discovered that God had answered my prayer; he had given back me my life. I won’t let him go anywhere.
No one ever loved me. When my mother left me, in shock I could not able to talk for a year. It was not her crime. But I wanted to sleep in her lap for at least one night, but I could not. My father never bought a hair lace for me. I could not remember if anyone loved me for a while. No one kept their hand in my head to give me courage. One day I lost myself. My aunt willingly left me in a ferry station, knowing I would never make it home. I was so afraid and cold. Just felt like the day when my mother left me alone. A girl, ten years old in an unknown, strange world, where there is no love, empathy. Since then years had passed, I did everything to survive. People used me in so many purposes. I wanted to die but surprisingly found out dying is harder than living, I could not throw myself in river water, I kept loving and hating me all at once. When I first felt my daughter’s movement, I was hungry, there was nothing to eat. There is no bigger pain than hunger; my tiny girl could not sleep inside my womb because we were hungry, hungry for food and love. The day when she was born there was no one beside me, when she grabbed my fingers; I felt for the first time – someone arrived to love me, whom I will never let go.
‘One day madam bought a girl of nine years old. Her stepmother sold her to a brothel and then spread the news that she had been lost. The stepmother was satisfied to get rid of a stepdaughter for a life time and 3000 taka was just a bonus of selling a human being. My madam gave the little girl to me to prepare for clients. She was a doll, her pink chubby cheeks and big brown eyes melted my heart. When she cried and cuddled me at night I felt like that baby was made of milk. I went through forced abortions two times; for me Putul was my lost fetus. I bought her a doll to play with. After seven days she was able to speak, her first question was, ‘will that madam cut my hands and send me for begging’? I closed my eyes and whispered, ‘they will do much worse than anyone’s imagination’. Madam was impatient and gave me one week to teach her all the tricks of the business. And I planned something else by putting my life at risk. The day before they fixed a client for Putul, I communicated with one of my old admirers to talk to an organization who was working with orphans. I knew they would kill me if they found me while or after transporting the girl to the orphanage. But that time I did not care about my life. I was able to get her free from this hell. She left her toy doll for me as her memory. I know there must be thousands of such hells waiting for the girl but at least I was able to save her from the biggest one. Please pray for my baby; may she get all the happiness and love in her life; may her chubby cheeks always gets rosy from laughter.’
– Purnima, a sex worker
I used to think with every passing year I might forget every scar I have. But that did not happen. Even by passing time I tend to remember all tiny memories deeply. I had a past that shattered my present and future. My parents married me off when I was nine years old. Before I knew what is the rule of a husband I was married. My first daughter was born when I was ten. By the time, my husband and in-laws had sent back me and my daughter to my home as my parents were unable to pay them dowry. To me, my daughter was nothing just a lively doll to play. And again before I could play with my doll enough they snatched her and married me off with my current husband. My mother sent off my daughter to a far flung location that still now I have no idea who have adopted her and where she might be. My bitter life started and my current husband continued to question me about my past for the rest of my life. I gave birth to three sons and by the time they know about my past all were adult and educated. They rejected me and continued to insult me with their father. At the age of eighty five I urge to be with my lost daughter. She is just ten years younger than me but when I recall her I can only remember some tiny fingers holding me tight, I get a smell something like cinnamon, I see those big eyes wondering at me. I keep living in my past; I am still a ten years old mother.
– Tahora Khattun (85)
I never called my mother ‘maa’. Calling her maa was prohibited. My mother gave birth to me secretly. I heard that my father never returned to take her back. No one knew where he went. On the day of my mother’s wedding she held me in her chest she cried a lot. I was five years old and never allowed to call my mother ‘Maa’. Her sandalwood smell enchanted me for long. I told her, ‘Aunty your smell is amazing.’ Like everyone, my new father knew I was the daughter of her late sister. He pointed at me and told my grandmother, I should never visit their village. My grandma laughed and snatched me from my mother saying I would never visit them. When my mother was leaving I was locked inside our kitchen but my heart was running behind her. I was crying and saying, ‘Aunty, come back.’ Calling Maa was forbidden.
My grandfather planted a coconut tree when my grandma conceived my mother. That tree was same age as my mother. She taught me to call that tree ‘Maa’. For twenty years I called that tree ‘Maa’. I never went to see her and she never arrived to see me. Sometimes I secretly embraced the tree and whispered how much I missed my mother. It was very difficult to sleep at night; I wanted to have her smell. Without that sandalwood smell it was impossible to fall asleep. Most night I cried and cried bu did not utter the word ‘Maa’.
My mother sent all my expenses but I was raised alone. On my wedding day, with everything my mother also sent me her wedding saree, the saree that my father gave her on their wedding. She was not allowed to attend my wedding. But I did not miss her, I was wearing her wedding saree which had her sandalwood smell. I had no idea if she missed me or not. No idea if she ever wanted to tell me anything. After my mother’s death they wanted to take me to see her for last time. I did not attend her funeral. Even now to me my mother is an eighteen years old beautiful girl, whose long hair and big eyes are enough to fall in love, who smells like sandalwood. Whenever I close my eyes, I see those big eyes, filled with an ocean of tears. In my dreams I tell her not to worry, I tell her how happy I am without her. Only sometimes I wanted to scream and call her ‘Maa’, ‘Maa come back’.
I did not want to kill him. I wanted him to be in my life. I knew that if anyone could find it out, they would kill him. But I was able to hide him for many months. Then sometimes in morning when I went to sleep I asked myself why to punish someone by bringing into my life which has no hope, no tomorrow. But he was the only one with whom I talk like a child without being afraid, without being someone else. He also responded in my stomach like a butterfly by assuring that he will never leave me.
The day my madam found out I was pregnant; she wanted to kill my child. She was trying to kick me and I held her legs. I screamed, begged her to give me a chance to live. I did not leave her feet for how long I cannot say; then she stopped pushing me and asked me why I wanted to bring lifetime suffering. She left without hurting me anymore.
Then the time arrived. During delivery I had eclampsia and severe blood loss. Through the entire time I did not stop talking to my child, I whispered to him that we had to make the journey. Till then we survived many miracles. He was then three months old, his only favorite thing was bird. But we were caged; I was not able to show him any bird. We had no room and I had to go back to attend clients. With every passing day, I was afraid that one day my boy will hate me most. But whenever I looked at him he always smiled by assuring that all I had is him.
He was three months twenty days old when I handover him to a childless couple. They were crying after holding my baby. I looked from distant; felt he was in the right hands. My madam requested me to keep Murad, told me that I won’t survive without him. But my mother heart felt Murad will be happy with them than me. When they were leaving, the woman came to me, put a packet of money in my bag and said they will keep his name Murad, they will not change it. I said nothing. Then the man came closer to show me Murad for the last time. Told me that when he will grow older they will bring him back to me and if he wants to be with me, they won’t stop him. I looked at my child, he smiled to me like always. I said, ‘Never tell him, his mother was a prostitute. Never let him to search me. He should never know he was born in a cage. I want him to be a bird, to fly in the sky, if you can, helps him to do that.’ I returned their packet and was able to come back to the brothel without looking back; I do not want my child to smile at a prostitute.
I turned eighteen last month. I am a single mother, living alone with my only daughter. The day my husband left us I had to spend that night in train station. Because we had no place to go. My father asked me not to bother him and my step mother by any means. I did not want to disturb anyone. My struggle was not only about money or food; it was mainly saving my respect. When I was sitting in train station, wondering where I would go next morning, many men came near to me and whispered to my ears. I went freeze by holding my daughter close to my chest.
It was always a battle to earn respect for myself as a single mother. Because I felt that being a single mother is a crime. Every woman I know thinks I am after their men. Every man I know somehow tried to exploit me. My neighbor woman asked me to shut my door after evening, as her husband spends his free time at our open yard. I shut my door tightly even in day light. I do not let light to come at my house or any man.
In the beginning when I collected my wages, the contractor always tried to touch my fingers. May be he thought like all other men that I am too available to have. That day, I slapped the man on his face, pulled his collar, pushed him on the ground and kicked on his chest. Everyone was afraid and I was screaming like a wounded animal. I did not know that kind of woman existed on me, but I am glad to find that woman that day.
My crime is I never played victim, even when my husband fled with another woman. I broke, I crushed, I cried but I rose again and smiled. My daughter has no birth certificate as it required a father’s name. I assured my daughter we will find a country in this earth where mother’s name will be sufficient for any birth record.
– Yesmin (18) with her daughter Meem
Inside a cotton bag I used to keep everything I had. In that bag there were my mother’s wedding saree, my children’s first clothes and my husband’s spectacle. I kept everything very dearly. In my life I have had only a few moments of happiness and I never wanted to lose those. At the age of thirty I lost my husband. I was a widow with seven children. I was not able to spend one day quietly after my husband’s death. The next day after his death I had to plough the field. At that night I went for fishing alone. After catching some fishes I cried by sitting at river side by calling my husband’s name. My house was broken which had no door. I remained alert, stayed awake all night by putting my children at sleep. I went to jungle to collect foods, I climbed in the tree, and I moved from places to places to feed my children. I spent countless days by starving, satisfyingly watching my children to eat. Whenever I went to jungle my youngest son would always follow me. He held my hand and assured me that one day when they will grow old he will give me everything I want. They grew old and I along my cotton bag kept moving in seven places for twelve months. I become a shadow for the children who were my life. I heard my elder son asking his wife, when she thinks I may die, I heard her replying ‘Not soon’. Last year when I went to live with my youngest son, I asked him to buy me a pair of glass. I showed him my empty medicine box and gave him my prescription. Suddenly he started shouting with me. He brought me out from his house, placed my cotton bag in my hand and dragged me outside far from his place. He placed me in the road; asked me to beg, told me that women of my age can manage their life by begging. He left very quickly while people were gazing at me. I felt shame, I tried not to cry, tried to hold something to get up on my own. Someone picked me up, asked me where I wanted to go. I did not reply. That moment I badly wanted to become thirty again, wanted to go to the field, to run into the jungle, to live my life. When I was slowly leaving the village a part of me was crying for my youngest son, a part of me was telling that he would arrive any moment, will hold my hand as he used to hold in his childhood. I shamelessly waited at the river side. And then I threw away my cotton bag in that river where once I used to catch fishes for my children. After that I never cried, never felt hungry for food or love.
– (Maa) Nureeja
‘I am v-e-r-y afraid of airplane. I have claustrophobia. My son and daughter-in-law were not at all ready to leave me but I pushed them to go. My grandchildren were crying for me. But I decided to live in this old home and said if they could call me every day then I will be okay. That’s why everyday my son call me. Telling you the truth boarders envy me when I tell them how my grandchildren do skating and where they go for vacations. Last year all of them came to visit me and forced me to go with them. You know, they all are waiting for me and I will fly as soon as I will be no more afraid of flying’
After three years when I went to visit her, she went far away, in a place where there is no fear or waiting exit. I came to know that she was waiting for her son’s call for past five years. Three days authority waited for a reply from relative to handover them the dead body. The address and phone number were nonexistent. No one ever come to see her except me.
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"I see the beauty of people and the human soul in the pictures I take. And though the circumstances of some of the people I portray may be grim, back-breaking, depraved, the people themselves are always remarkable characters and souls" For me Photography is my language, to access, to communicate, to identify and mostly to make it hear. Through photography I only jot down my heart’s language. The best part about being a photographer is that I’m able to articulate the experiences of the voiceless and to bring their identities to the forefront which gives meaning and purpose to my own life. I have received more than 68 international awards and my work has been featured in over 70 major, international publications including: National Geographic, Vogue,Time, Sunday Times, Newsweek, Geo, Stern, Der Spiegel, The Fader, Brand Ein, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Colors, The Economist, The New Internationalist, Kontinente, Amnesty Journal, Courier International, PDN, Die Zeit, Days Japan, Hello, and Sunday Telegraph of London. In 2002 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. In 2004 I received the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris — once again, the first Bangladeshi to receive this honour. In 2005 I was awarded “Best of Show” at the Center for Fine Art Photography’s international competition in Colorado, USA. And in 2006 I was awarded World Press Photo award and released my premier book “First Light”. In 2007 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the 30 Emerging Photographers (PDN 30), sponsored by Photo District News Magazine, USA. I won the 7th Vevey International Photography Grant from Switzerland in 2009 and in the same year, I took home the international ‘Travel photographer of the Year” title at the International Travel Photographer of the Year Competition (TPOY 2009) in the UK, the most prestigious award in travel photography. I was one of the speakers in the fifth Global Investigative Journalism Conference, held at Lillehammer, Norway in 2008 and as well I was the first Bangladeshi in Ted talk at TEDxOporto 2011, in Portugal. I was one of the speaker of “7th Forum of Emerging Leaders in Asian Journalism”, Yogyakarta / Indonesia”. In 2011 Nikon has selected me as one of the 8 influencers in Asia pacific (APAC region). Presentation of my 10 years project published as form of book ‘Survivors’ in 2012, which has reviewed by prestigious Geo magazine.