Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat ― Mother Teresa
I believe an affectionate smile, an overwhelming hug can cure illness!
We start our journey to find our lives that deserve our affection, attention and respect. On the occasion of the biggest festival ‘Eid’ in our country there are elders who are living miserably in the yard of their houses. Many of them can not speak, some cannot see and others are counting their last days. These respected elders are living their lives like burdens to their poor families. Maybe for many of them this Eid will be their last festival. We set out our journeys to give them some sort of happiness, to give them a surprise and to show them respect.
Amena Begum (80) lives in the village Pechayain. She cannot speak. A year ago after her heart attack she is unable to move her right hand and lost her voice. For her poor family now she is an unwanted person. Her bed has been shifted to the open kitchen outside their house. Amena Begum has no idea when the Eid comes and goes but she try hard to see people passing her yard though she can not see anything clearly. These last days of her life are filled with humiliation and loneliness. Like her there are hundreds of elderly women who are suffering silently.
In the upcoming Eid festival we want to show respect to our elders. Women who fought throughout their lives without expecting anything. Now even in the last days of their lives they are suffering miserably; being unnoticed, unloved, uncared for. Finding them and giving them a small gift has been our mission during this festival.
I went to the villages of Varat and Pechayain. And by the help of my friends and students we found elders who needed our attention, affection and respect. These elderly people cannot go out for asking help. So we reached their doors with our gifts. We gifted sarees to these helpless elderly women in some villages to bring out smiles on their face. To make them feel that they are not alone.
The smiles in their face, the sparkle in their eyes, their affectionate touch on our heads give us the feeling that , there is happiness in the act of giving and caring.
Let’s speard our arms, lets walk upto their doors. lets bring out smiles in the faces of the unprivileged! May this Eid festival break all bricks of inhumanity. Our small attempt is to go and find these miserable souls . Giving them a small gift, showing some respect and touching their feet makes us feel fortunate. Elders are our pillars. Lets make them even stronger!
Eid Mubarak to you ALL!
Women have to go beyond any boundaries they might have set for themselves. Thinking something that a woman can’t do because that particular thing is a man’s domain, is where she is restricting herself! Women have incredible power. Just inspiration can help them to grow their dreams. As a photographer every day I am capturing woman’s battles, voices, dreams and triumphs. By putting light on their lives and dreams I would like to tell stories that the world should know about! Welcome all of you to the heroic world of INFO Ladies of Bangladesh!
The Info Ladies cover many miles on their journeys from village to village. With their bicycles and laptops, the Info Ladies of Bangladesh bring the world a sense of independence from one village to the next. This has changed the country, and their lives, too. The young women have become role models for a whole generation.
The Info Ladies cover many miles on their journeys from village to village/www.gmb-akash.com
The meetings in the villages are free, with a charge for some services/www.gmb-akash.com
Sathi is the most successful Info Lady in the Gaibandha district. Between banana trees and flood swamps, she has opened an info shop in her home village Jarabarsha. A banner in front of the shop rattles in the wind. It reads: “We are independent because we are Info Ladies.”
The Info Lady is wearing her info lady uniform, a blue cape and pink trousers. Amid the dark green landscape, she shines like a ladybird on a dandelion leaf/ www.gmb-akash.com
The corrugated iron on the roof shines more brightly than anywhere else in the area. A table mounted on the trunk of a tree lists all the services Sathi offers. Sathi offers Skype calls, online bank transfers, online university application assistance, digital camera rentals, mobile phone ringtone downloads and photography services. She gives pregnancy tests, measures diabetics, takes blood pressure, identifies blood type and even sells underwear for women. Recently she opened her pre-primary school with a vision to create an example for the village.
Sathi in her info shop which provides for her whole family/ www.gmb-akash.com
Sathi is a 24 year-old petite woman with a barely perceptible smile and deliberate movements. When a man pushes his broken mobile phone across the counter, she unscrew the lid of the phone, fumbles around with the speakers for a few seconds with a metal pin and declares: “it’s broken, I will order a new one,” without expecting any rejection. Sathi has a scar with six stitches on her right ankle from a fall from her bicycle when she still had problems keeping her balance. She proudly shows the scar. Laughing loudly while explaining how difficult it was to convince her father about bicycle riding, she says, “I learned the basics of computers in three days, but it took months to convince my father to let me ride a bicycle.” But now she has changed the financial face of her family. In nearly three years of this job she built new house and renovated the old shop which is now the famous info shop.
Sathi has to go from village to village to give her services. On that humid day Sathi repeatedly grabs the corner of her pink dupatta and wipes sweat off her face. She is wearing her Info Lady uniform, a blue cape and pink trousers. Amid the dark green landscape, she shines like a ladybird on a dandelion leaf. Sathi cycles past men in waist-deep water. The men stop their work for a moment and look up. Sathi nods in greeting. When she finally arrives in the village, she rings her bicycle bell three times, and women immediately start crowding around her.
An Info Lady is a nurse, mail carrier, fashion consultant, farmer, photographer, psychologist – all in one.
A short while later the women they roll out fabric bags to sit on and Sathi shows them a film about feeding infants. Then in a firm voice, she repeats every single fact: “You need to wash your breast before you breast-feed your baby. You do not need milk powder from the store; your breast milk is perfectly fine until the fifth month. After this, pay attention to adequate amounts of calcium and proteins. Have you all seen which foods contain these substances?” The women, some twice as old as Sathi, look at her. Their silent glances show how much respect they feel for someone so knowledgeable.
The meetings in the villages are free, with a charge for some services/ www.gmb-akash.com
Sathi’s working day ends with accounting. Using a computer programme, she notes every cent she earns. The group meetings are free, but a digital passport photo costs 10 cents, a blood pressure measurement costs 5 cents. Sathi has earned the equivalent of 2.60 Euros – a moderate day’s income. Last month, her income totaled 133 Euros. By comparison, a farmer in the district of Gaibandha earns about 60 Euros a month.
Many young women resist the opposition of their parents when they become Info Ladies. Sathi’s mother is different. She says: “All women bear children, but not all give birth to children as important as this one”
In a country where less than a quarter of the population uses the Internet and where access is both slow and expensive, Bangladesh’s ‘Info Ladies’ offer a series of vital services to people living in remote, rural parts of the country. The “Info Ladies” project was launched in 2008 by a local non-governmental organisation called D.net. The same organisation had previously sent so-called “mobile ladies” through Bangladesh – young women with mobile phones, who enabled the inhabitants to communicate with people outside their village. When most inhabitants eventually owned a mobile phone, the Info Ladies were launched. They now offer mobile Internet, in a country with 152 million people, of whom five million have access to the worldwide web. D.net works together with local organisations to implement the project. In Gaibandha district, the NGO Udayan is involved. The name translates as “the resurrection”. The Info Ladies are trained for several weeks in the barracks of Udayan.
In the rainy season, the Info Ladies cross the water on hastily cobbled together rafts or bridges/ www.gmb-akash.com
A Bangladeshi Info Lady is not just a woman with a laptop; she’s an entrepreneurial businesswoman bringing isolated people a piece of the world with valuable information and services. Info Ladies managed to change the perspective of villagers in many ways. Dohrmina, a village elder, now gives advice to the youth that would have been unthinkable in her day. She says: go to school, secure your own income, and don’t have too many children. Dohrmina says: “We didn’t even know what independence meant.”
Like Dohrmina villagers have been paying more attention to their health now the Info Ladies make their visits/ www.gmb-akash.com
After measuring weight of the pregnant woman Mahfuza says, “You need to eat more,”
Of the 10 Info Ladies from Sathi’s group, seven are still active after three years. The Info Lady Mahfuza who is one of them rests her bike on the kickstand. Mahfuza is 22 years old and an Info Lady. She is part of a project in which young women use modern technology to distribute information to the most remote corners of Bangladesh. Mahfuza’s former classmates are now all married; most have one or two children. Some girls are married by the age of 13 or 14 and by the age of 20, parents actively look for a husband for their daughters. But Mahfuza learned to hold her head up.
A camera transmits the image of the extended family – with the brown calf which has been given the name Bohon – from their village of Bangamur in the north of the country, showing the courtyard with its highly polished loam clay and hastily-stacked hay bales all the way to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital. Tajul Islam, son, husband, nephew, cousin – and sorely missed by his family for a decade – lives there, a distance of some 4,500 kilometres, slaving away on building sites and sending all the money he has left to the village. The time they talk every week via Skype is their only chance to hear and see each other.
Meanwhile Mahfuza sits under a roof made of bamboo leaves and takes measures the blood pressure of a pregnant woman. Someone from the crowd shouts: “she’s expecting a boy.” Mahfuzaa does not even look up from the blood pressure meter as she responds: “boy or girl, it does not matter, both are equally good.” Another lesson learned. Mahfuza is contacted by girls who need underwear but do not dare go into a store. She then goes shopping for them. Farmers ask Mahfuza what is wrong with their rice plants. She photographs spots on the leaves and sends the images to an expert in Dhaka.
A grandmother holds her grandson in her arms. He seems apathetic, his arms and legs are hanging limply. Mahfuza throws a quick sideways glance to the mother standing by the roadside. “Did you have him vaccinated as I had suggested?” The mother shakes her head imperceptibly. Mahfuza exhales audibly, stroking her hand over the baby’s head. She promises to come back in a few days and take the child to a mobile clinic.
The Info Lady Mahfuza also is a photographer. She sends a photo of a villager in her finery to her husband in the capital Dhaka/ www.gmb-akash.com
As a result, the women themselves experience a sense of freedom, empowerment and economic independence. This has started to change their country, still struggling with improving the historical violation of women’s right. They have become heroes for an entire generation of young women by giving them hope and inspiration to also be able to work and enjoy personal freedom in a predominantly Muslim country. Although proving to be a driving force of positive change and transformation, these Info Ladies have had to “walk on thorns”. They have fought against social stigma, a conservative Muslim society as well as deep cultural prejudices against the value and rights of women.
If they were able to change their lives so radically, why should this not also be possible for others?
The sound of Monu’s footsteps compel us to look at him. It seems he is willingly trying to make the strange sound grab our attention towards his new gum boots. Before I speak to him, he shows all his teeth and enthusiastically says, ‘Bhaijan I bought them for 200 taka from the street. Bou (his wife) had washed them so well that I can see my face in them! Ha! Ha! Ha’
Before I compliment him something someone on my right side, Nibaron, who is Monu’s colleague of 15 years loudly said, ‘Hmm, does your new wife, still cry for you to drop the job, Monu?’ Monu recklessly replies, ‘Women are fools! She thinks tannery labourers die earlier. Allah is the one to decide. Women are crying party. Now I have these gum boots to protect me. She is happy and I am happy too!’
Monu got married to ‘Salma’ five months ago. Salma heard that tannery workers die at an early age, so she started requesting Monu to leave this dangerous job. But by doing this job for last 15 years, Monu, a 21 years-old man is surviving. He cannot imagine doing any other work than tannery nor is he capable of doing any other job.
The chronic cough he has or the rashes on his skin do not bother him anymore. Still he dreams of a better future with the 8000 taka salary. Now the dream is sweeter with his caring wife ‘Salma’.
Posing for the camera he said roughly, ‘By working in this hell, I am still alive. God might be giving me a long life bhai.’
I have been taking photographs in this factory for many years. I cannot find many of the faces I used to know. When I inquire about them the common response I hear is that because of illness they moved to their villages with their families.
The repulsive smell on my body or the sticky chemicals on my favorite jeans does not affect me anymore; Just like Monu. Only when I return from this work and the rickshaw puller turns his head several times and at last wisely says, ‘Sir, you came from tannery!’ Then I realize I am also polluting the air.
Like Monu many labourers believe that a pair of gum boots is their safe guard. Some of them tie gamsa (a traditional cotton towel) to save their lungi from the filth. But when they start working their sweat, factories chemicals, and raw leather shower them with poison and loathsome smells. A pair of gum boots and gamsa can not not save their hope to survive very long.
Every time I enter these deadly factories, I imagine that I am leaving the 20th century and have gone back 100 years in time. The ancient plan has neither fan nor any air circulation system. Thanks to those decades old broken bricks in the wall there ia a path for some fresh air. The leather hangs from the ceiling makes the air more toxic. The unstoppable giant drum keeps moving restlessly with raw leather pieces and produces extreme laud noise. If fatigue overcomes labourer they fall asleep in the piles of raw leathers. Some labourers get a cigarette and take a break to see the sky outside. But the sky is dark and filled with smoke. The drain that is passing by is full of red chemical liquids that keep polluting the area and the mighty river Buriganga for 60 years now.
11-year old Rakib gives me the brightest smile and curiously asks, ‘What do you do with all these picture, sir?’ But he then rushes away before I can speak to him. Carrying uncountable leather pieces in his shoulder he has no time for questions and answers. Rakib’s friend Monir (7-year old) keeps pinning up the leather at the yard. After the death of his father he got the job in his father’s factory. He had no idea what had happened to his father. He only knew he was suffering from an incurable disease. He feels good to work during the whole day and it is only in evening when his heart cry for playing.
Standing beside Monir I was trying hard to understand their miseries but laughter broke my concentration. I saw a group of workers cracking jokes outside and were laughing hilariously. Life goes on. These simple people risking their lives everyday in order to live the best they can. Society is not actually willing to know about their sufferings but they are nevertheless willing to buy their processed leather which leather has a good worldwide reputation. However the savles of the toxicity and repugnant odors have no good reputation. In their way home to to their slums they cannot sit in any tea stall to relax. People shout on them for their repulsive odors which disturbs everyone. Only their produced goods get place inside a branded shop with a prestigious tag ‘Made in Bangladesh’. The makers only receive humiliation.
Tannery worker Omar Faruk sadly says, ‘If we travel by bus nobody will sit beside us. One day a man harshly said to me, ‘You must come from hell.’
(Almost all of Bangladesh’s 200-plus tanneries are concentrated in Hazaribagh, a densely populated, filthy neighborhood on the banks of the Buriganga River in southwestern Dhaka. You can smell them long before you can see them: an unbearable stench like bad eggs, rotting fish and harsh ammonia. It’s almost impossible to walk through the tanneries without a scarf pressed to your nose. At almost $1 billion a year in sales, the leather industry is one of Bangladesh’s most profitable sectors. The lives of more than 20,000 tannery workers are still at risk. After 60 years of tannery operations, no one knows what content of toxins have been poured into the river, only that it is incalculable and staggering. Chromium sulfate, lead, organohalogens, lime, hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid, formic acid, bleach, dyes and oils all flow into the river)
It was too boring when Maa used to stare at me while I was eating. I repeatedly taunted her, ‘Why are you staring Maa?’ While putting her portion of fish on my plate she always ignored my question and said, ‘I know you are still hungry’. I showed anger to her but I know no mother cares about her child’s anger. Late at night the lock of the back door used to open instantly to the sound of my my silent footsteps. When Abba burst out in anger and the hell with my bloody photography, Maa for the first time miraculously raised her low voice and faithfully said, ‘Photos are good. Have you seen any one else to do such work in the area?!’ Our small area was the world to her and I was the hero. Maa was the only fascinated listener of my fairy photo-world-tour tales.
To me she always seemed ‘simplest’ than the word ‘simple’. At mid-night when I felt suffocated in sleeplessness my mother appeared at my bed side with hot milk in her favorite silver glass. I never felt surprised or ever questioned her how she knew I was wake in the middle of the night. Returning home from a heavy rain and getting hot lemon tea at my table was very normal. Or tasting Maa’s peculiar juices in the crazy summer never bagged her any special credit. But I know from my heart that she is my ‘Mother Genie’. She broke the mud coin bank that she secured with each paisa she had and that day said, ‘Go, get your photo prints’.
Suddenly one day I realized there was no one… no one no more to be concerned about the sweat on my forehead. My Genie left me suddenly without telling me a good bye. If I would have known I have to now walk a long road without her, I would have told her a lot of untold stories. I sure would have told her, the photography that I love more than my life is as important to me as her; I love her more than that photography. Maa is no more. That’s why I keep searching Maa everywhere.
A sister in a brothel used to send letters to her mother with fake address by putting small words, ‘Maa Goo your Pakhi’. Like me she also knows mothers never give up. They will wait until their children arrive. Exactly like the mothers of the Old Age Home who are crossing through their 80 s and still praying for their children from nuclear families that they may live in happiness.
For bringing light into the face of their children of early ages these mothers went down in the garbage, worked in dusky brick fields, showered in cold sweats as mothers do. Their tired bodies never take rest even after returning homes. They did the shopping on the way to their home and cooked rice and Daal. By lining up their four to six children they checked carefully if all of them are well or not. A few mothers, even after being beaten by the fathers everyday kept their children in their lap and dreamt of an impractical reality for them.
Children well known the God has gifted special power to their mothers. That power comes out in love, patience, sacrifice. But what do Mothers gets? Can’t we do something for the mother who never wants anything for themselves? The mother who is giving a new life to us everyday can’t we warm her with our affection?
Why still today mothers get humiliated at the corner of the house? On the floor of the Old Age Home? Or in the dirtiest hospital bed from negligence?
The small window is a passage to the world for Rebeka Khatun (22) since she rented the tin shed room two months ago. Living in hospital for ten months took most of her will power after the deadliest incident of her life. Now she does not think too much. But the silence of her tin shed rented room does not allow her to rest in peace. Idle Rebeka now thinks about the charger fan that is restlessly cooling her. The inventor of the Dolphin charger fan might never have thought a garment factory worker could think about this fan for such long time. Yes, she wants to think different things now-a-days. She is tired of answering the same questions, tired of seeing unknown faces, tired of begging from people, tired of crying so long. She needs a break but from what she does not know.
When she closes her eyes her mother gently touches her cheeks. The mother who once made cow dung to feed Rebeka. The mother who wiped her tears when she cried and slept in hunger. Rebeka and her mother Chan Banu (45) had seen all the ups and downs in life. In the village they had to even beg to survive. Chan Banu did everything for her daughter Rebeka . She was life to her. Rebeka opened her eyes that were filled with tears and touched her right leg which itched all the time. There is no electricity for two hours and the restless Dolphin fan slowed down. Rebeka was sweating; the salted water flowed from her body, her eyes and maybe from her soul. The girl who started earning at the age of 15 never imagined her life without her mother and as a disabled person. She could not sleep the last two nights. Rebeka’s husband Mostafizur fanned her the whole night but pain is part of her existence now. Even when she opens her mouth only pain is visible on her face.
She lost her father in childhood. Her mother remarried just to save her from hunger. Fate did not take any right turns. After some years the mother and daughter moved to Dhaka with her two stepbrothers. Her stepfather’s only problem was Rebeka. But Chan Banu chose her daughter. Their struggle took them to the right place after so many years. That was to the garment factory. Thinking about the happy times unconsciously Rebeka slightly smiles. Her mother used to buy fishes for her after getting her salary. The last 12 months she and her husband’s life depended on charity. One year ago together they earned 22000 taka. Now the government assures her 10000 taka monthly as interest of her compensation that is hardly enough to live a disable life in the costly city of Savar. It’s been four years since Rebeka got married. She and her mother together joined Rana Plaza. They went everyday to their factory Ethar Tex hand in hand. One month before the biggest disaster ever she had a miscarriage. She and her mother cried a lot. Chan Banu said, ‘Don’t worry! Allah will give you happiness ma!’Huh! Happiness! Rebeka tried hard to turn her body around and her tongue dried. She had to ask her husband for a glass of water. Asking for help is now her only job.
Rebeka has gone through eight operations. Now she is mentally preparing herself for another. Depression is a minor word to express what Rebeka feels about life. Five members of her family died in the incident of Rana plaza. She was sewing the last piece of a pocket during the one hour left of her assigned work. She was about to go to the canteen to join her mother who was a peon in Ethar tex. After recalling the last glimpse of her mother she felt hollow. The mother who sacrificed all her happiness for her, she could not even hug her for the last time. She could not find her body. No DNA test matches. No compensation. No consolation.Disabled Rebeka is hoping for nothing. Life has treated her in the worst possible way. She just wants to know why Allah punished her!
It is not only that daughters like Rebeka are crying for mothers. Hundreds of mothers are each day crying for their dead daughters. Hundreds of mothers are still roaming around in front of Rana Plaza after nearly twelve months after the incident by holding pictures of their dead children. On the day of the accident Romila Begum (46) combed her daughter Lovely’s hair and requested her not to go to garment factory. Romila continued, ‘I am afraid Lovely, do not go for collecting the salary today. I will somehow manage our today’s food.’ Lovely had a fight with her husband and after leaving three of her sons to her mother she left for the garment factory . And never returned.
Clutching Lovely’s photograph at the site of the ruins, Romila fainted after saying, ‘My daughter gave her gold ring before leaving the house, and now how I will feed her sons and my family without compensation Allah!’ Ambia Begum who also came to join the demonstration by demanding compensation holds Romila. Ambia Begum harshly said, ‘You people will never understand our pains of losing children. Compensation isn’t charity, it is the right of my daughter’s blood’.
But the survivors who lost one or legs aren’t very hopeful with the compensation they got from Government. Rehana Khatun (24) was a sewing operator of New Star Ltd. at Rana Plaza. She had been rescued after 20 hours and had amputated two legs amputated six days after the incident. She said, ‘two years ago everyone in the family was against me taking a job in the garment factory. I left the village after my father’s death because I wanted to give a better life to my two younger brothers. When I started sending money back home they all became positive. I bought gold rings and a television for the family. I became the role model for my village.’ By telling these facts Rehana’s face suddenly gets depressingly dark by adding, ‘I do not want to go back to the village. Conservative villagers already told my mother that I ruined my life because I wanted to be independent woman’.
Rehana is not hopeful with the money the government gave her. Rehana said, ‘Interest of 1.5 million every month for two legs! But who will take care of me? Who will give this extra expense? I could have earned this money and have a good life at a lower cost if I were well. I want a way to run my life. I want a job that I can do in this situation.’
For Yanur the 1st term exam is more important than remembering Rana Plaza’s anniversary. She believes that she will be able to forget those unbearable scars of her muscle injury. She believes that she will be able to remember all the word’s meanings of her English book. She believes that she will one day forget pains of her chest and the memory of her mother. She believes that one day she will recover from the trauma and will no more cry for no reason. When Yanur rushes forward with the sharp sound of that scary crack-crack of the wheelchair, everyone understands Yanur is going to the William and Marie Taylor School that is inside the CRP (Center for the rehabilitation of the paralyzed) hospital from the hospital hostel. Talking about her present condition Yanur was looking through the little window of her small cabin keeping her favorite book Maxim Gorky’s ‘Mother’ aside. She softly whispered, ‘I missed mom a lot. I have five siblings. Poverty forced my mother to seek job in Rana Plaza at Ether TexLtd. Two years ago she found the job for me there too. We together worked and she used to say after some years we all will return to village with our savings.’ Introvert Yanur has had no frienda other then mother Anowara Begum. They found her body in the building after 17 days.
Anowara came to Dhaka with her family 18 years ago because of river erosion. Yanur’s father is waiting for compensation. He is coming every day to visit his daughter in CRP. For taking care of the five little children he recently got married. Speaking positively about her new mother, Yanur said, ‘What can my father do alone? He has to all the time take care of me. Our new mother is a little different from my mother. I am trying hard to accept her. Only it hurts a lot when I call her mom.’
Now-a-days Yanur finds it hard to remember things. She has had a massive muscle injury in her left leg. She was in the emergency unit of Apollo Hospital for nearly a month. By touching Yanur’s new hair she sadly said, ‘I had long hair. My hair was under a pillar; my leg was opposite under another pillar. I heard people sucking each other’s blood in thirst. But I believed at that moment my mother was alive. After one month I knew she was dead. My father went everywhere for compensation and got three lakh for my mother and for me nothing.’ Yanur is trying hard to recover from her injury by attending physiotherapy. She wants to continue her education. Putting the English book on her lap she asked, ‘Who is responsible for my disabled life? I want to forget my scars, my right leg that I hardly can move; they said they will not give me money because I did not lose my legs. Can they imagine how bitterly I am living every day? I want to be well-educated; won’t they at least give me this opportunity?
Nearly twelve months have passed since the Rana Plaza collapsed in Savar on 24 April, 2013 ‐ one of the deadliest accidents in the history of the world’s industrial sector. This tragic incidence has pointed to the fact that workplace safety and security for workers, even in the globally competitive RMG sector of Bangladesh, is far behind the required standard. An industry in which 3.6 million women are working in Bangladesh, a job which brings liberty for women. The total number of deceased is the same for most of the noted organizations and so far 1134 dead have been reported. The numbers of victims initially buried without identification, prior to the DNA test results, were 291. The Rana Plaza tragedy resulted in an outpouring of commitments from governments, local and global institutions, groups and individuals. According to some reports, each family of the deceased and seriously injured received up to a million Taka
‘I bet almost everyone in this structured world at least once in their life, feels like leaving their predictable complacent and comfortable surroundings and lose themselves in a chaotic, crazy and frenzied ‘nowhereland’. When I get lost in such a hectic adventure my pulse rises rapidly as I leave behind all the sober responsibilities that I have. When I leave to get lost in such an unknown destination I am transformed into a Gypsy. Most people of all countries of the world welcome travelers with love. Perhaps it’s because all of them are invisibly chained to their daily reality and seeing travelers makes them dream. That’s why when they see a traveler with a camera their smile says, ‘You lucky dog!’
To go traveling, the one factor that pushes me the most is always photography. To get to know an unfamiliar world I go out to find a story of the people living there then interpret my journey through images. Travel photography reveals everything about a country, a region, a community, a culture, a person. It arouses interest in others to be familiar with the place, to go to the place, and to find themselves in the place’
– GMB Akash
Travel Photographer’s Map:
There was a time when I put my globe on my reading table and imagined myself to be like Vasco da Gama. I wished to take pictures of the world with my small tiny black machine. Time passed by and I understood that if I open the ‘window’ of my map that my own country comes first and only after walking through it do I want to go to other countries. The importance of our Petenga beach in Bangladesh can be the same as being in Laos for me. The Dhaka mosque is an ideal setting with which to start shooting that prepared me for the intense inspiration that that I felt at Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. However, it is not only desirable destinations in other countries that create excellent photographers. Even discovering one’s own territory provided the pleasures and excellent photographic results equal to those of a world tour. For those people who get the chance to travel outside their own world, their TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER’S MAP becomes like a puzzle to be solved. When you are aboard you like to take pictures of everything you see. Because when we are away from our known place a lot of questions arise in our minds. How differently do these people wear clothes? What do they eat? How do they travel? Where do they pray? Restless clicks of travel photographers start at dawn and last throughout the day in order to get all these questions answered in the form of images. If you can gather together all this answers it will become your complete travel story.
Travel Photography pack light and with love:
Sleepless nights and unstable feelings are what a traveler photographer experiences before a journey. From Cox’s bazaar to Switzerland my feelings are the same kind of restlessness before such trips. I admit that there are few people who are very calculative, well researched and who can follow their initial plan for their photography tours without becoming impulsive. But I belong to the first group. The thing with travel photography is that it’s dreadfully addictive. You want to go when you want to go, reasoning be damned. But you must practice some self-control and try to remain disciplined.
Try to carry the absolute minimum that you can. Why lug around extra devices in your already heavy back pack? My traveling kit consists of – a couple of dark t-shirts, three pairs of jeans, a hat, a belt with lots of compartments, a must-have torch, all in one knife set, a flame-less safety lighter, a camera strap, three-four hard drives, a laptop, a phone, and a tiny toiletries kit and my precious dairy book. That’s all.
Hats off for bringing out your soul:
Congratulate yourself whether you are traveling within your native land or to a foreign culture. Not all people have the courage to step out from their comfort boundaries. The best thing travel photography can do is bring out your soul. On the first morning in a new place I wake up with the sun and get ready as fast as possible to hit the ground running. To know a new place, new people, new cultures morning light is blessed. Whether I am traveling to Sundarban, Bangladesh or the ancient ruins in Rome, Italy, my focus is on discovery. If your photography can discover the secret to enchantment of the place then you can depict your travels accurately through those genuine frames. Shoot the topic you find the most interesting. Shoot something that puts a deep mark in your heart and that will represent the place. Your story will be the invitation from that particular place that will attract anonymous people to visit it. So the rules are:
– Surprise yourself by discovering a new place, a new culture, a new life pattern, different norms or simply different people
– Create your album so that it presents something unique about the topic
– Attract attention
Always be alert and informed:
A new place invites new danger. When you are doing travel photography alone you must be alert about your safety. I have faced a lot of such incidents that would have been life threatening if I had not reacted instantly. Whatever area or country you are visiting try to find out basic safety cautions. Avoid dangerous areas by finding out where they are from locals. Do not always trust taxi drivers. Try to skip night outings alone. If you introduce yourself to a stranger do not give your full information. As a travel photographer you have to be like a dog. You must be able to smell out both danger and images.
Money and food matters:
Make a smart budget. In a new place there are chances to be cheated. I save for several months in order to do travel photography so it is important that I have my expenses broken down in order to help me to meet my budget. If you spend too much unnecessarily then at the end it will affect the quality of your travel experience and spoil your trip. Try to find out where to locate the cheapest but nicest places to stay and eat. Try to stay vigilant and not let people fool you. Invest wisely. And never compromise by not trying local foods. For example, in Nepal my morning starts not with bread but with MoMo the delicious local dumplings. Indulge in these small things which help you to integrate into the culture. Travel photography and the resulting work are never complete if you are not a part of the experience.
Open up to new people – you have heard it more than a thousand times but I am going to add it one more time. First – in the new place, make observations. Second – go a little bit closer by taking random pictures of everything. Third – Start communicating, either with a local vendor, or children or shopkeepers. Start a conversation. Fourth – you will be automatically diverted to the most attractive thing of the spot that holds your attention as an outsider. Fifth – if a particular thing attracts you then spend a long time with it. Slowly but surely the people of the place will start to act normal and will go back to their natural gestures. Remember to look at a place widely and then begin narrowing it down one scene at a time. Finally you will find a beautiful discovery that is worthy of depiction.
Respect the situation. Know about the norms of the place. Learn a few local words to communicate. If you are in Shylet (Bangladesh) you can amuse people with your Shyleti words. If you are in Manila (Philippines) try to do the same. If you do not understand something sensitive, silence is the best way. Be polite when you are shooting women, young girls or teenagers. Never offer money after taking photographs. This is a very bad practice which creates long-lasting problems later. If you want to give something, give a gift. For example, I always carry chocolates for children.
Now go! Feast your eyes:
Travel photography is something that you owe to yourself. If you are a good travel photographer then you know all genres of photography from landscape to street, people to culture. When you are traveling as a photographer try to be a person with whom people want to associate. While doing travel photography I like this attention because this interaction with people helps me to discover a culture and the people more intensively. Remember that you have to be constantly on your feet. I hardly ever take taxis because slow walking is the best discovery machine for which travel photography can be thankful. So let’s walk and start shooting.
Dutch travel photographer Wil Thimister and GMB Akash are going to take ‘A Visual Voyage’–by way of a Travel Photography Workshop 2-9 May. Whether you are a beginner, an enthusiast, or a professional, First Light Institute of Photography is inviting you to join the workshop on a truly amazing photographic adventure. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in participating. To know more details, visit: http://wp.me/p3F0uP-5W
The place is very well-known to me. But still this very familiar place is like mystery in many ways. I have been here for fifty times and my camera took every memory from each time of my visit. Apart it to me it is one of the most mysterious or the simplest destination that I was heading for 51 visits. At the side viewer of my taxi I saw buses full of Indian community queuing behind us. Telling numerically every day how many people come to visit this place is impossible. I have reached to my destination, ‘Pashupati Temple, Nepal’. In one glance the place seems like it has taken a shower with morning glow. The magmatic light may never visible to me like this before. The flavor of the magnetic aroma by the near shop and flowers waiting in shops are always welcome signs for tourists.
I do not like an easy way. I love to be lost. So, I did not enter the temple premise. I went inside a ‘Dhramashala’ nearby. In the yard of the ‘Dharmashala’ a lot of families made their spaces for themselves under the open air. They are tribal Indian who visits Pashupati once a year. All married women of all ages wearing anklet and a ring in the middle toe in dark toned feet. In the time of taking picture of a woman she burnt her roti that was in the pan. Her hungry child grabbed it fast before other four could take it. They do not understand Hindi, Nepali or English. Their children’s yelling and their tired faces described well from how far they come. I let them struggled with their rotis and leave for my next place.
By taking pictures as like other times I entered to Pasupati with another way. In front of me the giant and impossible ‘Pashupati’. Hearing the rhythmic chanting and sounds of temple rings I kept walking inside. Before I normally could inhale the smoke and tart air a group of people suddenly bumped into the place by saying ‘Hari’ ‘Hari’. They are carrying dead body and going to the river side. I started following them magnetically. Echo of some crying women made the atmosphere heavier, moneys those were throwing papers on people stopped for a while. A woman fainted when she went to give water to her dead mother. The dead body has been placed there ritually. Three dead bodies were preparing for their eternal ritual. Having mental balance to take photograph in such moment is tough. Having consolation for the family at the same taking picture is a toughest moment. In the time of great grief nobody bother about me or my camera. I started taking picture like an invisible person. No one look at me or ask to leave. I continue to capture moments of farewell.
When I no more can bear the pains of people who kept crying in an unknown language I leave the place. I only notice those naughty monkeys when one of them tried to take my cap. They were following me all my way. After walking a while I meet my known priests. They are always same in the all years round. Their posture, ornaments and clothes remained same. The Hanuman with his mobile phone inside his box or the naked Shadhu all are always there in their right place. One of them loudly said with a smile ‘Bangladeshi Akash, Kaise Hau?’ During taking their pictures smell of different fragrant were coming along. I moved by following it. I kept discovering Pashipati. Pashu means leaving beings, and Pati means master. In other words Pashupati is the master of all living beings of the universe.
I went directly to the hindu cremation ghat of pasupati. The same old fragrance welcomed me. Flames from fire, smoke and ashes were all around. Relatives of dead bodies were seating inside and outside in the premise. A dead body was ready for the final ritual. After putting all woods sequentially the son of the dead person set fire. Relatives were holding holy copies and kept chanting.
Opposite of me I saw many photographers and people were seating in the staircases. The sound of spiting fire and woods kept haunting me. Ashes were all over my body. After two to three hours ashes only remained.
When the place was preparing for another burial I saw a lot of young children below in the river collecting dead woods that threw in the river side. They are from outside Kathmandu Valley and living near the Pashupati Arya Ghat area regularly collect half burnt wood thrown to the Bagmati river after cremation, to sell to the brick factories located near Kathmandu. Before one of the Dhakal ask me not to take picture any more I Closed my camera.
The sun was going away may be with all remaining souls. In the temple a religious music was playing. In this holy place in between of all this loses some people keep searching lives. Life and death is so close to this place maybe that’s why very very special – ‘Pashupati’.
*** Pashupati area is regarded as one of the most important places of pilgrimages for the followeres of Hinduism. Thousands of devotees from within and outside the country come to pay homage to Pashupatinath every day. Pashupati area is also included in the list of world cultural heritage.
Minu (10) was hesitating to take the doll. Our smiles work and she offers her right hand with a slight smile. When we gave her the new Barbie doll she quickly holds it with her two arms. Before we ask her to take a photo she flies like a bird with the sound of laughter and joy. Her innocent voice was up in the air, ‘Moina, Rita, Sulekha come, come, see what I have! Hey all of you come and see what they are bringing for us!’
Within a few minutes the eyes of many innocents’ gathered behind us full of desire. Not even their clothes that lost their color from repetitive use nor their dry skin, nor their frizzy hair – nothing could hide the glittering sparkle of their eye balls. Standing by one after another they looked as if they were dreaming of what we had inside the magic box. Suddenly to them we become magicians. Magicians who give surprise and joy. We become the hamiloner bashiwala. All of the children from the factories were silently following us. Some children were running from their factory with the safety goggles still on their eyes. Some stopped their cutter machine and kept waiting for our arrival at the factory door!
When we offered the new car to Manik (10), he nervously asked his boss, ‘Sir, can I take the toy from Akash bhai?’ After the owner waved his head saying yes, Manik jumped to see what we had for him! We gifted him with the car he liked the most which he took in his hand colored aluminum from the factory. Edrish (11) was following us and whenever we asked him what toy he wanted, he smiled and said none. When we were about to leave the factory site he come in front of us and said, ‘Bhai, my age is not for playing. My younger sister has no toy; can I take a doll instead of taking my car?’ When we gave him both the car and the doll he started to dance in happiness.
Alongside the rail line Razib (8) and his friends were taking a rest after carrying passenger’s baggage. We quickly put cars and balls in their hands. They reacted like they got electric shocks and their shouts of joy won over the sound of the train whistle. From Christmas Eve to until New Year’s Day ‘First Light Institute of Photography’ kept gifting new toys to child labourers, street children and unprivileged children of the country. Their joy and happiness still fills our hearts and eyes in such a way that no words could ever describe what we felt!
Can you remember what your favorite toy was in childhood? How many times you cried to get a toy every time you were out with your parents? There are 7.8 million working children in Bangladesh who are having no childhood and who have no toys. Our school, First light Institute of Photography gifted more than 500 new toys to more than 500 deprived children of the society to inspire and to motivate them as well as to encourage them towards happiness.
Our deep gratitude goes to friends who generously contributed toys after getting the news on my Facebook page. Our heartfelt thanks to them for standing beside us. Thanks to Wil , Anja, Fakrul, Iqfat, Moinuddin, Mou, Sadat for their contributions of toys and Hridoy, Kakon and Tutul for their time in organizing and distributing them.
Give what you want. Want happiness? Make someone happy. Want courage? Encourage. Want love? Give love. Make your life blissful with blessings you are spreading everywhere.
My friends, I would like to invite you to visit our school website and to know more activities like above:
‘It was midnight, a night about 12 years ago. Year was 2002. It was six years after that I started photography. Without photography nothing was precious to me. I used to save each and every penny of mine to travel and to do photography from 1996. It was a mysterious, tiring night and I did not know what exactly happened to me. I was restless and I decided to destroy my past. I wanted to start a new start with my photography. I could not like my work anymore. I set fire in all negatives that hold images of mine. I destroy each and every image that I had. Maa run as mad and stood still at my window but did not say a word. She knows I love photography more than my life and when it was burning in front of my mother she was looking at me with deep sympathy. I ignored everything. Wept silently. I felt alone and I know this will be the beginning to search a new me. 18 years I am trying to depict images that I see through my soul with the same thirst that one day I could fulfill my inner emptiness’
– GMB Akash
The place I like that I love to go very often. There are places where I went more than 100 times. Every time every place is different than my last visit. I would love to discover stories of my frames. Time changes face of place, people and in fact me. The same place that has been visited thousand times gift exclusive images with different layers.
I can smell photograph. During walking in a street suddenly a place attract me magnetically. I can smell the right place and can smell my future photograph. I wait until I get the picture I want, the waiting makes it more interesting, my attempts make me more excellent. I wait hours and hours with happiness but no boredom. Because I am sure I will get something every very special. Even I spend one day in one place just to get one shot that will remain precious to me for lifetime.
I am a nutty traveler. I never hide myself during I am photographing or traveling. I interact with the community whom I go to visit. I give them time to understand me and I take time to understand them. In any place you will find children and dogs first to welcome you. They will follow you and you have to win their hearts. If they accept you then the community will accept you. Documentary/travel/street whatever photography I am doing I always know I have to respect people and their thought. If someone refused me take picture I accept it with respect. I take photography when I feel the person is easy with me and in the time when I got an affirmative signal. After taking picture I show them and heard their comment. Sometime I take print with me to show them, surprise them. Small interactions make you confident as a communicator and a photographer. It is important to be trustable when you are a photographer. A small thanks and a big smile can win many hearts.
I want to extend my territory as photographer. Roads are like my homes. Sometime people call me ‘Specialized tourist’, sometime ‘Documentary photographer’, sometime ‘Travel photographer’. This photographer me is nobody just a medium to bridge with the people I meet. I create bridge with people’s feelings, with their joys with their sorrows. I merge with their cries, laughs. I walk in the street and collect untold stories of people. Every place has different color, smell, sound. That attraction takes me again again. I am nobody of that place but I feel I left a part of me there with the people I photographed.
‘I keep searching myself over and over again in all cities, footpaths and in streets, from country to countries. People forget about me, my face and my camera. As because I am not any part of their life. But I never can forget a single person I met in the road. I keep their pictures in my mind in my memory card. And I wish one day or one night again I will meet with any of them and will say how I kept their memories in my heart’ – GMB Akash
To Join in my upcoming street photography workshop in March 2014 please sign in at:
For some people life is full of special challenges. Their lives ensure them not to miss a bit of it. Standing in a place which is more minimalist with just few machines and the machines men, where there is one slow fan, one dirty window and air full of dust, smoke and fuel can immediately let you feel ‘suffocation’. Those compact factories create an illusion on me with some simple, but genius strength, ‘Artists creates masterpieces, and worker creates hand pieces, only common is the dedication’.
These small factories has barely one window and that is the only savior as at least light has a way to come into and smoke gets small chance to take a break. Sounds of continual hammering, sounds of all old machines and workers favorite music usually make the place stand out.
To live a life, to feed a family and originally to creating something is their passion behind setting in the hot seat. The economy that runs in air-conditioned chambers are running finest as there are thousands hands in the backyards which hardly stop. These workers are making every small thing that needs to construct a well build society in this era. They make things that are quite often unnoticeable and emergence like, locks of houses, pipe, tap, kitchen materials, metal holder, wire, switch board etc and etc. They might never know how it feels to sweat in air-conditioned cabinet and worrying to meet deadlines. But they know how to make 300-500 master pieces in bare hand with a smiling face. Their weekly wage which varies on production may be the highest 2000 tk for a week for producing 300 item daily multiply 7 days equal to 2100 items may not seem poor wage in their eyes but the fact is they are spending all for their families and happy on it.
These workers do not have any dress code but at the end of the day their attire is same. They are black-grey skinned, dusky-dirty craftsmen of an unknown factory. Their self-made musk and goggles speaks loud how much they care about their safety and under caution of danger every day.
Their music of life never stops. They dance in the one hour break of lunch stepping with the raw Hindi or Bangla songs. So the continuous bits of the music and smiles will make you nervous. How a person can listen to music and greet a stranger after working 14 hours in such a bloody place? Does really they knows any mantra of living happily ever after so much struggles? They are human of worth. Human of worth for all the good will they’ve given to the society without expecting name, fame and money.
‘Sometime a crow visits my balcony and its harsh calling wakes me up. Those mornings often turned me down. In such meaningless morning I just pack my bag, give myself a break and walk out in a nameless street. My endless journey welcomes me ahead and I picked memories one by another from my unknown destination. Capturing a definition of an indefinite street is street photography to me’- GMB Akash
‘Stop being bookish, follow your own theory’
‘Make yourself comfortable’ or ‘feel being at home’ these advices are too bookish to me. In practical, my heartbeat goes up and my knees shake a bit when I stand in a place that I want to express just accurately the way I am encountering. When a cat suddenly popped up with an old woman and their astonishing-frightened-funny stunt gives me a command in my head ‘click-click-click’. ‘But what I shoot!’ I missed a second and that took out all. Yes, this is the biggest challenge that street photography offers you. You have to seize the moment before your cerebrum read it. So the question is, ‘are you afraid being in street’? I believe when a person become photographer he/she leave ‘afraid/anxiety’ behind. I rather call it hesitation/nervousness and insecurity. When you jump into the street by carrying your camera you already killed your 50% fear. Now it is your nervousness that holds you back and just after clicking your first shot you are ready to rock in the road.
‘A photographer next door image’ or ‘an invisible photographer image’?
In the middle of a big crowd, surrounded by so many people different than me sometime I become unusual. And when people started noticing me by raising their eye brows then my big smile helps me out being abnormal. Yes, as a photographer it is very important that you have a familiar face with a universal smile at least an ability that tells people you are reliable. When you learn to merge in the ground then surprisingly you will see that you learn the method of being there but unseen by people. It depends on you either you want to earn a ‘photographer next door image’ or an ‘invisible photographer image’, pick one that serve your intention and that helps you to shot well.
Get the hint
The street that I often visit is not only familiar by me but I am also familiar by it. A common place I visit has a triangle turn where then comes the street corner; there I usually followed by one or two street dogs. In the beginning it was not the same. In the very first day they suspect me and even after touching them they suspiciously moves with me whole day. Now when I appear in the street they wave their tail and follow me obediently. Inhabitants know well that I am no longer a stranger. So whenever you are new to a place make a relation, get a hint or balance yourself repeating something people can understand that photography is your passion not any venture. When you are totally in a new place and you might never get another chance to be there even then try to find a mutual intimation. Trust me your understanding and relation will show in the picture you will take.
Enjoy discovering yourself
Every street is different, people belong to the street is different, smell is different, color, texture, light all are different. Indifferent is you and your camera. Discover a different you in every different street is your voyage. The biggest challenge is to discover the unique thread by this common with your third eye. For me the photograph is only a wow – when I take a picture of the street and after showing it to the curious inhabitant they express, ‘when it happened? Does it really look alike?!’ when people laugh, shout, surprise and question then I get the picture is happy to be about. It’s a treat for yourself when seating at your lab you suddenly bumped in a folder where you found the expression of a European shopkeeper is the same with an Asia shopkeeper just difference is in place and circumstance. Discovering this similarity is way more interesting than finding differences. Enjoy discovering yourself in everything that is the wow factor will keep you motivated in long run.
Try to answer yourself why you are fascinated about street photography. What will it bring to you? Why are you passionate to be in street? Are you stopped yourself because there is no fame or name after continuing do it! Find your inspiring trigger and forget about expectation. Keep yourself motivated, ignore critiques. Find an inspiring space which appreciates that what you are doing. It can be a friend circle; it can be your blog or your website or just your facebook. It is very important to be inspired to continue your work that you are doing.
What actually Street Photography gives you?
– Street Photography helps to be a good photographer. Street photography has a trial and error method that helps you to enrich yourself as a photographer though whatever your field is.
– It brings you the utmost courage to go to that much close to the people that someone allows to welcome a stranger. Its helps you to mix with unknown people and to know about their attitude towards you
– It bounds you to take challenge. Finding a way of a maples road is aspiration of street photography.
– It will help you professionally to gain new concept, unconventional idea and will help to create your masterpiece.
– People said in street photography 99% are wasted. I said street photography teaches you photography 99% and rest 1% you have to gain.
How to do good out in the street?
– What you are carrying who cares, carry that much you can effort, just remember you have to walk a lot and you cannot annoy people by your baggage.
– Street photography helps to stay focused but you have to make the connection. Smile a lot and try to make fun with people you are meeting.
– Make street photography one of your favorite time pass. Discovering new things everyday is like surfing in a new you.
– Street photography is like swimming. I am not kidding! When you learn to swim (photographing) you will desire to go deeper.
– Learn to handle yourself in the street. It is you and your personality that will help people to look at your camera naturally.
– Until you are not enjoying your walk your camera or your mind will not take your demand.
– Take a company or a friend with you at the beginning to break the ice. Shooting alone is way too enjoyable when you know how to treat yourself best in a lone journey. Do not go out with more than three friends then shooting will be secondary.
– Keep wakening your third eye
– Look at things in the streets like you are watching a movie. Find the characters, drama, action, humor and romance.
– Carry the camera that follows your command. Do not juggle with new equipments in the street without run it previously.
In the journey of photograph limitless experiences remain uncounted. Bad news won’t keep navigators from the open seas. The street photographer who loves the work he/she is doing will never stop. The courage of such ONE gives birth of His/her kind of street photography.
I teach street photography in The compelling Image: The Compelling Image: Online-Interactive Courses in Photography and Multimedia Storytelling
If you are interested to join in my street photography course sign in: Street Photography
‘A tattoo tugs my mind. Not the tattoo but the meaning. ‘Alis Volat Propriisi’ which is Latin for ‘She flies on her own wings’. A girl who is the proprietor of the tattoo was in a beauty parlour in Laos. She said, she prefers to to live like a free bird which her tattoo said. It gave a new meaning to the work I did in Laos. It’s been two weeks and I was looking for a salon to cut my hair and to do the shaving. After looking for a proper place I discovered salons and women with beauty possessions. As I never worked on the topic it was new to me. I generally know girls are obsessive about being beautiful but it was something out of my experience. I learned a makeover can change beauty within. I take permission from girls to take picture and being able to know about it. Meeting striking women from being the perfect professional and home maker to being crazy party girls it just compliments the ‘multi-tasker’ title for women. My photo series took a turn when a girl was wearing her mask on and whispered, ‘Every morning before I face the world I face myself’. I am trying to bringing out the glamazon to you and accepting the fact that wearing hearts on sleeves like woman is not easy! Isn’t it?’
– GMB Akash
It was a new territory for me. It takes time to adjust myself to take photographs in women region. Language was a barrier but already I learn few from the local language and started the conversation with the help of English. I was carrying my photography book which helped me to take permission to take photographs.
My bouncy hair and tiring traveler-raw-look scared women but whenever I showed them my book they smiled and said yes. I was very wrong in the perception that women do not bother about man’s look. They do! And additionally they care about their look most!
Woman empowering by entrepreneurship is inspiring. A good example of entrepreneurship is parlour business. Women are working independently on the sector they preferred in Laos. Men and women are their clients. They are offering different kinds of services which varied in price and quality. From head to toe parlour offered services. It starts from beauty treatment and ends to full makeover. They offer facial, threading, waxing, massage, yoga, skin therapy, foot massage, steam bath and many services to indulge in luxury. Every parlour is busy with their clients. Few of them offer membership card and special discount to attract new clients. Parlour is a business which proved services can beat products. Every client wants better service and hardly they know about the product those parlour girls are using on them.
A woman who was receiving foot massage said, ‘It’s a healing world. It gives me a break from the tension world I live in’.
Discover beauty within is the best part of any makeover. Inner beauty brings the outer beauty and may be vice verse. A makeover is not complete until a life changing makeover is not under taken. If an external makeover helps to bring out internal beauty then why not to indulge in this treat. Giving a break to yourself to get a new you is whole worthy, right?
Now, I back to my story. As in the beginning of this exciting photo trip, I went out to cut my hair and shave my beard in Laos. Let me speak out the truth. When I enter into a parlour then a girl arrive to cut my hair. Being a traditional Bangladeshi I was surprised and can not seat in the chair. Its naive but what to do about it! It is me! I brought out my camera in the parlour. I requested the parlour lady to allow me to take pictures. She asked me, ‘Do you want to cut your hair also?’ I wave my head right to left and then left to right. No regrets. What is more important for a photographer than a whole new set of photographs and such new experience!
“My photo book ‘Survivors’ is not only important presentation of my 10 years works. It is significant to me in many ways. Surviving in a poor country — facing adversity daily — is akin to a lifetime of tragedy. So in a number of ways, the images presented on these pages are my own experiences, too. My journeys connect me to the many characters. Sometimes I had to run, take a ride on the roof of a moving train, sleep on a flooded floor and spend many hours walking the maze of avenues through sprawling city slums. It is the reaching of my protagonists, the welcome into their homes and their lives, that makes my work worthwhile.
And if mine is the hand that blocks the scorching sun from their eyes — bringing shade for just a single minute, then there’s value in the work I do. I am touched that people started valuing my small step. Yes, one never can complete one’s quest for serving for humanity but I am trying. While photography is a big task but beside it is my willingness to serve these people whom I photograph which is more challenging.
I am gifting business/source of income to each family I am able to give from my book ‘Survivors’. Finding people from the book whom I captured 5-10 years ago, talking/sharing ideas with them, finding the right business, even in some cases doing the business myself for few days, educating them, monitoring them become toughest than photography. But I believe, every amazing achievement starts with an impossibility. Now after seeing these happy families of Survivors, I realize, when many little people in many small places do many small things, they can change the face of the world” – GMB Akash
Over the course of the last decade, I have built a collection of photographs depicting the wise, resigned, sad and sometimes bewildered faces of children, sex workers, climate change survivors and many others who share the “struggle” day-in and day-out. And although the circumstances of many of the people I portray may be grim, as individual they are people of remarkable character. And it is the beauty of such people and the human soul that remains when nearly all else is gone. This beauty I strive to capture in the photographs I take.
This post is tribute to those ‘Survivors’ who sifted their life with my small gift and make a bench mark to rest of the people by becoming example to their community or locality.
Sajib – a child labourer is busy with his immense workload. These children are deprived from almost all human rights, dedicating the entire childhood towards supporting their families in need. Heavy workloads, prone towards injuries and discrimination are common to them all.
I took picture of Sajib in an aluminum pot factory four years ago. Sajib’s (14) mother Salma Begum’s (35) working life started when she was 15 years old. 10 taka (1 USD =80 Taka) was her first salary. She has one daughter and only one son Sajib. She might never send Sajib to work in silver factory if her income can generate three times food for her two children. She came to her slum 26 years ago. She earns 500 taka per week as well Sajib earns 400 taka per week. They have to pay 1400 tk rent of only one room in which she, her husband sleeps along their children.
Her husband has affairs with other ladies and spends his whole income either for women or for addiction. She cannot let him go as he is her children’s father. Her daughter is very good student. She always do top in the class. But Sajib or Salma Begum no one can give her fees, books, dairy or even Tiffin. Sajib sometime manages to do overtime and gives his extra salary to his sister to continue her education. I spotted Sajib and get a picture of him three years ago in silver cooking factory when he was 11 years old.
Through the ‘Survivors’ project I find him out and get the insight of his family. I understand Salma Begum is one who can help the situation, if I lend my hand to her by project ‘Survivors’. She has previous experience of selling bed sheet and she earns enough that time. She was just an employee of a Khala (aunt) who has the capital. She saw khala earns 200-300 taka daily while she sells everything. But end of the day she got 50 taka as her labor cost. She leaves the job as she has no capital and the income was low. Now she wants to do that business again by the assistance of expertise of one of her sister. She wants to sell Kamiz (women dress) and Shari to door to door and later in a shop. The only thing is she needs capital. I trusted on her idea and let her do the business and go to buy clothes with her. Her plan was she will buy cloths with her full capital then with the selling profit she will buy more and again move for selling.
Her planned worked. She got good customer in her locality and other areas who willingly buy cloths seating at home. She do profit less, sells more thus she gains customer loyalty and this uneducated lady now is a successful seller. It’s been nearly year she is doing her business and her son Sajib is helping her. She sends Sajib to Brac School but he could not able to read or write and feels shame to do study with juniors. Salma Begum decided to involve Sajib more in her business and admit him in a technical school beyond conventional. She bought furniture for her small house and her only daughter now goes to teacher for private tuitions.
She is more than happy with the fact that still woman like her is capable to earn a dream with dignity. And my happiness? Seeing this family, I feel simply proud.
31 year old Hashmoth lost half of his face in a tiger attack in 1995. The attack was on his first day out fishing. He was sleeping in the boat when the tiger attacked. Though he survived it, the damage to his face was such that no one from his village would come near him. His parents forced a girl to marry him. At the initial days of his marital life, he would not allow his wife to look at him. The region is home to approximately 500 Bengal tigers, one of the largest single populations of tigers in one area. These tigers are well-known for the substantial number of people they kill; estimates range from 50-250 people per year. Satkhira, Bangladesh
By the project “survivors” I planned to help him. I ask them what business will be easy to do for them or what income source can be easily maintain by Hashmoth. He & his wife came to a decision that they will sell fish in market. For this purpose they need capital. I go to their near market with them, saw Hashmoth’s capability of selling fish by a trial. Then we went with Hashmoth to see how difficult fish business for him is. As my method of helping is not giving money in hand, so I assign a volunteer who will assist them to do business in first one month. Already I visited twice but still the place is far from the city, so I keep my faith alive that they will overcome all obstacles.
And they did. Along help of her brave wife Hasmoth is selling fish in the market and spends his profit for daily expenditure of their family. His wife manages to save little from their profit. Hashmoth goes to sell fishes at early morning and at evening. Rest of the time either he takes rest. Thus Hashmoth is able to stop himself from begging door to door and become a real survivor in the race of life.
“Several times I have been severely broken heart, injured or illnesses have torn me down. Nevertheless I continue working because of my strong belief that my pictures can make a difference. I learn, the wound of today is the power of tomorrow. And ‘Survivors’ proved me that no matter what happens in life still life is precious, each moment deserves celebration
“I was searching for ‘Survivors’ to help their families. It was a long journey to find each and every face after ten years later.”
A quote of Helen Keller is a big inspiration for me in this journey which I want to share with you all:
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
– GMB Akash’
What are the rains like in your country? Are they soft and drizzly? Or are they firece and theatrical like the storm visit us in south of Bangladesh? Or may be they’re just charming and infuriating like Dhaka traffic in the rain? Monsoon touches each region of our land in a different way. Scent of wet earth, where careless hopes takes root, where no dreams grasps for savagery. In where life is full with enormous liberty to mesmerize – a crazy photographer this me, loves monsoon gravely. Walking into the slippery mud, hanging my camera bag, I can’t stand umbrellas. I keep reciting
‘ But in love our hearts are as red earth and pouring rain; mingled beyond parting’.
This is a land of rain. It forms in the best colour in monsoon. Inviting you to watch glimpse of it how colourful the rain remains in my country.
The rain bring cooler weather, and the dusty,dry forests transform within a week of the first showers from arid brown to a languid mix of lush greens enveloped by a phantasmagoric mist.
Rains when you are heading to school make you miserable; But rains when your are off for the day are license to splash!
The rains might be picturesque. But some of us still have to get to work.
Rain start suddenly and pelt you furiously with huge coin-sized drops
You’re rushing home from work just as the rain starts.
Harvesting shapeless dreams in the figment of canvas
If you want rainbows in your life, put up with rain first
Sometimes LITTLE things matters BIG in our life
Is that your lonely heart rains loud sometime too!
Leaving umbrella can be risky for heart of mine, as camera needed to handle with great care in rain. I wrapped my camera well and the camera bag is always weather sealed still a raincoat for my camera bag is must. I love to lost in the villages and Bengal rain is something you should remember in your lifetime. Photography in rain is difficult but it is the fun of a blend how desperately you are enjoying the photography and the rain. The difficulty is being pick the moment of certain glimpse of heavenly background from the continual pouring of dull weather. But when the rainbows shines it takes you into a different world. Many times I waited in a field for hours to follow a photo moment without anticipation. And the colour? A refreshing burst will be found in the screen of the camera, the fresh eloquent moments to capture. Everything become heavenly in a moment. So why to wait with empty hand?
The smell of wet earth, the first raindrop on your skin,followed by the subsequent rhythmic thud in the background – rain remind us that we’ve been cribbing about the summer too long to be anything but grateful now. In teenage I use to imagine – Tears of love turn into heavenly drops of rain, that make the heart bud. The monsoon so as a rainy day is always dear to me. For YOU too?
I am nobody and I have nothing. A simplistic human being stated as photographer who continued to question around his world. I conjure traveling in the different layers of myself and host an activist inside me by innate attributes. Yes, neither I am an industrialist nor do I hold a lion’s share of a company. For me CSR or charity is fancy word. But the passage I walked 15 years smiled melancholic to me. I marvel and interpret it to the world believing for a change. But the verb ‘Change’ itself very ‘dearly-won’. I found 18 years old drug users dyeing abandoned before I take him in my shoulder, I know how a sex worker cut off veins and her bleeding marks keep me awakening nights. I know how cold and deep an old lonely mother’s breathe can be in an elderly home. In the dormitories of injustice of the world I uphold to believe in ‘Miracles’.
Roton a 12 years old street child once said me. “You rich people just talk, talk and talk! You are nonsense, all of you are nonsense. Children of my age goes to school, plays at park, their mother clean their skin, force them to get shower. Look at my hand, my hair, my skin no one tells me to take shower. I run to carry baggage of passengers, they throw me money like I am piece of shit, police beat me, and goons take my money. No one care, nobody. I sniff shoe glue, I want to lost, and I want to delete my memory. I curse you, I curse government, I curse my unknown parents, I curse everyone of this cruel world”.
Roton’s voice echoing all the time and I can’t rest in peace with my eminence. This is the story of me and the people I care for. I feel it to tell it to you as I want you to love someone, to give tinniest love of your heart to the abandoned. Try to discover your image in the light of their eyes with love and hope. So sharing a small episode of my continual journey and once more telling you I am one of you, a person having no wealth at all but a heart to give away whatever I have. If my single word, small phase of explanation inspires you, please merge in.
You’re given this life as gift; make yourself a gift to life.
‘By wiping off tears with corner of his shirt a Teenage boy was walking through rail line. The world seems ugly with eyes pour water. A weird anger runs in his vein which is unexplainable to him even. When he takes a seat under the lazy evening light, he started feeling the pain of his chest. His father beat him by clutching with mango tree. His step mother was literally happy and didn’t give him his lunch. His crime was to fall asleep in the field with cattle. Hungry Shuvo (13) started missing his dead mother, who may never allow him to go away from home without having lunch. In the station and in such a warm day who care about an oversensitive boy and his empty stomach. Anger, depression, misery everything mock at Shuvo. Two days, three nights Shuvo had only leftover from restaurants. When he jumped into a running train, he didn’t calculate about upcoming calamities of his life, only he heard the roar of his angry heart. When he started seeing around him, he saw many of other children reluctantly sleeping in the floor of station’s platform. In the time Shuvo feels he is not alone. Unknown faces become familiar and more affectionate. He sleeps with serenity after three nights of sleeplessness. From the day Shuvo is bohemian.
When Shuvo tell me his tale, Raihan (11) laughs loud and say ‘Police first day take me and beaten up a lot. They thought I take drug. I don’t even know what Dandi (a drug street child takes) is’. All of their daily earning is 60-80 Tk by carrying baggage of passengers. Sharif (14) remained silent. Neither he wants to share his story nor listen to others. Depression is in his skin, in everywhere of his belongings. When I smiled at him, he smiles back too, then whisper, “Do you think I can do it ?” I replied “YES! Three of you can!’
Their curies eyes, hope on me, their trust making me nervous inside. What I can do further? In a scorching afternoon I can lend my hands to them and show affection but what about their wound which is as fresh as their age! It’s been already months I seat with children show movies, counseling with them, taken them into lunch BUT THEN? One, two, Three thus hundred children and their dreams! Am I capable to hold them all! But I stop myself questioning. I started doing something. With my nameless family our journey begins. Shuvo, Sharif and Raihan are three members of my family.
‘Can’t sleep last night Bhai, I pushed Sharif many times and ask him when the sun will rise and you will come’ – It was Raihan speaking to me in the final day. Three of them were wearing two paints and two-three shirts at a time. They don’t want to lose their precious dirty cloths so they wear it all the time. Returning from a long assignment and was on the way when I received call at 6 am from Shuvo asking when I will come. I change my mind and by hanging the bag I started towards them skipping home. I was 10 minutes late but as soon as I appear to the place three of them running to me like kitties. Besides them many of others were wondering with curiosity. I heard a loud voice of Paglu (self-named) ‘Bhai, if they become good boys I will join you too. I swear my Mojnu (a street dog) that I will never take drug again.’ Paglu is along them with whom I pass a day monthly, show them my images and discuss topics needed to share.
When I walked with my three boys I realize they didn’t eat anything yesterday. So first we went to have our breakfast and had it full. They listen to my each word carefully and we planned what we will do in coming three months. Already I taught them small calculation weeks ago. Then I went to buy clothes for them. Raihan is the youngest and started demanding many things while Sharif scolds him for his behavior. When again I ask them, is that they can remember their address/home and I can take them back like Masud, then their faces become cloudy. After a long period of silence Sharif said ‘After I become succeed in life I will return back. Then you can take me home’. I realize their mental condition and don’t force any more.
In the shopping mall they started selecting their desired cloths in the time of bargaining I shared sharing their small story with curious people though none of the shopkeepers sacrifice a penny of profit for the sake of these boys. I don’t wonder because I know ‘responsibility’ term only referred to ‘family’ in our society. & we cannot change until we realize from ourselves. After buying cloths, we buy sandals, combs, mirror, oil, everything they needed to live a children life properly. I took them to cut their hairs and nails. Then I took them to a place for shower.
When I stood beside them with soap they were the world’s happiest children in that moment. I can’t control to capture the moment with my camera. Crowd of people were following us, few of them thanks me and few of them make me annoyed. After having full packed lunch we moved to our working place.
I gift them small opportunity of work and connect them with business under a mentor. MD. Melon has a popcorn business who alliance with us and agreed to be their supervisor. I gift them the capital for popcorn business for three months. At first day of their work I myself sell popcorn in the road with them to inspire them by standing next to them full time. We calculated profit and they put it in their own piggy bank as saving of their first day job. They were amazed to see that together they made a good profit and still had enough for food. Thus their story starts, every day after finishing school they come to their Supervisor and take products and go for selling. At evening they return back calculate prices and pass free time by playing. It’s been three months and they make their capital double. The name of their business is ‘Street Boy’s Dream’. Now they are planning to shift their business for selling Ladies accessories and cosmetics.
Beside them other groups of children are doing different kind of small businesses by my gift which comes from my book ‘Survivors’. It is bless to share that ‘First Light Institute of Photography’, the photo school, I am going to launch in this August will be their institution and support center. I dream to go along with street boy’s dream. Their small steps are gift for my life, reincarnation of my soul. Their affection has filled my heart with utmost peacefulness. I believe, we cannot afford to lose hope, for we are all part of making some small and large changes, each day, each moment. We all can make a deposit into someone’s life. The best part of this form of giving is that it is LIMITLESS. By which we can make an incredible difference in their world.
I inspect them with wondering mind. Standing in the middle of a place that is difficult to describe with adjective is impossible. The guard opens the door and bumped me in. Before I realize the guard was disappeared and I found myself in the cage. A whistle breaks my nervousness and I eyed over a young face. He mocked at me and as soon as I take my first step he vanished with sound of his chain fitted in his leg. In a meter distance from me a naked man seating beside the drain. A few meters away some contorting their emaciated bodies as much as the shackles will allow. Others are setting comatose. The 1,000-square-meter center is divided into two iron-fenced dormitories — one for men and one for women. Confined by the length of their chain, the wooden stock in which they are trapped, or the makeshift cage in which they are imprisoned, they are forced to eat, sleep and defecate in the same spot.
I found the boy mocked me at the door again in water area. A naked boy, thin with protruding ribs, turns his head down as he is sprayed with a water hose and getting bath by the help of center’s stuffs. But this time he didn’t even notice me.
I continue motivating myself not to lose my mind. As a human being it is intolerable to look into faces which have no more past, no more future in fact no more present even. It’s seems odd to see how patients are living in iron-fenced dormitory and how many are chained but this is somehow logical when the centre’s assistant make me understand later. They do it for patient’s attacking behaviors. Many of them hurt others as well themselves by hitting head in the floor or wood. In the beginning when their treatment starts with the chain they slowly become clam and it helps later for their treatment.
A man suddenly appears in front of me pointing his finger he is calling me ‘Hello Mr. Teddy Smith, how are you?’ for a second I feel he is completely fine, a normal person like me. Then I saw his chain. His words were echoing in my ears. With another turn I noticed, I am wearing a T-shirt with a print in it “Teddy Smith”.
I keep looking at patients lying in the floors. Confined by the length of the chain a patient is lying comatose. Most of the patients have brought by police or NGO’s as they were spending their lives in on the streets for lack of ignorance family to the lack of psychiatric services for the poor. In lunch time most of the patients eats boiled rice and usually there is not much chatter between them. They need at least 3 tons of rice a month and tons of vegetables, but the center hardly can manage the food for enough funds.
My visiting time ends but the guard forgets about me. I shivered in fear for a moment that how I will pass more hours in these iron-fenced dormitories. I keep listening someone is crying quietly, someone is reciting Quran’s one phase repeatedly; someone is singing a song with an unusual tune. I waited and imagine how life has taken them in such cage. How every day the battle of living gives birth of insanity. There is a small portion of psyche living inside all of us. The difference is people who lost themselves fully only treated as psychiatric patients.
While I was fighting inside, I heard footsteps of the guard. I hurried to go out and listened ‘Mr. Teddy Smith, Bye, Bye’.
The overwhelming stink will welcome visitors in the entrance of Yasan Galuh rehabilitation centre for the mentally ill, outside Jakarta. Created in 1994, The Yayasan Galuh rehabilitation center is a foundation that cares for mentally-ill individuals who have been debarred from the Indonesian society and who have no access to medical care due to their limited financial resources. In Yayasan Galuh, more than 260 patients spend their days on hard tiled floors hooped by open sewers. Patients are often chained, caged, and naked. The screaming and weeping is constant. Despite the awful conditions, here facility staffs see themselves as healers giving patients – many who have been left at Yayasan Galuh by family members – ancient and effective therapies. Most of Yayasan Galuh’s 260 current patients were referred to them by the police, NGOs or the patients’ families. Tens of thousands of mentally ill Indonesians bear an unimaginable torment, left to battle the demons of severe psychiatric disorders while chained and shackled for years on end. The 1,000-square-meter center is divided into two iron-fenced dormitories — one for men and one for women. There are hundreds of mentally ill people shackled for years, even decades, by poor and clueless families who believe they have no alternative. Indonesia has a population of 240 million, and only 500 psychiatrists. The resulting treatment gap leads many to rely on traditional herbal treatments and prayer to alleviate mental illness commonly thought to be caused by dark spirits. Almost 750,000 Indonesians with mental illness get no medical treatment throughout the country.
“Drinking tears now is a daily menu to the people whose life collapsed with the building Rana plaza. In a stormy day when I arrived at hospital door I pulsed by the melancholy I encounter. No rain was not the reason, it was the pain in ever face which will haunt everybody long. Following continual screaming of a young girl I found her requesting mother to a reluctant nurse. As soon as my camera clicks the doctor arrived swiftly, not sure seeing camera or may be reminding patients call! Looking at hundred wounded bodies and hearing their screams it was hard to stand in the middle. But it is more important to share a bit of their unbelievable suffering in a small form. Thus my camera take place and I share their pain among you all”- GMB Akash
Khadeza (18) was a kind of girl who laughed more than she talked. Her mother used to beat her for excess laughing. Now everyday her mother asks Khadeza to smile for a while but Khadeza only wipe off. Doctor prescribes her not to do any hard work at least for next six months. She will not be able to do any hard job in future. Her mother is not sure how long it will take to recover. She is one of the survivors of Rana plaza.
It will take three more months to get physical recovery and six months she will not be allowed to do any hard work. Eighteen years old Shapla was working in textile factory for three years. She was in third floor while rescuer rescued her. Her one hand cut off while she was inside. Living with Several scars in all over her body, she sometime cannot recall her name. Her Husband Mehedul was inside the building for 72 hours but he came out harmless.
Rebeka (20) been rescued after two nights of the incident. Dead body of her colleague was stumbled on her shoulder for a night. People threw water from the only hole and she sip water from the floor. Doctors cut her one leg and another leg is badly injured. Still she screamed full night in imagining the hospital building is falling on her. Her husband is beside her but helpless. Her mother and grandmother who worked in the same floor are missing and she is unaware of the news.
Seeing them in the bed of hospital, no one can recognize that these workers – once upon a time used to work 7 am to 12am of the night. Life has treated them bitterest. Pains are unbearable to make anyone understand of it. Stepping out from the hospital I heard a woman telling that these workers will be much benefited. They will get 5 lac tk so this comes good for them. I can not stop myself and turn around, told her, can you cut off your hand if I give you 5 lac? I wonder how heartless some people can be!
My journey continues so as the rain. When I stepped in the residential area of Rana plaza’s garments workers, I met Isa Mia, a boy who lost his brother in the incident. Her mother was crying in the door and after 20 days of the incident she can not eat anything properly. Isa himself a survivors but not depending much he taken me to meet Marium, the single mother who lost her hand. One after another I meet with all. I have dedicated my fees to them which come from published textile stories in different publication of mine. I encounter the pain. the urge, the pathetic emotions which words can never justify. I want to believe one day will come when these people will see their life in the ray of a sweet dream. & then I realize this is non sense. The reality is they will suffer and this is destiny. But I will run to them again and again, until I can take in some of their tears.
After losing her right hand Textile worker Marium (27) lost in despair. Single mother Marium never spends two tk for buying a hair band as she knows her two children’s future is in her hands. Disable Marium shouts at night afraid of feeling dead bodies of workers friends are circling her. She spent one night and two days in the 6th floor of the collapsed building while her right hand injured under pillar. She started her job four years ago in that time she received 1200 tk monthly, now she lastly get 4500 tk monthly wage in New Wave star Ltd. a factory which was in 6th floor of Rana plaza. She lost her stability to think about her future. Still after near one month of the incident she did not receive any compensation from anyone instead of her last month salary.
Blue is Aleya’s favorite color. In the morning she wore her new blue dress and told her young sister if she die who will wear the dress! Aleya’s (18) family was fully dependent on her income. She wants to educate her younger sister and alert her mother not to send her in textile factory. Heart patient father and kidney problem of mother forces Aleya to start work in her early age. Her mother asks her to married off soon but she reluctantly said straggle of her life will never come to an end. There was no money at home and she told her mother instead of dying in hunger it’s better to work in a cracked factory. She was sure God has given them enough sorrow and nothing will happen to her. Her believe proved wrong. Her family cannot even find her dead body parts after 17 days of searching everywhere. Neither have they received her salary nor compensation.
A room call home is never a place of relaxation for textile workers. Often a room shared by 5/6 workers offer them the untidy floor to sleep. Their salary won’t make them able to go in a better place still after 5-6 years of their job straggles.
“Even after losing one leg in the terrible incident the worker is begging for a sewing machine. She said, “Still I have two hands. & my children are hungry”. Alike her thousands workers keeps their dreams alive in their heart and goes to work on time. In spite of everything they are straggling happily to get a dream future knowing dream is a dream. But they never imagine nightmares will replace their dream and they obviously fall in concrete mattress. Incidents of Tazrin/ Rana plaza might wake up them from their dream. But still they say, hunger is ugly than death”
– GMB Akash
Nargis fainted three times while she could not find her mother in the derbies of nine storied building. It’s been a day and a night she is frantically checking around hospital, in each corner of destructed building and hundreds smashed dead bodies. But where is Nargis mother’s existence? Hundreds of weeping mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife and children were like mad for searching their beloved faces. The population who are the backbone of the family, of the country their bones cracked under wretched concrete. Knowing still hundreds people are breathing inside the dreadful collapsed building helpless thousands mass people came out with their humanity. Rescuing living being or carrying out dead bodies but nothing evaporates tears of people who experienced such frightening circumstances. The deadly trap eat out lives of thousands workers who never might thought of loosing life as prey of capitalism greed. Many workers leave their breathe waiting to hear a call of rescuer. Many female worker’s hand or leg trapped under stone while they are still alive and asking rescuer to cut their hand and take off. What to do and how to do? The traumatized nation has no word in mind to speak. Sharif after finding cracked half body parts of his 21 years younger brother screamed “My brother never do any harm to any body. Why Allah punishes him, why? Because we are poor, we are useless to Allah, we are useless to riches, and because we are bloody workers”.
Some 3,500 people were in the Rana Plaza building in Savar, some 30km (20 miles) outside Dhaka, when it collapsed suddenly on Wednesday morning 24th April. The first three floors of the building, located in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, contained around 300 shops. At least four garment factories — New Wave Bottoms, Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tack and Ethar Textile — occupied higher levels, employing around 3,500 people. Building showed cracks on Tuesday, but all garments workers forced to go to work on Wednesday threatening to cut off salaries. & the devastating accident happened
Local hospitals were overwhelmed with the arrival of more than 2,000 injured Textile workers. Victims were still calling for help from among the piles of shattered concrete slabs, according to rescue workers and volunteers, as hope began to fade for hundreds still trapped. And the death toll had reached 400. After putting the conclusion that no more workers can be alive rescuer workers are now using heavy equipment to clear the site and officials expect the number of casualties to rise as hundreds of people remain missing.
Around 4 million people are employed in Bangladesh’s 4,500 textile factories. The industry generates 80% of the country’s $24 billion annual exports — making Bangladesh the world’s second largest clothing exporter after China — yet wages remain as low as $37 per month for workers spending 15-hour shifts in sweatshop conditions.
“What to describe and what to write! All I could see were dead bodies all surround me. A silent anger, unbearable pain and helplessness had frozen my finger to click. Besets dead bodies and their each drop of blood asking me to tape their vulnerable death memoir to show the people around the world, how painfully they left the world. And I can not rest until I can spread their pains of deaths. Shouts slaughtered under concrete. How many times we will remain mute and hollow out graves! Why world’s most innocent souls has to be always trapped as vulnerable victims! Their souls will never rest in peace until we know how dreadfully they died without telling their last wish”
– GMB Akash
“This exhibition is a prism of callous realities and haunting metaphors of issues of climate change. Photographs of the exhibition will reveal the bare bones of climate disaster which causes human life to suffer for eternity. Either it is flood or desertification worst is these had severe effect on human life. Desertification is already causing changes in the social environment of certain areas of the African Sahel. Agriculture, livestock, and over-population have been the primary reasons that this previously stable dry-land ecosystem has been turning into desert. At the same time as these physical changes have been occurring, social destabilization and migration also have been, leading to food insecurity, disease outbreaks, and increasing levels of cultural extremism. more than 42 million people were displaced in Asia and the Pacific during 2010 and 2011. This figure includes those displaced by storms, floods, and heat and cold waves. Still others were displaced by drought and sea-level rise. Most of those compelled to leave their homes eventually returned when conditions improved, but an undetermined number became migrants, usually within their country, but also across national borders”
The project of Gaetano Plasmati is the result of a journey that lasted 15 years and has developed over a series of trips to Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Niger and Eritrea. The beautiful shots by Gaetano Plasmati describe a journey in search of people who live the drama of desertification, such as the Wodaabe, the Dogon, the Tuareg. Plasmati has followed the slow and inexorable retreat of the nomadic’s territories which become less and less comfortable for traditional economic activities that sustain them.
Desertification is a danger to almost 50% of the land and puts at risk more than 100 countries with approximately one billion inhabitants. The continent most affected is undoubtedly Africa: here over two-thirds of the cultivated lands are at risk. The path of Gaetano Plasmati winds through the dunes and the rock paintings of the Acacus and Tassili N’Ajjer in Algeria, the great Sahara, the markets of the mythical town caravan Timbuktu, Djenne, Agadez, Niamey and Djanet. Plasmati has portrayed hostile landscapes and people tempered by the roughness of nature, dunes vivid colors and rocks that are museums, suks and caravans in a succession of faces and landscapes which give rise to the extreme dignity and composure with which the “nomads of water” live their atavistic discomfort.
“I have framed how every year flood causes people suffer miserably in Bangladesh. I experienced how with the drowning sun villages go under water. How People sheltered in roofs of their houses and lost their lives. Moaning of old people & shouts of children of the miserable atmosphere can only describe small bits of devastating sufferings of flood. After facing devastating flood every year, people still fights to live apart loosing shelter for existence. Still they fight to live. They collect all destroyed pieces of house to shed their head. Women go for fishing, children dry their damp books, and men rebuild homes. In flood I spend days, nights and months in flood affected areas past 12 years. Throughout the journey, the rotten water wrapped me by leaving a restless feeling. Every day, I encounter a new tragedy by finding people who have no way to escape from rising water, who can only surrender everything to the mighty nature. Several times I have been severely injured or illnesses have torn me down. Nevertheless I continue working because of my strong belief that my pictures can make a difference.” – GMB Akash
People in Bangladesh live precariously close to the risks of cyclones, floods and droughts and more than 100 million people live in rural areas. Two-thirds of the country is less than 5 meters above sea level and in an average year, a quarter of the country is inundated. Bangladesh has experienced severe floods every 4 to 5 years that may cover more than 60 percent of the country, resulting in significant losses. United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that rising sea levels could submerge 17 per cent of Bangladesh by 2050, creating 20 million “environmental refugees”.
This exhibition intend to speak about harsh reality of many who are displaced from their homes and living in exile in another country, and/or from issues to become victims of natural disasters and internally displaced in their own countries. The displacement, and migration, of very large numbers of people, will be one of the most significant effects that climate change will have on humans. Often times these displaced populations will have nowhere to go except to regions that are already densely inhabited. Many of which, will likely already be having trouble supporting their own population. We are cordially inviting you to visit how water impacted life. If you are in Matera in 14th of April 2013 do visit the exhibition and those who are far away from the exhibition Gallery, this post will give you a trailer of the show. We hope that while you are in Matera, Italy, you will take a moment to visit the exhibition.
Gallery: Galleria di porta pepice present
Exhibition Date: 14 April 2013
Gallery address: Via delle beccherie 55, Matera, Italy
Night is the meaning of life here. Don’t dare to feel I am talking about moonlit night. It’s about a place where fluorescent bulbs hesitate to light up the great darkness. You have to go step by step by listening giggles and following Hindi songs. Cheap aroma or local fragrance continually defeated to hide smells of stinks. At this place, dreams never can lose its paths even by mistakes. But it certainly can turn into the ideal background for a horror blockbuster by following nearly naked heroine’s poster or staring into a photographs where a lady wearing red lipstick with her innocent eyes hanging over fungus wall.
Four storied building’s busy staircases are lively by steps of clients. Girls for converting themselves as women putting all make up from her dearest make up box and keeps doubling lighten up their cheeks with cheap blusher. For killing hunger each moment they have drunk tears and fighting with each other to get same client for a night. Excess make up, vulgar cloths and even by showing off most of the female fascinated body parts these girls can not satisfied their MADAMs.
In the race by standing full day beside the door dressed like this they have to show their madam their extra talent for hunting a client. While few of them get tired of being waiting and being rejected, lastly they may get one/two clients at the last moment of their very tiring publicity. Then the bargaining starts. It’s the bargaining of beauty, the outer shell. Minimum 100 Tk – to maximum 500 Tk depends on the job’s creativity and longevity. Either a client comes for an hour, for a night or for several nights they never bother to enter into the corridor of these beautiful doll’s heart. They rather treated her as a toy of entertainment.
As like being used for years after years these girls started feeling themselves as product. Product of modern day slavery. In the middle of these professionals there is also few girls common who uselessly try to hide their body with their small cloths, who will not look at any one’s eyes either for sorrow or for shame. These girls are new to the place, they been bought by madam one or two days ago. Betrayal boyfriend, step parents or their closest one play with their innocence and sold them in the castle for Tk 4000- 20000. Before realizing what had happened in her life her innocent soul has been captured by brothel’s reality. In between them there are girls who has been gang raped and our civilized society refused to accept her, so she finds her MADAM as mother and releasing all bitters of her life by the profession of sex worker.
Fighting over getting men at night does not change relationship between themselves on the day. An unknown bonding for each other has tied them up and takes care of them in dear need. That’s why, when a girl out of frustration cut her full hand with blade just to torture herself, her roommate wipe it off and put medicine on it. A six feet by six feet room is world for 3-4 girls, so when customer leave they decorate the bed with flowery bed sheet or place artificial flower for adding beauty of it. Knowing a home never will come in their life still they care for their small room as like their house.
By remaining in the strict guidance of Guards for several years these birds stop weaving their wings and thus they forgot how to fly. After earning 100 Tk per client 3-4 years passed thus but loans and buying money of madam does not meet up as these fates less girls can’t even calculate. If their luck is good enough few of them get little better madam who let them free after three to four years to do their business independently.
The story does not change here. Again after doing free business the girl do same mistake by giving heart to a client. Then one day come when the trusted man flew with her all money, gold and faith. All the tiny battles she had within inside that do nothing but shape her emotions, make her able to drink her tears of blood. Stories of a brothel have many shapes. Many girls do not miss their Fazar prayer; many girls learn to recite Quran. Many girls penned their parents and send money monthly putting fake address in the envelope. Many girls forced to take a drug designed to fatten cattle for market name Oradexon.
Their day passes by. One day visibly wrinkles can no longer hide by their heavy make up, then they started losing clients, then one night come when they had no one, and they become nanny of younger sex worker. Finally after death their bodies can be buried in a cemetery, though still in a separate one. But better than having their remains floating in the river covered by a sheet which previously practiced as ritual. Their existence remains in their tank which preserve full of their life memories, which lastly kept by their dear one if someone still have time to recall a sex worker.
“Its been 12 years I am familiar to them. Not only as a photographer but also as a brother. In the photograph, I am seating with my one of the sister from Tangail brothel. Whenever I go there, she runs towards me by calling “Akash Bhai”, she brings sweet, tea and speaks and talked lot about her dreams. These girls are weak for affection as I once treated her as sister now she granted me as her brother. No one knows the story of those faceless girls who are sold by their boyfriend, husband or parents. This is one way journey to brothel a place that is everything to them. By documenting on them I would like to spread their story of pains which are only locked into their own madam’s castle. I can also recall about one girl from those uncountable faces. Unsurprisingly – and despite her name – Asha isn’t very hopeful for her own future. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever get married or have children,’ she says. ‘No one will marry me. If they did they’d only keep me for two or three days, and then they’d sell me back.’ She is more streetwise than some of the other girls here, many of whom share a tragic dream that one day a knight in shining Armour will arrive, to carry them off; then they will marry him, have his babies and love him forever. I wish there would be a knight in shining Armour will surly arrive, to carry them off from this living hell! I wish and I really wish!” – GMB Akash
“The moment I wake up, right away, I smile…. I am aware that a life is offering me twenty-four brand new hours to live, and that’s the most precious of gifts I received, while living every second of my life for a new day, for a new hope, for a new destination. I am traveler, won’t mind to be called gypsy. Hanging my bag, holding my camera, eying over everything, I keep walking. I discover a part of me in my journey. I mostly save each penny comes from my work for traveling. Simplicity is my luxury. Visiting my maples world is pretty sweating but I don’t mind to wait. Travel brings power and love back into our life. Sometimes we plan a trip to one place, but something takes us to another. Whatever purifies it is the correct road. Thus I stepped to Istanbul with an open eye in road to be lost”
– GMB Akash
There are a handful of cities around the world that draw me back again and again. In my list Istanbul was a most desirable place to visit. I got my chance and landed for a quick tour. In Istanbul It is difficult to be in quiet places in a city of 13 million, which was best for me. I was attracted to the city for its rich history—it was the capital of three empires and it’s the only major city in the world that straddles two continents. Navigating Istanbul can be difficult for tourists. There are so many forms of transportation—trams, trolleys, ferries, taxis, metro—and so many ways to get to a place.
As a travel photographer I love all options. While I keep clicking my camera, a short, wiry Turk goes past, carrying a dozen folded carpets balanced on his head. The weight of the load seems to be greater than that of the carrier. Women wearing veil, only showing their eyes, gold bangles and chains reminding women of my Old Dhaka’s. Several groups of photographer’s rooming around like me with cameras on shoulders and heads almost mechanically swiveling from side to side in an endeavor to miss nothing. The famous Blue Mosque was just near my hotel, I was stunned by seeing one of the most famous and most stunning Mosques in the world. Istanbul is a city for those who can still enjoy a sense of providence: a sense of discovery and a sense of marvel.
Continually after walking almost ten hours it was not tiring to me. As a travel photographer one must quality is to be brave. Brave to face anything and everything on the journey. I travel alone and learn to enjoy entertaining myself. It is quite fun to explore a strange place and don’t get bored in loneliness. I love to watch people, introduce with new rituals and knowing different form of life. I keep images of memory in my travel folder. Photographs are not only holding my memories, but emotions and my interpretation of an untold journey.
Wherever I go, I keep trying to match my country with the place I am visiting. Often I started missing my country. In Istanbul I was finding my bond, hearing Azaan in mosques was weaving images of my place, my Dhaka. There is an universal language in the world, the language of love. We human being are always try to name our emotion, level our feelings so as I keep trying to write in my dairy. My days ended so quickly, with my mixed emotions I was leaving the city, Istanbul. I headed to catch another flight for another place with the imaginary in my mind ‘Splendid Istanbul’
“I am not only burning myself in these journeys, I am shaping my molecules, the discovery nor ended up here, either do I go home. I will pack my bag by holding my camera, & another mystic road will open its arm for me, and I very well known, miracles dwell in invisible. I – a lost soul will walk step by step, hearing entire in silence. When I keep learning the art to fly, I keep discovering till my universe dissolves”
– GMB Akash
“Behind the curtain there is a different world, a world of people who are living far from the crowd, the people who serve entertainment daily artists. Circus people’s lives is a mystery and their performance never can define their mysticism. A Group of shining artists are surviving in the world of circus by facing continual adversity of entertainment in small corners of Bangladesh. Major audiences showed them negligence already but still they are moving hard with their glorious history. These nomad performers move monthly from place to place, their dreams take new shape as their house move i new place every month. By their hands they demolish their own house for shifting it in another territory. Still they only think about their performance. Nor money neither fame touches their feet. To them life is a circus, they are performer of life’s stage.”
– GMB Akash
In front of the close circus gate, curious crowd of slum children remain permanent who hardly get chance to enter. Circus get a place that is usually a large space as atleast 60-100 people has to accommodate in their temporary residence and the stage has to build within that space too. So the circus is big, vibrant and take a place in empty spaces which are mostly far from the city.
A teenage performer Sharmin (13) was locating her makeup box in the tiny room of her that has been separated by a curtain as in the other side her parents use to sleep. She said, ‘The sad thing is my mirror broke while my father demolished our previous house. It takes one day to build this new house. Now this is my new home for next one month’. Sharmin was just three years old while she performed first time with her mother. Her mother and grandmother both are passing their lives in circus. Sharmin has 15 different dresses for performing in stage. She has her instructor who taught her different plays, while answering she giggled, ‘My Guru beaten me more than our donkey. Circus donkey and I attend same class and perform same time. I fall down many times and got hurt but you know, an artist has to suffer lot, my guru told me so, that’s why I never bother. One day I will be the best performer.’ Sharmin gets 2000 tk monthly. She along her four family members all are occupied in circus.
These artist works for eleven months and they get vacation for one month . Company hire them for one year, after one year their contract renew by condition. The company is responsible for two-time food of all artists. For six days food are lentil, rice and smash potato, rest one day fish and vegetable. For moving from one place to another company send their track, performer break their own house and move for new place. In the new place they build their house again by themselves.
Sharmin’s mother Shilpi shared ‘I born in circus. Circus is my family and so my blood belongs to it. Three of my daughters are in circus. What else we can do? Sometimes I feel to know the world behind the gate, but then I feel that world is not for us. I belong to circus, circus has given a life to my creativity and I will one day die like my mother by giving birth of my best performance’. Just nearby Sharmin’s tent another lady Shipra loadly says, ‘What are you looking for? The makeup is my veil. Before starting the music we are one kind of person and after hearing the announcement of the show we are far different from the person you are interviewing now.’
Bijon can shallow 20-25 fishes and can bring them out alive from his body, he says ‘For mentoring cricketer, footballer, dancer, singer government brings many persons from aboard, but here in Opera or for Circus no one bring any mentor. We only create our games, we only show ourselves, and we only stand by ourselves. For us nobody cares.’
While Selina was wearing her makeup she whisper and says, ‘I am no longer an ordinary girl. Now I will fly over everyone’. Coming back from the stage after her ten min performance, Selina recklessly said, ‘Sometime audiences pass bad comments on us. I do not bother and no other girl bother here. Stop letting other people influence your attitude, your hope, your potential to do something great. Stop worrying and start doing.’
Heena (38) is singing song loudly while sewing her traditional blanket with her fresh make up. ‘Its my daily life, we do not mix with outside men, I like no one from my circus team, so I am still single and happily living my life” Announcer announced her name and she swiftly keep her blanket in a bench then after touching the platform of circus with respect, within a second she goes in the top of the pang and scrolled slide down her head, with a jump she come down by catching another rope. Screaming of audiences seems no reaction on Heena’s face. She came back, seat in her bench, started sewing the blanket and reply “What else you want to ask? We are human just like you, as like your sister or as like your mother, won’t we? “
At the ending day Lilliputian Shre Anil Chandra (50) was packing his things. A lone man has nothing much than gifts from different villages. The man who made jokes throughout plays is very reserve in back stage. He talk less, share less. His bed and his trunk is his property. “World is round. We move from place to place. Women of circus sometimes cry but men never. I wait to go to a new place to see new audiences. I enjoy my gypsy life’.
“This is not the ending. Circus will rise in another place, in another village. Children of that village will run to the gate of circus again. Vendors will take a place to attract customers again. Circus artists will avail their charismatic techniques for another jaw dropping performance. Audiences from far and near will encircle the area. Heena might finish her sewing by that time; Sharmin might get a new mirror from her mother. Never ends, never be lost – Life is a Circus”
– GMB Akash
“Every day living in the terror of death is enough to sabotage ones life. Behind the beautiful jungle there are stories which has mentally paralyzed 3,000 ‘tiger widows lives’ in the universe of Sundarbans. People living surrounded by the jungle are living in the fence of fear. Fear of losing their own life or their family in any day or night. Sons after losing their parents, grandparents in tiger attack has again walked in the same path to feed rest of the family, knowing their life may end any day, any moment by a second’s ignorance. Their bravery of fighting with a small knife with the ferocious tiger is heroic only if they can fight and win, if not the flesh of the hero will dry and might disappear in salty water of the sea. From there no one can get anything than the blooded cloths. The story of surviving hunts them every moment in their life. As the beautiful jungle is the reason of their life and reason of their death too. They and their breathe belong to the mighty inescapable jungle” – GMB Akash
Marium Begum’s Husband Abdul Hamid went for fishing in Hatdabra canal in the Sundarban along with two fellow fishermen after Azaan. While they were fishing a tiger swooped on him and dragged him into the deep forest while his fellow fishermen escaped unhurt. Later, forest guards recovered the bruised body from the deep forest. Marium is just one of about 3,000 “tiger widows” in the Sundarbans.
Marium is bearing the wound of losing her husband. She describe the day with a painful tune , “The day remains nightmare for me. Noisy birds were circling my hut. There were bad omens everywhere. And my heart was beating in rush. I told him not to go but there was no food to eat so he has to leave and never come again” – Marium
75 year old Momresh Sekh lost his left eye to an attack by a tiger in 1969. He was accompanied by his uncle who hit the tiger with the branch of a tree. A jagged scar runs from his head to the back of his skull. Lumps of flesh were torn from his chest and thigh. He is blind in his left eye.
Forty-five-year-old Emem Ali poses with his daughter. In 2008, Emem was the target of a tiger attack. Grabbed by the arm, he was dragged into the forest, but abandoned by the predator at last. Found and brought to safety by a companion, he lives to tell the tale. Now he is living by selling fish in the local market. He is hoping to get a shop for surviving.
It was a small life saving knife as this only tool saved Shofiqul Islam’s (42) life from the men eater tiger which was snatching him to the jungle. Hurts kept marks in his body though honey collector Shofiqul lived form hand to mouth for four months by avoiding the path of jungle. But after four months of his attack while again he was entering into the jungle, he said ‘Either I have to earn my food or I will become food for the prey.’
This shirt bears the horrific memory but it is an icon for Shofiqul (42) too. The shirt reminds him the roars of the attacking tiger, its unbearable snatch to his backbone and his spirit to fight back to it with nothing but a small knife.
Shofiqul said “You no longer have to go deep into the forest to be attacked. They wait at the banks. I have never seen that before. We believe that even to use the word tiger risks summoning one”
The Sundarbans is made up of hundreds of islands of mangrove forests and mudflats. This is one of the most beautiful but most dangerous places in the world, a place of tigers and crocodiles and dangerous seas and canals. The region is home to approximately 500 Bengal tigers, one of the largest single populations of tigers in one area. These tigers are well-known for the substantial number of people they kill; estimates range from 50-250 people per year. Because of rising sea levels and shrinking forest, humans and tigers are fighting for space. The farmers are forced into the forest to hunt for honey, fish, or collect crabs, putting them at risk for a tiger attack. Poverty forces people into the forest, into the tigers’ natural habitat. And the animals are hungry, with hunting and newly introduced diseases steadily reducing the populations of wild boars, deer and monkeys in the Sundarbans. Hindus and Muslims alike believe that only the Goddess Bon Bibi can offer protection from the big cats. There are several statues of the forest goddess scattered throughout the jungle.
45 year old Shaidul has stitches put into his chin in Shemnagar Hospital. He was badly injured by a tiger while he was out fishing. He said , “I thought it was a large dog. I pushed it away and heard a splash within the time its hits me”
45 year old Abu Taleb lies motionless outside his home. He was attacked by a tiger whilst fishing and has now lost the use of his arm and leg. He is unable to walk without the help of his wife. He spent seven days on the floor of Satkhira Hospital with severe injuries to his head, back and neck. After a year of bed rest he has still not recovered from his injuries and his wife has been forced to become a day labourer and beg house to house.
In 1995, the attack was on his first day out fishing. He was sleeping in the boat when the tiger attacked. Though he survived it, the damage to his face was such that no one from his village would come near him. His parents forced a girl to marry him. At the initial days of his marital life, he would not allow his wife to look at him.
Beside men tiger attacked many women of the village too. Faizun is showing her scars which are permanent mark in her head. Tigers are coming closer to villages in search of food. They smartly attacking villagers and standing near the bank. Faizun was collecting woods from near her home beside the bank of the river, while tiger attack she thought it is a big dog while realizing she remember nothing. She believes forest’s goddess saved her. Somehow she manages to escape and after the attack, she fled to her hut and collapsed.
42 year old Atiar Rahman was attacked by a tiger whilst out fishing. He lost his sight in his right eye, the ability to hear, as well as severe injuries to his back, neck and face. He spent six months in hospital at the cost of 9,000 Taka (80 GBP) and is now completely bed-ridden. His wife works to support their large family by working as a day labourer. She earns 50 Taka (0.4 GBP) a day.
Because of rising sea levels and shrinking forest, humans and tigers are fighting for space. The farmers are forced into the forest to hunt for honey, fish, or collect crabs, putting them at risk for a tiger attack.
The boat is the small vehicle which is use to go for fishing in the deep forest of sundarban. And often while they stay at the boat in night tiger attack fisherman and they have to fight back.
“Inside the Sundarban there is ‘silence’ everywhere, a fear runs in veins with the fragrance of incense, standing in the village of frequently visited by Man Eater Tigers, listening villagers rhythmic chanting and prayers and feeling the urge to get back to safety all these made it helpless for urban, educated, technologically advanced people. This jungle is only understandable for the people who are made from it, the people live by jungle can’t leave the place even knowing how risky to live within. Thus they will face the hungry tiger habitually either to live or to die.”
– GMB Akash
“Steeping into the muddy shiphub my eyes stumble on barefooted children playing ‘Akka Dokka’. By following their queries giggles I smiled to the little-girl next to me asking ‘What to your father do’? With a wide smile showing her recently missing baby teeth’s, she whispered ‘My father builds big big ships’. The place is familiar to me so as these children but I rejoice these moments every day when I jump from my boat and my day start with ‘big big ships’. I walk towards to Ship Creators, to the people that the world knows little about. Step to them, who are building ships on a daily basis with their expertise, power, energy and who dream to make something big, bigger than their life, bigger than their identity, bigger than their credits without much expectation. ”
– GMB AKASH
In the shipyard every worker is full of activity, no one have any time to talk. Constant work with flame, sound and dust may seem intolerable. Especially the constant ‘Dhang-Dhang-Dhang’ sounds of steel and hammer will auto upgrade any ones heart beat. But to the workers it’s their daily doze. These Ship-craft-masters never get tired often handle everything in spite of getting any structural design keep building ships on their own effort with their basic genetic talent without any break. Frequently without goggles, risking serious injury or blindness, they all climb tall rope ladders to the ships’ highest points to retrieve items, risking death if they slip but yet happily they keep working in the pleasure of building the ship
Bangladesh is set to emerge as a new export leader for building small ships after cutting deals worth over $ 250 million last year alone. More than 250,000 skilled and semi-skilled workers are employed in the shipbuilding industry Bangladesh. All inland and coastal ships are constructed and repaired locally in these Bangladeshi shipyards. Bangladesh has all the ingredients to turn itself into a hub of export oriented shipbuilding for small and medium-sized vessels. The full utilization of the opportunities that are now present in the global shipbuilding market can turn this sector into a billion dollar industry within a decade. In recent times, a dozen shipyards are expanding their capacity for building ocean-going ships to enter the international market.
** (There are more than one hundred shipyards and workshops in Bangladesh, most of them are privately owned shipyards. Out of these shipyards, approximately 70 per cent are located in and around Dhaka and Narayanganj along the side of the river bank of Buriganga, Shitalakha and Meghna. About 20 per cent shipyards of Chittagong division are located along the side of the Karnapuli river and six per cent are located along the bank of the Poshur River in Khulna division while the remaining for per cent are located in Barisal division)
Availability of cheap human input is the main strength of the country and this is one of the main determinants in allowing this labour intensive industry to flourish. Also, easily trainable workers can provide this country with a decisive edge over other prospective countries. Bangladesh is in very much an advantageous position in this respect as labour cost is the cheapest among other shipbuilding countries around the world. But it alleys not that only for livelihood these ship-creators give their labour to this industry. Their dream, their hope ties with it and it’s in their gene to build ships. But the work is sporadic, and after paying the rent on the family’s tiny bamboo shack, workers has barely forty cents left to feed each of the family members. With no other options, workers usually sat their eldest son down in the work. An armature’s job would add $2.20 to the family’s daily budget. Still they build their hopes, build their ships with or without expectation.
Mishir Mia and his 25 member’s team seat silently beside the shipyard. After working two long years their team builds a world class ship. It will sail within short time. No one was answering my repeated questions. After a long break Mishir Mia said “Let me bring my son sir. I will show him the ship. He will become a marine engineer one day; then he will bravely share with friends that without any degree his father once built big big ships. Let me go Sir. I will answer you later.” Team of 25 labours is sign of victory. It’s our victory. It’s Tribute to their bravery, their silent involvement in the economy. Aren’t we seeing a mighty Bangladesh?
– GMB Akash