A tale of survival

Rajib Kanti Roy

7 August, 2020 12:00 AM printer

A tale of survival

Mustafiz, a third-grade student in Gaibandha, sells betel leaf and cigarette on a busy street in the capital’s Khilgaon rail gate area on Thursday. As his school is now closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the minor boy came to Dhaka to help his father run their family. —Kamrul Islam Ratan

Carrying a box full of betel leaf, areca nut, lime, tobaco leaf (jorda) and cigarettes on his tiny shoulder, he was moving restlessly under Khilgaon flyover.  

Like an amateur vendor he was taking time to prepare the roll of betel leaves for his customers.

When we approached him and asked his name, he answered, “Mustafiz”, with a smile. But a sense of sorrow was clear on his face.

Hailing from Ujan Bochakhali village of Gaibandha’s Sundarganj upazilla, the nine-year-old is struggling to eke out a living in the capital like his father who pulls rickshaw.

Following the spread of pandemic the rickshaw puller father Aminul began struggling to maintain his daily expenditure with his little income and send money to his family members left in the village.

Therefore he managed a box and bought other necessary goods and gave those to his son to sell and assist him.

A face mask was hung down Mustafiz’s chin. Indicating to that this correspondent asked the luckless boy why he opted to sell betel leaves and cigarettes despite knowing about the probable risk.

He replied, “I know this is not safe.  I can be infected with the virus. But when my father arranged everything for me what else I could do!”

When asked if he had ever thought he would have to sell goods on Dhaka streets, Mustafiz answered, “Before the coronavirus outbreak I was reading in class three in our local primary school. I never thought that I would have to come to Dhaka and sell betel leaves and cigarettes one day.”

Mustafiz lives with his father in a small tin-roofed house near Khilgaon rail gate. While speaking about his mother and younger sister who are living in their Ujan Bochakhali’s village home he couldn’t control his emotion. With teary eyes he said albeit he speaks with them over his father’s mobile phone, he often misses them.

When this correspondent asked him about his school, teachers and classmates, Mustafiz stated, “I like my school environment very much. Here in Dhaka I can’t play and roam around freely. When the corona crisis will be over, I shall return to my village and begin school again.”

No one knows when we will be free from the deadly virus. But it is for sure that the pandemic has made our life more uncertain. There is no guarantee that Mustafiz’s poverty-stricken father will allow his son to attend school again. But unfortunately, we don’t spend any word that can bring the innocent boy’s renewed optimism.