Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Knee Deep in Water
Yesterday, Matt and I went to Bolajpur to take pictures of a flooded area of Mymensingh. This area is where we did the puppet show last Thursday and there are many areas of this slum underwater. We never expected the excitement that two skinny white boys from Canada with cameras would engender, although in retrospect it is no surprise.
After taking a few pictures of houses up to 6 feet under water, we were approached by an older man, shirtless and so skinny his ribs protruded like knives from his sides, with tousled hair, a stereotypical blue plaid longhi (cotton tube skirt) and a little half smile. This man, whose name I still cannot manage to reproduce, beckoned us to follow him, down the dirt path, over a porch, directly to the river's edge. "Okhane" (There), he said as he pointed to the middle of the river. "Ota apnar bari?" (Is that your house), I asked politely, full well knowing that it was. He replied and after a few more awkward questions I ascertained that this house of his, stranded like a twig in the middle of the stream, stuck under 4 feet of water, was flooded every year. And so after taking a few pictures I asked him about his family, and off we went, up the balcony and down the other side. There, under a corrugated iron roof, protected by only three walls, was his family. There were at least 10 of them there, with no protection. Babies, children and elderly, all packed in for a shot of their living quarters, they were so excited and happy for us to be there, us Bideshis with our camera. Knowing that their story will be told far from their home, that their pictures will be shared with rich, white people in North America.
As we were preparing to leave, I asked another man, Rubel, about the school in the area. The one I knew was underwater. And he said very kindly that he would take me there. But first, out of his hospitality, he offered us tea and showed us his house. His small one room house, in a line of houses, all the same. In this room slept at least 5 people, with only one bed. Hist little corrugated iron abode was identical to the other houses in this slum. Obviously built all at once the buildings had the distinct appearance of barracks, long metal buildings with many doors, all lined up parallel with long dirt paths running down between them. We were then taken to the school, I was asked to introduce myself and we took a few more pictures before leaving.
This was meant to be a short, quick look at one of the flood affected areas of Mymensingh, but it became a display of hospitality and care from people who, despite their poverty, live with joy and happiness in this wonderful country of Bangladesh.