Thursday, August 27, 2009

2000 and Run, the FINAL Part

So we arrive at CRP, finally. As we are late, we have to wait to see Dr. Razzack. I could tell the family wasn't happy, and I actually almost told them I was sorry, but then I thought about how ludicrous this would be. Once we did see the doctor, he only had a few minutes, and of course, Rafikul had failed to bring the old X-ray this time - the doctor could only give a guess based on memory from yesterday, and thus the cost for operations, at $750, was also a guess. I went to meet with different departments to explore my options. After sitting in meetings for close to an hour, we knew the family was getting antsy, so I went to tell them what was up. The cab driver was now getting mad, because we had told him only an hour at CRP (he was paid for round trip), and now the day was becoming a complete loss. So now Omi and I are sitting in the meetings with Rafikul and the cab driver stalking outside like sharks for blood.

Omi and I were increasingly considering the option that occupies the title of these posts, "2000 and Run". As the situation got increasingly more complicated, with my time and money constraints, as well as the family's wishes and the son's uncertain situation, it seemed like just throwing the 2,000 Taka to the family and running was our best option. CRP was trying - they talked about setting up a fund for Faruk to which I could donate, which could be used IF the boy's condition was X and IF it healed by X date, and IF the family did come to CRP and talked with X person. There were just too many possibilities, and ultimately I realized that I'd gotten myself in way over my head trying to do something long-term when ultimately I just didn't have the time or resources.

I went outside to face the family and tell them th
at all we had to offer was 1,500 Taka in medication and 1,500 Taka in cash. Hearing the offer, Rafikul said, "Uncle, can't you see the situation my son is in?" Omi, without even waiting for me, burst out in my/our defense, "Do you think we are blind? Don't you think we know what condition he's in? And it's a big thing that he extended his flight to help him...What do you think we have been doing, ripping off our [edit] hair? Don't you think that it has been costing us money getting you here and there, getting the X-rays? We are both students...We've been trying to help you through this, but all you're doing is asking for more money."

On our way back to Dhaka on the bus (we didn't go in the cab, partly out of comfort, partly because we didn't want any more of Rafikul), Omi was amazed by how I was so calm. I can definitely see it from Rafikul's point of view. As a Westerner, I am probably the best shot that he'll ever have at getting his son healed, and he wanted to cling to me for everything I was worth. If I was that desperate, I'd probably do the same. And ultimately yes, I'd spent a lot of money and time, but this is exactly what my fellowship is about.

My work wasn't over - the next day we met Anis to sign the papers at Dhaba, my favorite restaurant. He walked up wearing pants, not a lungee. I hoped this would foreshadow his move into the middle class. I invited both him and his wife to lunch. I wanted to make sure she bought into this loan. The server was extremely rude - when he finally did come to our table, he was about to leave with only my order before I caught him and told to take everyone else's. Bangladeshis are like 3rd class citizens in their own country, and the poor are probably below farm animals. We signed the papers over kebab and egg rolls. It was an exciting day for everyone involved. After that Anis said he wanted to take me to the airport on his rickshaw (my flight was at 3am), but I deferred and he settled to give me one final rickshaw ride in his new rickshaw. He pedaled faster than I'd ever gone before, and I had him head to Gulshan, as I needed to buy some last minute things.

We stopped, and immediately I hear "Rob!" I couldn't believe my eyes. It was Ronnie. He was skinner than before with veins outlining his eyes like glasses. His foot had only marginally improved. He said, "Medicine, lugbe (need)". Anis looked at Ronnie, and then looked at me. He knew who it was, as I had told him the story. The experience was extremely surreal - two people side by side interacting together, who bookended my time in Bangladesh, and who I believed exemplified two completely opposite sides of poverty, yet so similar in so many ways. The effectiveness of my assistance to Ronnie was clear - he was back on the street in a worse position than before. I could only wonder if Anis would go the same way.

I told Anis to pedal. I'd find another place to get off. Ronnie climbed on the rickshaw and gave me a hug. I didn't give him anything. Eventually he stopped running after. I knew nothing I gave would ever solve his problems. Around the corner I hopped off and handed Anis 100 Taka. He said, "No, not this time." I was happily shocked. That was exactly what I wanted to hear. Ther was a handshake, and then a hug. I only realized afterward how symbolic these were of both the business partnership and friendship we had formed. I wonder if I'll ever see him again.


  1. Wow, Rob, what a story. I remember when I asked you a few weeks ago if you would be happy or sad to leave Bangladesh, you said you would be sad, but that it would be time. I see now how that was the perfect answer. You keep inspiring me.

  2. Perfect. I think we all hope to "see" Anis again.

  3. I think you probably passed some of your caring and wisdom on to Anis and he will carry a piece of you with him to his success and happiness.