Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2000 and Run, Part 1

Sorry for the long delay on the posts. Things have been moving at a whirlwind pace lately, and the difference between 6:30 am and 6:35 am on the alarm clock has never seemed so profound. Numerous things have happened recently that have brought several characters together in an interesting way to show me the many sides of poverty. You'll get to learn more about your investment and my friend Anis. I'm trying to figure out the best way to tell you this story, so bear with me.

What I didn't tell you about the first day with Anis is that we were begged/harassed by a thin and sketchy looking guy with pictures two injured children, which he said were his. His eyes looked yellowish and perhaps slightly bloodshot. I generally don't give to beggars, because it only tends to embolden them (I could write a whole post on ethics of giving to beggars, which I might eventually do), and this looked like it could be a scam anyway. This guy would not give up, and he was starting to become a nuisance. Omi (my translator) and I finally gave in so that we could get on with our day.

Two days later, we met up with Anis again for about a half day. The guy was back, and he wouldn't go away. He said, "If you don't believe me, come to my home and see my children." We decided to go. What I saw there was astonishing. The left leg that belonged to this 16 year-old-boy name Faruk was missing a chunk of flesh half the size of my fist. I could see all the way down to the bone. The leg was being held straight by a strand of material that was stretched behind him. Faruk's mouth hung open, possibly out of pain but probably more likely because he has had all the life sucked out of him. The accident happened three months ago. Three months he'd been sitting on this bed. Insane. Apparently he and his 13-year-old sister (you can see a smaller wound on her leg) were collecting trash on the side of the road. A speeding bus was trying to overtake another vehicle when it hit their trash cart, which ricocehted into the boy.

The father, whose name we found out was Rafikul (see pic 2, with some neighbors), was in another part of the city cleaning toilets. The bus company gave Rafikul 10,000 Taka and had him sign a blank sheet of paper, telling him that they would use this signature for medication and treatment whenever the boy needed it. Unfortunately, Rafikul soon found out that the company had superimposed the signature onto a document showing that Rafikul was at fault for the accident. Every government hospital has denied his son treatment.

This whole investigation at Rafikul's house wasn't made any easier by the fact that there was this guy who had a possessed look in his eyes chanting things at me and asking for money. He wouldn't go away. The deeper I went into the slums, the more hands that reached at my pockets. I told Rafikul that I would print out the pictures he had asked for, and we'd get them to him soon. At that point I hadn't promised anything, but seeing the boy, I knew it would be hard to turn away. I asked Anis to do some investigative work to make sure this really was his son. Either way though, the injury was real.

After that I headed to meet Sohan in Mirpur to survey another slum, and it was the first time where I just felt powerless. Between Korail, this slum, and the others, the horrible situations were just endless. You could knock on someone's door and find a situation just as bad as the last. I was worn out on poverty - I'd seen enough for the day. I took a CNG home and did a lot of thinking - thinking about the boy and sketching out ideas for Anis. That's when Omi called and told me about this evening when Anis dropped him off at his house. Anis had hinted that it would be good if I bought him a rickshaw. Was this just a clever poor person seeing what he get out of me or someone thinking about a long-term solution to his problem? I really wasn't sure, but I hoped it wasn't the former.

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