Writer and Photographer: Fabeha Monir
At the age of ninety-six, by walking through a one-mile muddy alley, I go to sell four eggs.
With all my savings, forty-five years ago, I built my house with my own hand and the help of three laborers. Date palm trees, cotton trees, betel nut trees…we had more than 100 types of trees around our house. I had earned 40-45 thousand Taka every year from the cotton tree. My wife made fishing nets at home. I sold those fishing nets to the fishermen. After morning prayer, I always went to catch fish in the canal. Our food always comes from the river.
Last year, at winter season, they forced us to evacuate our village. To save our home, I went and begged to so many places. Nothing happened. They threw us in the road with our families. Within one night, at this age, I become a beggar. My elder son’s grave was just behind our house. Now, there is no sign anymore. I do not have money to buy medicine for myself and my wife.
With severe pain in my legs every day, I walk one mile through a muddy alley and go to see our lost home. They haven’t paid us rightly. The lives of poor people are just like animals lives. We cannot catch fish. The wet land is always waterlogged. We were drowning in flood water. When, in the winter, we left our house, we had no water to drink. We were given one tube well in our new village. Now we must queue to take drinking water. We never imagined that we’d have to suffer to eat rice. Today, some people can cook, and others cannot.
We had no fish last month. Before, we could easily get fish whenever we went fishing. I could sell fresh fishes in the market. My wife cries all the time. She says villagers are getting punished for a sin that we did not commit. It would be better for them to kill us than to give us this punishment at this age. We have cried so much that now when we cry our eyes are dry. Police brought charges against young men, but they were found innocent. The way they torture us makes it seem like we have taken away their homes. We have not gotten any justice after so much suffering.
I heard they are going to build a big power plant. Now, our place is deserted. It is hard to believe what kind of place it has become. There is no sign of our big canal. We used to go to the sea by way of the canal. Now there is no way to go to the sea. In every home, people are facing poverty and disease. Whenever we think of our past, tears roll down from our eyes. We were landless people. We spent ages in that location. Today, businessmen have grabbed our home and lands. Foreigners want to do business, but, what do they profit from killing us?! Everybody says China is a big country. That is a very developed country. By destroying our homes, by cutting our tress, and blocking our canal, what kind of development are they going to make?
Nobody informed us of anything. No one came to see us. With only 150 thousand Taka, they took away everything. With that money, I was only able to shift my house into the new village. After repetitive complaints to the administration, we did not get any answer. Everyone says this is a billion-dollar project. No one sees what we have lost, everyone sees their profit. I have nothing to eat tonight. By taking away my land, only they benefit. We are poor villagers. We are tired of crying all the time and going from door to door. We do not know what is waiting for us. It is better to die than to live a meaningless and shameful life like this one we are forced, now, to live.