Arif Shaon: It takes a lot of money to buy a luxurious Pajero for the rich but it does not cost much to make a Pajero for the destitute. It only costs five to six thousand taka only. But this is a lot of money for them to bear! Those who have Pajeroes, they are considered to be the elegant people on the Dhaka streets! They find themselves with the Pajeroes in the morning. They pass their nights and days on it!
50-year-old Moni Begum. You can find her at Mazar Gate area of the High Court in Dhaka. She has come to the capital when she was eight or nine years old only with nothing in hands. But she can’t remember the year she came to Dhaka. Now she is suffering from various old-age complexities.
Her troubles in life appear in her face. Pesky dark circles spotted under her eyes. Folds on the forehead shows her age and difficulties she facing. But she does not want to express this distress.
Not only Moni, many like her are living in Pajeroes with different ages. It’s not the luxury car you already thought. It’s a small wooden car with four wheels. Its size and volume are very small. The physically challenged people are living in this car when their families remain disinterested for them. No sleeping arrangement is in the Pajero. It is made for only one person but sometimes more than one sleep in it. That's a palace for someone! That’s a golden family for them as well.
There are many 'Pajeroes' found in Dhaka's High Court Mazar Gate area. Pajeroes’ wheel bars are made of bare rings. There is no engine in the car. Each 'Pajero' has polythene (to protect from rain). Some are black-colored when some are blue.
Someone is found sitting outside the Mazar Gate while someone sleeping inside the Pajero with their disabled body parts. Someone is telling stories with their neighbors. Someone else is waiting to get something from the passerby! But they do not have to ask for something big! They want to get some money for food only. If someone gives them food, they can eat but if they don’t get money they pass the day without eating!
Another Mazar Gate dweller is Sirajuddin. He is Moni Begum’s husband. He is feeling sick. It is too difficult to walk with his pains in legs. Sometimes it is very painful. So he can’t go for the work for his living.
The couple had many dreams like others. But sudden erosion by the Meghna river washed away their house and other belongings. And now they have been living here for years. They have two daughters. They paid all costs to their first daughter named Shawpna to study in a school at their village home in Bhola but she married a man and left them after passing HSC examination from Altazur Rahman College there.
The couple, however, did not stop seeing dreams. Another daughter named Jasmine is now studying in class six at a school in Mohammadpur. Sirajuddin is sleeping in the footpath but his wife Moni Begum in the Pajero.
While asked about her, Moni smiled with broken lips and said, we have passed the whole life in this Pajero. It's been made long ago.
Another woman is Shahnaj. She is also a victim of river erosion. She has come to Dhaka from Faridpur when she was seven years old. She came to Dhaka along with her physically challenged mother.
There is a lot of discomfort in the winter or in the rain here. Shahnaj was married almost 15 years ago. Her husband was addicted to drugs. He died. They were blessed with a girl named Sumaiya. She studies in class 3.
'Our Pajero costs Tk 6,000. Making this car is not an easy job. There is a bit of trouble. The wood is to bring from Nayabazar. The wheel is from English road while Carpenter in Ananda Bazar,' she said.
They only had two plastic bowls to eat on. However, no glass for drinking water. There are two plastic bottles. Water is being brought from Dhaka University Hall or Mazar. There is a plastic bag and some clothes in the Pajero.
Translated by M Mahfuzur Rahman
risingbd/Dhaka/June 25, 2019/AKA