The Look, and Feel, of Poverty
We visited the Karail slums in Dhaka Bangladesh today, and my mind is literally blown.
I have never even imagined such poverty - some people living in trash heaps, drinking filthy poisoned water, children with no clothes, bones showing through tight skin from a severe lack of food…
And yet - there was so much energy there. We got lost in the maze of narrow alleyways, passing hundreds of impoverished dwellers. I never felt more alive.
Children playing cricket with wood plans, dogs running wild, old men using construction tools on shacks, babies bathing in public – these are some of the things you will see roaming the slums.
There is an intimacy, and immediacy here. In America, we are so separated. We go days without speaking or seeing one another (and no, liking Facebook posts and texting do not count). We travel throughout the same city without even bumping into one another. We run errands and have the option of several different grocery stores, salons, libraries, dry cleaners – you name it – all in one small city.
But in the Karail slums, there are no options. You walk down a narrow corridor and there is a barber shop on your left. I use that term loosely as a barber shop here is a tiny shack with two chairs where men get shaves in a dirty mirror with a dirty razor. Directly ahead - approximately 3 feet – is a grocer. The grocery shack is literally 5x5. It holds a small ice cream cooler and some snacks hanging from the rafters. This is considered a luxury here.
I say that because the average person, out of the hundreds of thousands crammed into this tiny area, cannot afford the clean bottled water, or an ice cream on a blistering hot day, or a bag of snacks when their bellies are empty. The reality for one of the slum dwellers is they drink dirty water from the trash-infested river, possibly laced with arsenic. They have little shelter from the 100 degree heat, which impacts the women covered head-to-toe far more than anyone else. And the food? Good luck finding some. They may be able to afford a banana for their child, or a cup of rice for their family. Typically they pull their children out of school to help work on the days they cannot afford to feed their family. But this usually isn’t too much of an issue, since most of the children do not have a school to attend anyway.
There are no food stamps. There is no minimum wage. There is no Affordable Healthcare. There is no Child Protective Services. It’s every man for himself. And woman… And child.
- by Molly Celaschi
Photos by Molly Celaschi