As the darkness began to descend upon my locality I went to a nearby shop the other day to buy four-kg of potatoes as my better half insisted. Nowadays I don’t feel like going to any shop, chain shop or shopping centers as I know money is not burning in my pocket. It is rather making a dent in my pocket with skyrocketing price hike of essentials. Before I go to buy something the idea that crosses my mind is will the money in my pocket suffice to buy what I am going to buy?
Especially over the past few months this question has been swirling in my mind as it comes to buying kitchen items. It is literally haunting me every day. Sometimes I seem to be living in the realm of an imaginative world like a daydream. I think I might be dreaming during my nap. As I jerk out of my bed to get down to my desk to edit some daily items it again begins to haunt me as if I am sitting in a haunted place. Stories come one after another, sometimes with quite a big pause. No positive news, no news that can enkindle my hope to live on and no story at all that can instill inspiration into me to think that life is really worth living. I don’t know how the people leading a marginal life can manage to make their ends meet.
Sometimes I feel, may be, people die every day before their real deaths. It is really a life and death situation for average people. Still they live; they somehow hold on to their lives though it is not worth living. Nobody wants to lose their lives however arduous and painful they may be. Still they love each other, they extend their helping hands to others, they stand by each other and they try to survive amid their painstaking struggle for life. Ah, life!
Let’s begin with the potato story or rather potato spilling story of mine. As I was trudging back home I stumbled over something that I couldn’t notice in the dark my potatoes spilled onto the road. Like an old man, sometimes I forget that I have already aged with receding white hair, I stooped down to pick up my scattered potatoes all over the streets. A rickshaw had already maneuvered itself through my littered potatoes as much as possible to save my potatoes from being crushed under its wheels.
As I crouched down to gather 4-kg potatoes I was thinking where the hell was I going to put them back in? A female voice called me as uncle and said: “Now you have to collect a bag from a nearby shop before other modes of vehicles crushed them.” I gave a sideways glance at the woman. She was a burqa-clad woman covered from the head to her toes. I couldn’t see her face but could easily presume that she was not someone from a well-off family. A poor lady! For sure she knew how precious those potatoes were. If she was someone from a rich family, I am sure she wouldn’t stop even for a moment to see what had happened. If so, she might have thought: “Oh, they were only some potatoes. At least no one has died.” She could possibly avoid any encounter with me.
But this poor lady clad in burqa halted after she had moved ahead a bit. She looked back. I don’t know if there was pity in her eyes for this writer. She suddenly turned back and came over to me, put her hands clumsily into her age-old worn-out vanity bag, if I call it a vanity bag, and pulled out a crumpled, dirty and a bit soggy kitchen bag. “Uncle, put your potatoes into this bag,” she said and her silhouette mingled with the grey dark alleyway before I could thank her.
I was musing over what had happened as I picking the potatoes up – one, two, three – counting them to measure how many of the potatoes were equal to four kilograms. I heard voices of kids approaching me from behind. They were walking towards me with one’s hands over the shoulders of the other. One was a bit older than other but they were almost the same age. Suddenly they caught sight of me fumbling in the dark. One of them said: “Let’s help the man with the potatoes littering the streets.” Before I could say something they began to pick them up and put them one by one into the bag given to me by the burqa-clad lady. It was done in the wink of an eye and they too began to walk away singing merrily. I first thought they were doing so in the hope of getting one or two taka or at least one or two chocolates. But they did it without any desire and interest much to my surprise.
In the country where nobody does something for anybody without any interest or money these poor people come forward to your rescue willingly and without the hope for any profit. No gentleman and ladies clad in brand clothes come to help you when you are in a wretched condition. But these people do. On some other occasions too I have had the same experience. It is just a little instance but in real danger too they are there to help you.
Why do they do so? The plain answer is they know without helping each other they can’t survive. They know at least five of them have to share one single room, one kilogram of potatoes or they have to cook on single stove for eight or more people. Their struggling life teaches them this basis lesson. They know what it means when they even cannot buy a kilogram of potatoes. They only know this much because they experience it every day when they go to kitchen markets.
They feel the pangs and agony of life in just one kilogram of rice or a kilogram of pulse or a kilogram of potato when the prices of those daily items soar. They don’t fathom out what the tax-GDP ratio means, what the account deficit is, how IMF deal helps or hinders the progress, what money inflation is and the dwindling foreign currency reserve. To them, ‘life is a tale told by an idiot.’
The writer is a journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected]