ABID AZAD

Things that make you to Think

The Winter Chill

The story, published in Morning Tea,talks about the harsh winter and how it affects the daily lives.

Untitled-1 copy“Uno borshai duno sheet”  (Less rainfall causes heavy cold) is a well known proverb in rural Bangladesh.

This year the country had been hit hard by the winter. Changes in climate, deforestation, uncontrolled industrialization and global warming are the some of the key reasons behind the phenomenon.

Winter may be enjoyable and joyous to the economically and socially well off people but the season is no blessing to the poor people for whom the roadside is their only home.

While winter means beautiful environment, fresh vegetables, colorful warm dresses, traditional cake, date juice, etc to the people who live in warm and comfortable homes; the season brings a hard and struggling life to the people who are deprived from such luxuries.

Generally winter starts from November and ends in late February while according to the Bengali calendar winter starts from the middle of Hemanta and ends in the middle of Basanta.

However, generally Poush and Magh months are the most foggy and coldest of months

Diseases and deaths

In December last year, according to media reports, a number of people, especially children and elders have died from the heavy cold. However, the actual number of the deceased might be more than reported by the press because of most of the poor people cannot admit the sick at the hospitals.

Due to cold stroke at least 10 people had died in Faridpur, Gopalganj, Pabna, Sirajganj, Chuadanga and Kustia. The sufferings of the people in the northern part of Bangladesh are more severe than in other regions.

On Saturday, December 22, the lowest temperature was recorded as 9.2 degrees celsius at Ishwardi of Pabna while the highest was 26.5 degrees celsius at Kutubdia of Cox’s Bazar, according to the Met Office in Dhaka.

On December 27, the lowest temperature was recorded as 6.8 degree celcsius at Chuadanga while in Dhaka the lowest temperature was 11 degree Celsius and highest was 20.5 degree celsius.

However, “The temperature is expected to go even lower in January at under 6 degrees Celsius,” says meteorologist SM Mahmudul Haque of Bangladesh Meteorological Department.

Besides, while this winter takes many lives, on the other hand, there are different kinds of diseases that have been on the rise because of the winter season. Health specialists say that cold cough, headaches,
fevers, skin diseases are of the common diseases in winter, while pneumonia is a very serious threat to the children.

The suffering of poor people

If one takes a walk from Shahbag intersection to Banga Bazaar via Teacher Students Centre (TSC) at Dhaka University (DU) and Doyel Chattar, on your right side you will see a class of people, wrapped with
several types of warm clothes, eating seasonal Pithas (Cake) and other food, gossiping, singing or enjoying the winter by lighting a fire. However, on the other side of the road, the scenario is totally different
where many poor people are shivering with cold and struggling for survival.

Untitled-1To them, roadside or footpath is home while the ground is their bed and the foggy sky is their roof. Many poor people are found to fight suffering with the heavy cold and fog in the Sohorawardi Uddayn (Park), just the opposite side of Dhaka University area.

Even here, while a group of people make fire as their recreation the other side does the same thing but for their survival. As a passerby tries to wrap himself tightly with his warm clothes; a man who lives on the roadside gets ready to spend the night in a large sack.

As the winter chill begins to set in after the sunset, life becomes harder for the homeless people living on the streets. As time goes by the cold becomes more unbearable. But the most heartbreaking and shocking fact is while the poor people suffer and struggle for their lives, they hardly find anyone who comes forward to support them.

The poor, homeless and underprivileged desparately wait for the sunrise, as they spend their nights out in the open, under the foggy
sky. In addition, searching for food is a common task in their everyday lives as most of them have no work or any means of livelihood to earn money with which they can buy some food.

“It is almost 4:00am every night that I finally go to sleep, because it takes time to get a blanket. I have been hoping every night that someone may come to me and give me an old blanket,” says Amena Begum who is around 65.

Amena came to Dhaka from Sherpur about twenty years ago. This reporter found her on the footpath near Shahidullah Hall at DU where she lives with some of her relatives, who are also from Sherpur. They warm themselves by making fire during the nights.

However, Amena told this reporter that they received some blankets some days ago but some drug addicts hijacked it. She said, “The addicts are very active in the night. They steal the warm clothes from those who are sleeping. If someone tries to stop them they gang up on the person and beat him.”

“We didn’t receive any help this season. Those who are living in the High Court area often get more aid”, said Rubel, a 15 year old boy, who had lost his right hand in an accident.

Rubel is living inside the park area and he needs to make a fire the whole night in order to stay warm.

However the scenario vary from place to place. This reporter learnt that while many are searching for relief, some who manage to get extra are sending the relief to their village homes.

Moreover, it is also claimed that, some of these poor people are selling any extra blanket or warm cloth they can get their hands on.

The children of the homeless people are suffering the most. They are often suffering from common cold and other cold related diseases.

“My one and half year old boy, Robin has no alternative but to fight the heavy cold. He has common cold and flu but I can not provide him enough warm clothes,” said the child’s grandmother Jorina who live on the footpath adjacent to the park near TSC. Jorina said that still she has not received any relief and finding a more stuitable place to spend the night is also not possible for her.

Faruk, who had lost his leg in an accident said, “I have no interest for fresh food or beautiful warm clothes. I just want to find basic essentials. Only those who have a lot of money can afford basic needs.”

Untitled-2The working hours of these poor people never change in any critical condition. Shah-Alam who lives with Amena needs to wake up early for his work everyday. He cuts grass inside the Police Line at dawn.

He said, “At first the cold was so unbearable and I almost cried. But I have no other alternative for my survival.”

However, while winter makes it difficult for the people to function normally, it does not reduce the work load of the poor people. Garment workers need to wake up very early in the morning. Rickshaw-pullers need to begin their day at the same time.

Some van drivers may be found sleeping on their vans in the Gulistan area as it is their both their home and source of income. Making fire is the only protection against the heavy cold for such homeless and poor people. These people are seen floating around the whole city. Whereever they can find any shelter from cold, a large building, railway
station, bus station or launch terminal etc, they spend their nights there.

Some are found in the parks of the city where they build a makeshift home with polythene, clothes etc.

Relief by various organisations may have been distributed among the poor people but at the root level, it is often seen that these helpless people are still suffering in cold due to lack of warm clothes. Warm clothes and blankets meant for relief are beign sold in the streets.

Again according to the homeless and poor people, Relief are not provided everywhere but mostly in some selected places.

Sometimes a generous stranger may extend a helping hand. Often those who are financially solvent come forward to help.

If not for the acts of the few kind hearts in the society, life would have been more harder for these people in winter.

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