The International Writers Magazine: Comment
are dying all around me. What am I doing about it? And you? Is
it possible that we can honestly consider ourselves as good people,
but at the same time be completely oblivious and immune to the
suffering around us?
When I first arrived
to Bangladesh about 3 weeks ago I was as crisply fresh
as a newly cut onion off the plane from Europe. I will not deny, that
I have lived in many third-world countries whilst growing up, but even
so, I had not expected the immense sorrow I felt, when I experienced
the poverty of the almost 145 million people in Bangladesh.
It was my first day in Dhaka; I was sitting in the back of the car with
my mother, both of us staring out the windows as though we were newborn
children, gazing at life for the first time. As fate had it, we stopped
at the dreaded traffic lights at Gulshan 1 circle you know, where
the Navana Tower is and a shadow came towards our car...
The woman who approached the car was such a horrific sight, that my
stomach sank to my toes. Her broken teeth were black and the wretched
clothes she wore were not even covering her breasts. I quickly bent
over and busily started looking for my sunken stomach somewhere on the
floor, trying to avoid what was coming next, but all I could hear was:
on the window. Then a scary-sounding groan
leapt from her throat. What more could she do? She didnt even
have enough energy to go down on her knees and beg me to help her.
If it were me, that suddenly lost everything I had and was helpless
like her, I would be so desperate to survive, that my instinct would
be to break through the window of the car, pull out the greedy pig from
inside and scream in his face, "cant you see that I will
die tonight if you dont help me! You have so much, and I have
nothing. Will it really hurt you if you just give me a little bit? Please
Well, how probable is that situation anyway, huh? Knock on wood, of
But have any of you, who have experienced the same as me
every single day that we stop at a traffic light, ever thought about
what you would do if you were the one, begging for 5 Taka outside some
big shots car window? How frustrating must it not be to stand
outside in the torrential rain, with cars whizzing by on all sides,
and breathing desperately on a car window while seeing the people inside
laughing, writing text messages on their flashy mobile phones and completely
It is as though we have developed a mechanism in our brains that automatically
switches our humane senses off when we approach a red traffic light.
We almost hate these beggars who approach our windows, tapping continuously
until either the light saves us and turns green, or our
annoyance takes over our humanity and we actually shoo the irritating
beggar away. Perhaps we have even caught ourselves thinking: "Go
away, you dirty person, why do you have to intrude on my space and my
conscience like this? I know I have enough for you, I just dont
feel like opening my wallet to see if I have any small change. Go beg
money from someone else. Just go away!"
Perhaps our reactions come from a Darwinist instinct derived from the
animal kingdom survival of the fittest. In other words, if you
are weaker than me, then perhaps you deserve to die. But, is that not
the entire reason why we have the right to call ourselves human, and
not animal; the fact that we have thoughts and feelings, and that we
are not so primitive that we dont only act out of instinct, but
also rational thinking. But we dont always help these people,
do we? Even though we are all probably very kind and generous people,
why is it that we just look away and pretend we dont hear the
desperate knocking on our windows?
I realise that there are many discussions regarding what the best thing
to do is. Many say that it is not good to encourage these people to
beg; they are taking the easy way out, instead of working through sweat
and tears like the rest of their fellow countrymen. It is a known discussion
that some of the beggars in particular the children are
a part of a profitable business, and that they even have their own working
shifts. Some say that the women carrying the dead-looking babies around,
as tools to gather sympathy, are not even their real mothers.
But then there are the old people, the lepers and the crippled. Do they
also beg just to make good money? Do they have any other choice when
they cant see or walk? I have both my legs, and I can see. I can
see. You can see too, because you are reading this. I am aware, that
I cannot change the whole world and save everyone. If I really wanted
to, I should do something on a bigger scale, like opening a shelter
or a free hospital for these poverty stricken people. But I dont
have the time, or the money. Thats everyones excuse, right?
On that first day in Dhaka, the encounter with that woman outside my
window was heart wrenching for me, and I actually cried. Is that bad
or embarrassing? Perhaps, but, I was so saddened by the sight of someone
dying in front of my eyes. The thought that I had enough power to bring
happiness even if only for one day to that persons
life, was mind blowing. That day I wanted to give her everything I had.
I did give her some money a mere 10 Taka. The gratitude in her
eyes was a thank you that was beyond any look I had ever seen, and that
is a feeling that will haunt me forever.
© Marie-Louise Olson October 2005
can give to the Pakistani Earthquake Relief effort here
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.