the slum, the rock and the rat…

I am out walking again. The streets stream with red and green flags, flutter-flying thanks for the country’s liberation, the beginning of an end to oppression.

The mosques disgorge the Friday faithful into the dusty afternoon in waves of flip flops. The needy crowd the pavement, sit and wait, hands stretched up for god or crumbled notes, whatever might fall.

There are sights I don’t share. There are photos I won’t take up close because I don’t want to be another insult, another exploitation.

I see things that challenge me in ways I can’t  describe. I walk past things that make me feel I have left my humanity somewhere behind – because I have walked past.

There are no easy answers and the questions make us fools. Today a friend smashed a rat’s head in with a rock because she could not bear to see its wretched, writhing pain…

When I walk the slum streets I can see what is wrong, so many wrongs, but I don’t know how to make them come up right.

I could weep for all the world is not, but then I wonder whether I am fit for the world I am wishing on…

Meeting people, sitting with people, touching lives is an awful reminder that all my blessings are undeserved, unearned; given by grace that’s been as unjust to others as it’s been good to me.

It is true that am here. I have chosen to see this, to stop and to stand alongside for at least moment. But in many ways I am just a tourist.  I can leave any time, and my passport, my purse, my bank account, make me free in a way that does not translate. This is not my life.

I do work that means something. But I am just a cog in a rusty machine that judders and shudders and lurches towards something a little bit better. And still the world grows like greed – too fast to feel much of a change so small and slow.

My eyes are open. I see. You and I spin in a web that holds lives down and I cannot opt out. I am horrified by the shadow world we are enmeshed in, unseen, unknown, even as we stretch for better lives.

My words speak of beauty and it is here in abundance. But poverty is still brutal, bleak, blunt.

I would like to think I could wake up to this, fall asleep here, live this, struggle, strive, see my children grow in this and still smile. I’m not sure I could. That really is courage.

I think of the war everyone is in their best for today, and remind myself that for liberation to come, people had to fight for it, to first believe it was possible.

I realise I have no right not to hope.

This entry was posted in Bangladesh, reflections, travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to the slum, the rock and the rat…

  1. cuhome says:

    “…an awful reminder that all my blessings are undeserved, unearned; given by grace that’s been as unjust to others as it’s been good to me.” Your words are so graphic and bring me to you, your photo-journalism, so horrifying, yet artful. Thank you.

  2. Hope says:

    Your stength amazes me. You are making such a difference in the lives you touch. Of course what you see changes you, but it a change for the better. You are able to reach so many through your work and your writing. I am in awe. Thank you for all you do

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