Kala Chan (100 years old)
Photo location: Sariya kandi, Bogura, Bangladesh
I was the owner of 116 bighas of land in our village beside the beautiful river Ganga. Every year we face greater erosion. One hundred bighas of my land is now under water and I divided 16 bighas of land between my eight children. We have lost our home 14 times due to river erosion; this is my 15th house. It takes 2-3 hundred thousand taka to rebuild a house. When a person’s house burns down, at least they still have the land, but with river erosion you lose everything. Now I have nothing except my wife. The river is rising again. I don’t know where we will go if the river engulfs our last shelter in this situation.
People used to call me ’Jowatdar’. Jowatdar means the the owner of the village. I used to buy the biggest fish from our village market. I’ve raised my kids like princes and princesses. I never made them do anything. Now they all have left this land in search of work in different cities because 16 bighas of land is not enough for eight families nowadays. I never imagined that my children would have to work under people and my wife and I would have to survive from that money. I used to have 10-12 working people in my home and a hundred people used to eat in my house every month. The hearth in my house was always aflame. My wife was busy cooking for poor people. She loved to feed the poor people of the village. Now every month we, ourselves, have to wait for the money from our children in order to survive. My heart weeps thinking of these things all the time. My wife can’t feed the poor because we are not anymore able to even to feed ourselves. My wife was very fond of our youngest grandson. Now she always cries for him [why?]. We were accustomed to dining together almost thrice a day but now I have to eat alone. It feels bad to eat alone. Animals eat alone; I feel like an animal when I sit to eat.
My wife became paralyzed last year and our lives became harder to manage. I feed her and I am with her all the time. We have nothing except each other. There is no one to take care of us except a woman my wife had been giving shelter for the last 40 years, after the poor lady lost her house in the river. I thank my God and my wife for showing kindness to that lady. Without this we would have died long ago. I am almost 100 years old and my wife is 85. We have seen a lot for one lifetime. I have seen how how a village owner can become a poor and helpless dependent! I have seen how love can become compassion and how life can change drastically if that is the will of nature!
Link to ‘Stories from Bangladesh’.