Haunched over the garbage heap ravaged by crows, a naked wraith of a man. Look around, no Jesus, no Allah, just the circling raptor passing a jaundiced eye.
On my last day in Bangladesh, on the hour ride through the traffic, people and detritus of Chittagong, on an appropriately rain drenched day, I saw him. There was a man, not a shred of clothing, washed at the moment by a heavy steady shower, bent down beside a pile of garbage taller than he. A crow sat atop the assortment of trash so useless after the multitude of pickings garbage gets on the way to the street that only the one crow and the destitute man showed any interest.
I tried to imagine how that man was as human as I. He had had a mother and father, who may even have had hopes and dreams for him. Perhaps he once had had a lungi and some taka, had taken tea on the street corner with friends. He may have once been a laborer, or a rickshaw driver. Even in Bangladesh you cannot grow to be a man without the minimum of support and nurturing. In Bangladesh, that would include, most likely, some basic Islam. It would have to included at least a lot of rice along the way.
Yet here he was with nobody caring enough to lend a lungi or another plate of rice. He scraped at the side of the pile of garbage searching for a bit of something-something that still could pass for food. Anything else, anything to be bartered or transformed into a few taka, had been retrieved somewhere between the households and this tall mound at the end of the street. What hadn’t the dogs and birds gotten already?
This image has resonated in my mind now for the near year since we silently drove past it. It reminded me of how helpless we all are without each other, and how we are just naked animals without society. And how much society can utterly fail.The exquisite vulnerability of us all without each other.
I long for and mourn for Bangladesh.