Sunday 9 October 2011

No rhyme nor reason

Dhaka is a hard city to be in, heat alone I can deal with,but with the  combined effect of humidity, noise, fumes , congestion, crowds,  filth,traffic and no sense of space or horizon, life becomes hard. , There have been times when I could give myself up to panic as there is  simply no succour nor solace from the claustrophobic condition I  find myself in . I am captive, even lying naked on a bed in a hotel  room after eating and showering there is no relief, my situation will  not change until I am on a plane flying somewhere else. I simply could not live here, the people can be lovely , the food  exquisite but I am captive. My head aches my stomach has cramps and I  have a chest infection . But its pathetic really, I am staying in a $50 a night hotel with air  conditioning and shower a big clean bed and breakfast waits but I guess  I Am soft, by these people's standards anyway. It is estimated that 35% of Dhaka is slum and the rest of it  certainly isn't luxurious but it isn't slum Unplanned, unserviced, unhygienic and unxious, slums are the pile on  the anus of the city forced out of the body of mainstream society  where life and its by products do battle. Mankind is show cased for  all it's tenacity and poverty holds generations in its strangling  any future and restricting change. Tin, wood, plastic and concrete are all used to make shelters from  the appalling outside world but none is ideal the rain and the heat  still penetrate and inside the dark airless rooms where people eat  sleep and die, Children are born into a life that they can't escape  and the rest of the world the grace of something none of us  really understands. it is someone else not you. Humans are incredible though and can adapt and proliferate in the most  abject conditions. Every one of the hundreds of thousands of shacks  and huts squeezed in amongst rivers of shit and waste, under flyovers,  by tips and railways is a home. People start and end their days there,  they go out and come back home there, they have pride in their space  and keep it clean just like any other home owner. Always a bed and a scattering of objects that tell of a family  environment, some baby powder, a bit of a toy, some clothes nothing of  worth in fact what I stand in and the equipment I carry is worth more  than these people will ever know. But what they have they value and  maintain, it counts. I am reminded of the Californian trend to try and live with only a  hundred objects, what would these people do to have a hundred  objects ? It is a totally western concept less is more and indulgence  an a privilege. Be thankful for what you have got you are lucky if you are reading this. The only ones able to make light of the situation are children Until  a certain age they are unaware of their deprivation. They will play  with anything whether it is an expensive unit made in a Korean factory  or a piece of paper floating in dirty water they are the best  improvisers and endowed with a heightened sense of play. But the  hazards are everywhere , the groundwater is lethal, the traffic  heartless and the trains oblivious The world is only a playground  until you have to pay your way. To be born into this trap is a nightmare but to be born disabled or  become disabled here is a curse and on the scale of the unfortunate it  is the very bottom. Just above that is the parent of the child who has  a disability. Outside of the slums there are people that care, Their own lives  aren't easy but they spend their time on this earth making changes to  other people's lives CSID are an organisation that have an incredible impact on lives. With  CSID I see polio victims become victors giving advice and support to  cerebral palsy sufferers, disabled children performing theatre in  slums, kids with learning difficulties being offered schooling  limbless children being given job training, pathetic hard and unfair  lives having the balance being redressed. Down by the railway a slum exists that is a town in itself, by the  side of the tracks traders are busy, fish are gutted . Fruit and veg  sold and children run playing on the open space that the lines cut  through the city. I meet Salim with an uneven brutal stump left where  a train wheel ran over his little leg. He is maybe four years old and  is now just the right height to run up and down the tracks with his  stump on the track and his full leg on the sleepers. He is incredibly  fast and giggles as he enjoys his mobility. Others are less able and  need to be carried everywhere until their arms develop enough strength  to drag their torsos around. Elsewhere I make my way through stinking  waterlogged paths between dwellings to be ushered into a tiny low  roofed, hot and airless home to meet a little lad with encephalitis  his mother and sister sit on the bed by him manipulating his limbs  lovingly, a technique learnt in physiotherapy classes. Later we take him  out into the light and a crowd gathers and watch him take a few  unsteady steps. The fear on his face turns to joy as he forgets my  camera and plays to the crowd. He becomes a star in the neighbourhood,  fuck x factor I meet a wheelchair bound boy fixing cell phones in a tiny roadside stall a skill he's be taught by CSID. A young woman of great beauty and almost beatific smile who is dragging her legless self through the ever present traffic jams begging, she is at exhaust pipe level and in  extreme danger as stretches her callused grubby hand up towards  indifferent drivers. She is just a child, some mother's daughter. The  organisation is trying to get her into school and to liberate her from  this humiliation but her parents are against it because she provides  a much needed income . At one time I am almost overwhelmed with emotion when I film a group  physiotherapy session, limp bodies are tended to and gently massaged  by mothers the tenderness is beautiful and the love tangible. In this  room there is a respite from the pressures of life outside and the  mother child bond can grow, a normal relationship can begin to  develop. It is an intimate and deeply moving moment watching what is  every mother and child's right. Outside the practicalities of  constantly caring for a totally dependent being is a constant  additional pressure. It is both the tragedy and the salvation of  mankind that we have to care for our progeny no matter what and that  parents can only but love and care for their newborn child. Life is harsh and the developed world spends a lot of money softening  the blows it can deal us. It is true that everyone of us thinks our  burden is the heaviest but in the bigger picture we are skipping  through this life without a care in the world with wings in our  ankles. Poets and Philosopher hush up for a moment and understand there  is no rhyme nor reason. Sent on the move

1 comment:

slowness said...

"Poets and philosophers hush up for a moment...."????

I don't think so Thumb!

What you have written here shows your willingness to face death, pain and injustice at its most stark and ugly. You have confronted what we comfortable liberals pretend we care about; but do everything in our power to avoid. And most significantly nothing in our power to change. As a one man documentary making team I'm sure you are more used to your pictures and interviewees words to tell what you have seen and what you think we should see.
But programme making is diluted by programme making conventions. The real voices you struggled to record in the chaos of Dhakar will not be heard over your clients' own political agendas. Broadcasters perceptions of good taste will cut out the images you have shot whilst wiping tears from your eyes.

In this wonderful blog you communicate your experience before this whole diluting process begins. To write down your experience, to battle with your own disbelief and injustice, to wrestle with the limitations of language to communicate what you have seen and heard is the work of poet and the philosopher.

What you write from what seems like the very edge of our world is poetic. Painful images are now seared onto the retina of my mind's eye.

The contrasts you draw between the life of the reader scrolling down the paragraphs on their latest "must have" electrical device with life of the handicapped child begging at exhaust pipe level in roads already vividly pictured in your blog gently and humanely forces your audience to confront the simple fact that is all happening to human life in a world we all share. It forces them to consider their life, their choices, their perceptions in the light of the lives of others - this is the work of a philosopher.

You are a poet and a philosopher and a wonderful, brave, feeling person.

More power to your thumbs.

Don't hush.