Fortune never favoured Obaidul Hasan Babul. After losing his home in Manikganj to river erosion, he and his family came to Dhaka to eke out a living. Now, after Babul's death in the blast that ripped through the Café Queen building in Old Dhaka on Mar 7, his family is struggling.
Before he died, Babul advised his family never to ask for aid from anyone. After his father's death, Mahadi, a teenage madrasa student, faces a moral dilemma.
Mahadi is not in a position to become the family's breadwinner, but taking the help offered by his father's friends goes against the ideals of the parent he has just lost.
The Tk 200,000 compensation the Ministry of Labour was to give the families of the dead could have eased their plight a bit. With that money, Mahadi’s family could farm on the small piece of land his father left behind and survive. After finishing his Dawraye Hadis course from a madrasa in four years, Mahadi could have then gotten a job.
Mahadi’s family, however, has no clue when they will get their compensation from the ministry. So far, nobody has contacted them. The listed families of the dead will receive the compensation gradually, said ministry spokesman Aktarul Islam.
The family received Tk 50,000 to cover Babul’s burial costs. That is the only financial support they have received so far.
Babul was the sole breadwinner of the family. He dreamt that his son would become a religious scholar. "How will he continue his education? Our lives have come to a halt,” Nazman Akter, Babul’s wife, said.
Mahadi studies at Jamia Arabia Siddiqia Ulum Madrasa, a local madrasa. To attain the highest degree of Dawraye Hadis, Mahadi has to study for four more years. In addition to his madrasa education, Mahadi also studied until grade ten at Manikganj Islamia Kamil Madrasa.
“We don’t know how his family will survive now. They need government aid,” Babul’s neighbour Mohammad Ali said.
“We will try to help the family on behalf of the municipality so that Babul’s son can continue his education. We’re requesting government agencies to help them,” said Abu Mohammad Nahid, a councillor of Manikganj Municipality.
SON TORN OVER FATHER'S WISHES
“My father had a wish that if he died, my mother should not seek aid from anyone,” Mahadi said.
The teenager is conflicted over whether to keep to his father’s last wish or to accept the realities and uncertainties of the life ahead and act accordingly.
“My father is dead. Many people will now make many promises to us out of sympathy. But I need four more years to complete my education. Will their charity last all that time? The reality is, that when I will need help, they will try to subtly evade the situation."
Though he is in a dilemma, Mahadi has full trust in his teachers.
“Our Qawmi Madrasa does not allow students to work as private tutors. But our teachers said I have to be self-reliant and they would give me some time off so I can work as a private tutor.”
“At the same time, my father leased out some land and used to farm there. If I had some money we could continue that, although my mother is asking me not to do anything,” Mahadi said.
WHY DID BABUL GO TO CAFÉ QUEEN?
Babul worked in a printing press at Old Dhaka’s Jindabahar. He used to go home every week.
He was affiliated with the Manikganj Darbar Sharif, a Muslim shrine. There are other devotees like him in Dhaka. The shrine has a branch in Tangail. A gathering was scheduled on the day after Shab-e-Barat. At least eight people from Dhaka were supposed to go there together.
Babul went to meet Abul Bashar, his close friend, at his hardware store in the Café Queen building, carrying eight train tickets in his pocket.
Mahadi said Bashar went to ‘freshen up’, leaving his father at the shop. That was when the blast tore through the building and Babul lost his life.