A Winter's Tale

Sajid Khan writes a short story about the travails of a rickshaw puller trying to make a living in Dhaka

Sajid Khan
Published : 5 Feb 2023, 01:30 PM
Updated : 5 Feb 2023, 01:30 PM

The following story is a work of fiction.

Winter brings with it a magical, pristine essence. The clarity after the morning fog, the serenity of the environment, and the sensation of the fresh, chilly air accompany the city residents and give them a love for the season. But not everyone feels the same about winter.

Hamim came to Dhaka city five years ago with a positive attitude and hope for better work that would allow him to earn money and send some back home. He was used to braving harsh weather in the past, but as a rickshaw puller and with the added responsibilities of city life, his life took on more burdens.

Hamim, the twenty-year-old son of a poor, elderly farmer, was able to marry a young woman in the winter of 2017. Despite his new family’s poverty, he was determined to change their situation and, with purpose and a productive outlook, travelled to Dhaka after leaving his new wife in their hometown. He knew from his friends and family that city life would be harsh and that not everyone would succeed.

Still, his resolve to change their situation and give his ageing father and beloved partner a better life was strong. The next three years were full of hardship for Hamim. He worked multiple jobs a day as a labourer, but he was lucky enough to stay employed throughout most of the year.

As the seasons went by, his desire to provide for his family continued to power his hard work. Each winter, he would return to his hometown with a lump sum and invest most of it towards building a new house for his family, furniture to furnish it, and growing their small farm and livestock for the future. He always grew excited when the days turned dry and cold. They were signs that he would be home soon. The only way he could save enough to retire from working as a day labourer was to live and work in the city and only travel home to visit his family for a month near the end of the year.

To Hamim, winter meant home. It was then that he and his wife were able to expand their family with the addition of a son and daughter. Their lives were humble but happy. But, like winter in a tropical country, happiness is fleeting. During the winter of 2021, Hamim’s wife caught the coronavirus. At one point, she seemed to recover, but her body could not sustain the damage and she passed away. Hamim’s heart, once powerful enough to withstand the toughest of hardships, was broken.

The warmth that uplifted his entire home, the laughter that rang through the rooms, and the smile that brightened his day - it was all gone . For six whole months after burying his love, he stayed in the village. The longer he stayed, the more unstable he grew. Slowly he developed a bad reputation with those who were previously inclined to hire him. His savings were running out, his farm was in disarray, and his livestock was weary and malnourished. His son and daughter, the two of whom could barely talk, could not understand why their mother was absent, and their father was sad the whole day.

As the seasons changed, so did Hamim’s mindset. After days of staring at his father’s ever-weakening health and the expectant faces of his children, he knew he had to move on to the family he had left. He understood that his wife would not want him to sit idle but live. So he went back to Dhaka and, after much deliberation and search for employment, started as a rickshaw puller. He was not used to this kind of work, and each day seemed more demanding than the last. However, with his renewed vigour, he kept at it and started earning again.

As winter approached once more, Hamim was brought back to earlier times. For the first time in five years, he would not be able to return home for the winter. As a rickshaw puller, he did not earn enough to bring new clothes back home. Each day started and ended with a deep sigh. Was it because he needed to work throughout the winter, or that he could not bear to look at his children’s eager, waiting faces when he returned empty-handed? Or was it simply the absence of his favourite person? For now, Hamim only knows that winter no longer brings him the same joy.

This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.