remember the time we had to go to some UNICEF
meeting or other with bhaiya (ShahidulAlam).
It was in the Sonargaon Hotel. A huge, fancy
affair, where we had trouble walking, where
our feet kept slipping on the shiny lobby floor.
A different world, the world of the rich. As
if that wasn't enough, Pintu had lost one of
his sandals on the way there. We knew we wouldn't
be allowed inside in bare feet, but bhaiya told
us that there was no need to worry, that everything
would be fine. So we walked on that slippery
floor and looked everywhere. Everything seemed
so grand, everything smelled of money. People
throw away so much money! In the middle of the
hotel was a swimming pool with almost-naked
foreigners in it. We felt too ashamed to look
When you have too much money what else can you
do except go to a swimming pool to show off,
to say 'look at the money I have, I go swimming
in a big hotel's pool'. The rich and their airs!
Coming out with their cars just to show off
to us, to the poor, to those of us who don't
have cars. The way they look at us! And their
talk: which is better, a white car or a black
car? It's unbelievable, the arrogance!
When we go somewhere people usually comment
'oh you poor deprived children'. Nonsense! If
they grab all the opportunities of course we'll
be deprived. First they take everything for
themselves, then they coo 'oh, you poor deprived
child'. If we are not given a chance, how can
we make it? Our speech, the way we talk is offensive
to the bhadrolok, the upper class. 'Oooh, your
pronunciation,' they sniff at us, 'the way your
language wanders all over the place'.
We are poor. But the fact that we have cameras
and know how to take photos makes people uncomfortable.
And so something simple becomes complicated.
People who see us keep asking "Accha, are
these the cameras you use?" But, you see,
the camera's not the point. The point is to
take photographs. It doesn't sit well with a
lot of folks that the children of the poor should
have cameras. Makes you laugh. Once bhaiya took
some of our shots to the Lab for printing. The
people at the Lab thought that one of the photos
was his. 'Take a look at Shahidul Alam's work,'
they said. Well, it was actually taken by Iqbal,
and when bhaiya told them so, they just shut
up and wouldn't say anything more. So what are
we to make of this? Everything's for the rich,
their fancy ways! Hamida and Rabeya have been
abroad. The word has spread. That's how they
are introduced, as having gone abroad. We take
photos. That is not our identity however. The
point is who has been abroad.
Yet another way to show off is English. You
aren't anybody if you don't know English. As
if the real thing, the only thing, is not the
work itself, but whether you know English. It's
such a fashion to speak it. They say you have
to know it, but what do the foreigners know?
Shouldn't all those photographers and all the
other visitors who come here know Bangia? Nobody
tells them 'you should know Bangia'. We take
photographs. Through our photographs we want
to change things. But lately the going has been
tough. With the children of the wealthy it is
enough that they take photos, but with us it
seems that we have to prove ourselves by learning
English too. What will happen to those English-speaking
friends who also carry on the struggle? Will
they learn our language and join us? Oh come
on! Will they not join ranks with us? What then
is our language of photography to be?