Living on the street, every day they wait for morning, believing the new day might free them from this life. Jarina Khala, 47, is a single mother and homeless woman. She lives with her daughter Mali, 15, outside Kamalapur Railway Station in Dhaka. For Jarina Khala, this life began as a young girl when she was displaced from her parents' family. She has been living on the street for more than 35 years. It is where she was married, where she gave birth to three children, and where she passed down the legacy of impoverishment to Mali for whom this way of life began inside her mother's womb.
Jarina Khala collects garbage to earn a living, but she used to do whatever she could to get by, including begging. She married Bhandari (Miru), a rickshaw puller, when she was a teenager, but he left her following the birth of their third child. And of those three children, Mali is the only one who has survived. Sohel, the eldest son, died at the age of eight or nine, and Mali’s twin sister died at just 21 days.
Mali’s early days were carefree. When she was seven, Jarina Khala noticed that her daughter was different from other children and was most likely mentally and physically disabled. Mali can not communicate nor is she able to locate herself in the busy streets of Dhaka. She is unaware of the traffic or other threats to her safety. Jarina Khala has to chain Mali to a fence every day by her ankle in order to keep her safe. Despite evidence of Mali’s mental and physical disability, she had never been diagnosed until November 2013 when tests confirmed significant irreversible brain damage. As soon as Mali was diagnosed, her long-term medication was started. She will be on medication for the rest of her life, though doctors say that it can only help manage her condition, not cure it. Khala, her neighbour and I hope we will able to find a place where Mali will have the security to enjoy freedom and perhaps get a better chance at life.
“There’s no life on the street," says Jarina Khala. "We can pass the daytime, but it is really hard to pass the night… The suffering started from when I was born and I believe it will only finish when I die. This is the way it is living on the street.”