Story of Romjan Ali

My name is Romjan Ali. Age 54. I live in the Dhaka slum of Kamrangirchar. My wife, youngest daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson all live with me. He just turned 8. My older daughter is married. She lives in Tongi with her husband.

I make a living as a blacksmith. This is something I've been doing for 20–25 years. Alhamdulillah, I can make all kinds of iron and steel tools, like knives, sickles, fish knives, and so on.

However, I have become older. My son has no interest in doing this job. He drives a rickshaw that runs on batteries. But I keep doing it because I don't know what else to do. It's a lot of work. It takes a toll on your body over time. 

It is hard to live a good life in a slum. We live in a small, one-room tin shed. So it is very congested. On top of that, the house gets too hot to live in during the summer. Once, my grandson fell unconscious because it was too hot. I poured water on his head over and over again until he woke up. We gave him saline to drink and a lot of water, and then he got better.

But there is also not enough water. We share a water line with four or five other nearby families. There isn't always water in the line. We also don't have our own bathroom. The bathroom is also shared. Every day, at least 35–40 people use it. The toilet is very dirty as well.

I think this is why so many of us get sick. If everyone uses the same toilet, a disease that started in one person could spread to another.

We don't have much money. We can't eat food that is fresh. We buy veggies from the day before because they cost less. We're unable to buy chicken. We buy things that most people don't eat, like chicken feet, hearts, skins, and other parts. They sell them in small bags at a low price in bazaars.

I don't think hospitals do a good job of taking care of poor people. I've had bad things happen to me in government hospitals. Maybe our sin is that we are poor. I don't like being poor. I wish I could live somewhere other than in a slum. I no longer want to work. At the end of my life, I want to pray to Allah and live a good life. I don't know if that will be possible or not.