The Story of Shahjahan

My name is Shahjahan, and I am a van puller in Dhaka, the overcrowded-capital city of Bangladesh. My life here has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, filled with struggles and challenges, especially when it comes to my health. I was born into a poor agricultural laborer family. Growing up in a one-room house with my parents and five siblings, we faced constant financial hardships. Two meals a day were considered a luxury, and there were times when we had to borrow money just to put food on the table. As the eldest son, I felt a responsibility to help my family, but it meant sacrificing my education. At the age of six, I started attending the local primary school, but my dreams of learning and improving my life were quickly overshadowed by the reality of our situation. My father's health deteriorated, and the burden of supporting the family fell on my young shoulders. I had to assist him with work in the fields, which left me with little time and energy to concentrate on my studies.

Life as a van puller began for me at the age of eleven. Pulling heavy vans became my daily routine, and I earned a meager income. The money was not enough, but it was all I could do to contribute to my family's survival. Often, we faced food shortages, and it was heartbreaking to see my siblings go to bed hungry. In mid-90’s, I started pulling vans at a brickfield, hoping for a better income. But life had other plans for me. My sisters' marriages brought joy to our family, but the expenses burdened us further. My father had to take loans, putting us in a deeper financial crisis. To make ends meet, I started pulling rickshaws during my free time. The long hours of physical labor took a toll on my health, but there was no other choice. I couldn't afford to fall sick; my family depended on me. Over the years, I moved from one city to another in search of better opportunities. I even tried working at a garment factory, hoping for a stable income. But health issues plagued me, and I faced numerous setbacks along the way. Dhaka's crowded and polluted streets made matters worse for my already frail health.

Throughout this journey, I realized the harsh reality of the urban health situation for people like me. In a city as vibrant as Dhaka, access to proper healthcare was a luxury we couldn't afford. Minor ailments often worsened due to neglect, leading to a never-ending cycle of health problems. Despite all the challenges, I persevered. My determination to provide for my family kept me going, even on the darkest days. I learned to appreciate the small joys life offered, cherishing moments of happiness with my loved ones amidst all the struggles.