Nine-year-old Raihan is the only child of his family. His mother Rabeya Begum named him Omar Faruk Limon at birth, with Raihan as the nickname. Six years ago, his limbs became disfigured due to polio.
Raihan's father Hasan Mia was a truck driver. Two years ago, he died in a road accident. As long as Hasan was alive, the family were able to arrange for everything necessary for Raihan's recuperation. However, their hopes were extinguished by doctors who said he was never going to recover and would have to live like this all his life.
In spite of this, Raihan's parents left no stone unturned for his treatment. But all of this stopped after Hasan Mia's death. Today, the family earns their living by begging on the sides of Mirpur's busiest streets.
Rabeya Begum told this correspondent that everyday she takes Raihan to the footpaths of Mirpur 10 roundabout, lays him down and the two of them beg money from passers-by all day. They collect a meagre sum, but it's enough to cover their rent, food, and bear a minimum of Raihan's treatment costs.
They get out from their tiny room at Mirpur Jhutpatti slum every morning at seven and stay out on the road for around 12 hours. They live their life on the edge, as around Tk 600 has to go behind Raihan's medicines every week – that's Tk 2,400 a month, a lot for a family that begs.
For the last two weeks, the family has been brought down to their knees by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As most people have stopped plying the roads and started working from home or going back to their villages or hometowns, they're income has dwindled down by at least a third. Whereas they used to earn around Tk 5-600 before, the best they can make now is Tk 3-400.
But more importantly, Rabeya is now in panic over her son's health. As they pass they days on the street, with thousands of people passing them by, the duo are in increasing risk of contacting the novel coronavirus. In such circumstances, according to neighbours' suggestion, Rabeya now sits on their spot with masks on her and Raihan's faces. The strain this puts on her mental health is immense.
But even here there's a complication. Raihan's medical conditions make it hard for him to breathe as it is. With a mask on top of his nose and mouth, it becomes extremely difficult for him to respire. When this correspondent asked her about it on Sunday evening, Rabeya said the best she can do now is temporarily remove the mask every now and then to help his son catch his breath.
It would be easy for them if they could stay home for a couple of days, but this is a luxury the family cannot afford. "If we don't come to the footpath for one day, our stove will not get lit and our rent will go unpaid. We do not know of any other way to live than to come here and live by the day," Rabeya said, rather stoically.