Determination is the way
When Bablu Pramanik, 45, from Dharbila Khandaker Para in Pabna Sadar upazila had an accident that ultimately resulted in losing both legs it seemed his future held only darkness. But after much worry and effort, he worked his way back into his former role as a driver, to continue to support his family. Bablu's life is, these days, one of tentative hope.
“It started with a minor injury to my right leg from a hot engine in 2001,” says Bablu, who drove a local Kariman transport vehicle at the time. “Later it became gangrenous and in 2003 doctors amputated my right leg.”
Bablu continued driving with one leg but sadly, five years later his left leg was also found to be infected with gangrene. “In 2008 I lost my other leg,” says Bablu. “My world was only darkness. I'd become a kind of half-man.”
Desperate to support his family, he asked many for any small job, with little success.
“Everybody suggested I take up begging,” he recalls. “I didn't.”
Instead, he went to Dhaka to work at a ticket counter but with earnings too low to support his family, it didn't prove to be a long-term solution. “I earned Tk. 300 per day in Dhaka,” he says, “It wasn't enough to support my life there and send money to my family. My colleagues in the capital also suggested I could beg.”
Determined to find any legal work, Bablu returned to his village early this year.
His family suggested he take a loan to buy a battery-powered three-wheeler vehicle to run as local transport. “I wanted to face the challenge in my life,” Bablu told The Daily Star.
“Legs are not necessary to drive a three-wheeler, so it suits me.”
Having previously worked as a bus driver in Dhaka in the 1990s, Bablu has twenty years driving experience to draw upon; nonetheless passengers were initially skeptical. “When they saw I don't have legs they were fearful of accidents,” he says, “Nowadays they know I can do it.”
“I don't choose the long-distance rural routes,” he continues, “and I can't perform my job with the same efficiency as somebody with legs, which means earnings are less; but I am happy to be self-employed.”
Currently Bablu's earnings are up to Tk 350 per day, not enough to cover the daily expenses of a six-member family, but an improvement on his previous income in Dhaka.
In the meantime wife Aleya Begum contributes by working as a domestic help; but their dream of educating their children is proving difficult. Of their four children, the eldest daughter married a few years ago, while the son and younger daughters have struggled to continue study.
“My elder son Alamgir Hossain is a Higher Secondary Certificate candidate but he couldn't register for the exam this year due to our poverty,” says Aleya. “He left his study and joined a garment factory in the capital four months ago.”
The schooling of the two younger daughters, one of whom is a Junior School Certificate candidate, is also at risk. “My father cannot provide despite his best efforts,” says one daughter, Rabeya Khatun. “I want to study but might have to accept early marriage.”
Education expenses are not the only issue. “I am losing strength day by day,” says Bablu, who recently had a finger amputated due to gangrene, with another finger also infected.
There are also concerns about the longevity of his vehicle's battery. He doesn't have a spare. “The battery can be damaged at any moment. I don't know how I can replace it because they cost Tk. 20,000,” he says.
Despite such ongoing challenges, Bablu has shown that where there is a will there is most often a way. “Although my life has seen massive difficulties,” he says, “I never liked the idea of getting pity from others. I lost my legs but not my spirit. The wheels of my vehicle that carry so many passengers also carry my family.”
Even when the vehicle has mechanical trouble, Bablu does not rely on others. “I try to fix it through my own efforts,” says Bablu, adding that if he cannot do anything to take care of his own affairs he may as well have died.
Unsurprisingly, Bablu's determination is appreciated in the village. “When some will turn to begging for even a trivial problem,” says neighbour Md Farhad Hossain, “Bablu has shown how to fight.”