Monday, May 05, 2008

Losing Perspective

The last two weeks have been utter hell for me.

I just needed to say that and get it off my chest. The worst thing about feeling this way in a country like Bangladesh is that you are constantly reminded about how pathetic your sorrows are in comparison to others. You feel bad? Oh poor foreigner with a roof over her head. You don't know bad.

Yes, I have had to cope with more shit in the last two weeks than I have ever had to deal with in my entire life. Is Jess exaggerating again? No, i am not. Yes, I am having that alcohol craving again. Yes, I am back on sleeping pills. So what?

Two weeks ago, I waited for a friend outside a spanking new supermarket. A woman and her son was walking around the perimeter of the entrance. She had just been told by the security guard to please stay behind this line, do not come in and harass our customers.

She had her hand on his shoulder, a boy not older than 12. There was something very wrong with his right eye, and it looked like he was going blind. I can't imagine he could see anything out of that eye. He looked exhausted, but still quietly stood in front of his mother as she went round talking to people.

They were not beggars.

She came up to me, and pointed at her son, and I had heard this routine before. She needed money to pay his medical bills. I gave her some money and reassured the security guard that had gallantly come forward to rescue me from this pestering woman.

I tried to speak to her, but I could barely make out what she was saying. She was not tired at all, even though I suspect she has been doing this all day. Desperation can be such a source of energy.

She pulled out proof, the medical bills tucked away in her son's shirt pocket. I couldn't concentrate at deciphering the scribbles. I kept thinking, do I really want to read this? If I really looked at this, if I really understood what was happening to her, I would not be able to walk away. What are you doing Jess? You are giving her false hope.

And so I didn't read it. I gave the paper back to her. I saw the sum, though. I don't remember the number anymore, but I remembered thinking there was no way she was going to raise that amount by standing outside a supermarket asking exiting customers for loose change.

In my seven months here, I have been taken home by a rickshaw wallah with one leg, and another with only one hand. On both occassions I did not notice the missing limb until I was already seated and moving along the road. They had both found their own ways to manoeuvre through Dhaka's chaotic traffic.

I tried to strike up a conversation with both of them, just to find out what had happened. The one with only one arm lost the other in an electrical accident when he was 8. When we reached my house, I gave him an amount slightly higher than what I usually give. He looked at me with such disdain. I could almost imagine him saying, "You've got to be kidding me." I gave him more.

My colleague recently started a second job selling electrical appliances. The new job starts at 5.30pm, and he ends work in my office at 5pm. He earns based on commission. He can no longer support his family with one job. He has two sets of parents, siblings and a wife to feed. With the price of rice being what it is, he had no other choice. The same amount only buys half of what they used to get. The rent already takes up more than half of his salary.

Poor foreigner, feeling sorry for herself.


ghimlay said...

sigh i don't know what to say babe. but i think you shouldn't deny your problems and feel bad about them. problems are still problems, and unhappiness is still unhappiness, just that they go by different definitions in different places. hope you feel better soon.