We are in the process of upgrading software and the SDN website will be temporarily unavailable for a few hours on Monday morning EST. Once the software is upgraded, this notice will no longer appear and the site will be back to normal. We apologize for any inconvenience.
  • Image 1 of 38

Theatre of Misery

keith harmon snow | Bangladesh

There are many people begging on the streets of Dhaka, and after a while I became accustomed to seeing some of the same faces again and again. Some of the people asking for help (donations) appear to be Muslim clerics, or lay holy men, some of them blind, some not, and they are often chanting or praying aloud, their arms outstretched.

Masood (33) spends his life these days begging on the streets of Dhaka, with his sister (he said) Amina (35) and their mother Nazia (65), all homeless. He claims Amina was afflicted at birth, and Nazia is nearly blind and lost her right arm in an accident. 

When I first saw them, Masood sat with Amina stretched across his lap, his hand out begging for donations. It was hard to look. Amina's mouth was open, eyes closed, she looked sick indeed. 

Through an interpreter I asked them some questions. My many questions changed, however, as the story unfolded, and I soon found myself pondering what I now call a "theatre of misery."

"They work as a team." An educated Bengali man offered his interpretation. "They use the disabled woman to gain sympathy which helps them earn money from begging. It's a good business. Some powerful people are behind them, controlling them, taking some percentage from their earnings."

These people's poverty and suffering are real: they are victims no matter how you see it. 

They are not free.

Content loading...

Make Comment/View Comments