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Survivors: A Photo Essay by GMB Akash

Majed Miya (in red), a carpenter, on the roof of the Dhaka to Mymensing train. He has been travelling this way for two decades, going to Dhaka for work and returning weekly to his family in Mymensing. In Bangladesh many people ride on the roofs of trains as often that is the only space available. For others, the fares are too high and can be avoided or reduced by travelling on the roof. However, this practice also leads to regular accidents, many of them fatal.

40-year-old Hashmoth lost half of his face in a tiger attack in 1995 – a survivor in the most literal sense. The attack occurred on his first day out fishing in the Sundarbans swamps. He was sleeping in the boat when the tiger attacked. Though he survived it, the damage to Hashmot’s face was so disfiguring that no one from his village would come near him anymore. His parents coerced a girl to marry him. Hashmot found the strength to resume his work as an independent fish trader, parts of his face covered by a piece of cloth. The Sundarbans region is home to some 500 Bengal tigers, one of the largest single population of tigers in one area. They are believed to kill between 50 and 250 people every year.

An elderly inmate of the Pashupati Bridhashram (home for elderly people) basks in the timid sun at the corner of a veranda. Old people spend their days and evenings here in the hope of seeing a familiar face but most of the time, they hope in vain. Provisions are scarce in the home that runs on donations; some weeks, there is just enough food for three days.

This century-old building in the outskirts of Dhaka does not harbour ghosts of the past – it shelters living and hopeful souls, braving life in the present. It’s a home to 80 families of sweepers – one of the most neglected and downtrodden communities despite their rendering an important service. They deserve to be noticed and respected.

15-year-old Nodi is a bonded sex worker (Chhukri) in a brothel in Faridpur. She was sold to the brothel by her stepmother. Many of the girls working here are given the drug Oradexon, a steroid, by their madams. It is considered to make them appear older and thus avoid falling foul of a law that requires sex workers to be over 18. One of Oradexon’s many hazardous side effects is water retention, oedema, which can result in a ‘plump’ look that some men even find attractive.

A child who lives in the street takes a drug called shoe glue, seriously harmful to physical and mental health. Up to 17% of homeless street children are addicted to drugs.

A child grabs the opportunity to get to the water-pipe to really quench her thirst in peace — in one of the very rare moments when there is no queue.

Survivors by GMB Akash won Honorable Mention award in CLICK ABOUT IT, an international photography competition organised by the European Journalism Centre. ThinkBrigade will feature some of the competition’s best photo stories. 

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