Dhakaiya Profession

Tiffin Distributer-A Case Study

Posted in tiffin distributers by rrasheeka on April 24, 2009

Photography: Salman Saeed

Every morning Rahima Khatun wakes up, cooks breakfast and lunch, takes shower, feeds herself and her sick husband and goes out to work. She is assigned in the Nawabganj area where she goes to the houses where she is supposed to collect tiffin boxes from. After she collects them she goes to the market where she distributes the tiffin boxes.

Before she used to carry them on a basket over her head and walk to the marketplace. Nowadays, she takes a rickshaw as her right foot has become weak and she can’t carry such heavy load. She has been in this profession for the last 18 years and her current monthly income is tk. 2000 per month. When she first joined 18 years ago, she was given 200 taka per month. The money that she earns is very small and it is very difficult to manage her family with this income. She believes only if she had a child, all her problems would be solved. But she has no children. Her husband was a rickshawpuller and had an accident around 15 years ago. Since then, she became the sole income earner of their small family. She just hopes she doesn’t fall sick before the death of her husband because then there’d be no one to take care of him. Everyday she prays to God to keep her in good health so that she can look after herself and her husband.


Tiffin Distributers

Posted in tiffin distributers by rrasheeka on April 21, 2009

Photography: Salman Saeed

In Old Dhaka there are a number of markets. In these markets there are many shopkeepers who sit there from the time they open the shop to the time the shop gets closed. Many of these shopkeepers don’t take their lunch with them from their homes. Have you ever wondered how they get their lunch?

They get their lunch from people who go to their homes,carry it from their to shops and give it to them. They are the tiffin distributers. These people work under a particular person with whom these shopkeepers make a contract. The shopkeepers pay to the people with whom they make the contract and the tiffin carriers are paid a fixed amount monthly by their employers. They are assigned a particular area in which they go from house to house and collect the tiffin boxes and then go to the markets and distribute the tiffin boxes.Most of the tiffin distributers are women who are middle-aged or above. This is probably because these women didn’t find any alternative source of income. We do not get to see these type of people in other parts of Dhaka. Only in Old Dhaka such a profession seems to exist. This is what is wonderful about Old Dhaka. There are such different types of professions that one comes across in that area.


Posted in Blacksmith by rrasheeka on April 7, 2009

Photography: Salman Saeed

A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from iron or steel by forging the metal; i.e., by using tools to hammer, bend, cut, and otherwise shape it in its non-liquid form. Usually the metal is heated until it glows red or orange as part of the forging process. Blacksmiths produce things like wrought iron gates, grills, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils, horse shoes and weapons.

The profession of a blacksmith is not very easy. It is difficult in the sense that the working environment is not very healthy. The smoke that is emitted in the process of making objects is extremely unhealthy.A blacksmith continuously inhales that smoke all day long. But inspite of working in a hazardous environment, his income is very small. The life of a blacksmith is a vary sad tale.

Television and Radio Repairer- A Case Study

Posted in Television and Watch Repairer by rrasheeka on March 27, 2009

Photography: Salman Saeed

Jogodish Mallick sat behind his desk and asked us if he could help us in any way. I could see that he was expecting us to give him some work. When I explained the reason for my visit, I could see the disappointment in his face but he quickly controlled his emotions and asked us to sit down and ask him what we wanted to know.

I took the opportunity to look around the room. The small room was filled with televisions and radio but all of them were covered with thick layers of dust which showed that these haven’t been touched for ages.There was a single desk behind which Mr. Mallick sat. He was the sole owner of the business.

Mr. Mallick told us that he has been doing this business for almost 20 years now. For the first few years his business ran quite smoothly. But once the demand for such profession fell, it kept falling. Every morning he opens his shop at 11 am and closes it at 9 pm waiting for some customer to bring a radio or television for repair. But there are some days when not a single customer comes. All day long Mr. Mallick stares at the door waiting for someone to walk in through the door and give him work.

Biriyani Cook

Posted in Biriyani by rrasheeka on March 3, 2009

Photography: Salman Saeed

Biryani, biriani, or beriani is a set of rice-based foods made with spices, rice (usually basmati) and meat/vegetables. The name is derived from a persian word which if translated means ‘fried’ or ‘roasted’. It is a very popular dish in Bangladesh. Biriyani can found all over Dhaka but the best biriyani is found in Old Dhaka. This is because it was brought by Muslim rulers to this continent. As they settled in Old Dhaka, their cooks settled there too. Today, there are many food places in Old Dhaka which specialises in biriyani and people from all over Dhaka go there only to have biriyani.

Cooking is an art. And the biriyani-makers are brilliant artists. Each biriyani-maker has mastered this art from anothr biriyani-maker. They have a guru (teacher) who teaches them how to cook biriyani. The biriyani-makers income is quite satisfactory and they usually lead a good life. They do not work independently. They are usually hired by the owners of food places and they are highly valued in the places in which they work.

Bull Cart Puller- A Case Study

Posted in Bull Cart-puller by rrasheeka on February 27, 2009

Photography: Salman Saeed

Turning his head sideways so that the sun did not fall directly on his eyes Mohammad Siraj told me that he used to be the assistant of a cart puller when he was a young boy. From there he had learned how to take care of bulls. But he does not let his son come near the bull cart. He does not want his son to become a bull cart puller. He wants his son to grow up and study and do a proper job where he could have a good living. He lives in Nawabpur and every morning he walks to Kamrangichor to take the two bulls and the cart that he rides. From there he goes to Shadarghat to collect the goods and deliver these goods to the instructed place.

He is not satisfied with what he earns. But there is something about this profession that really thrills him. It’s the ability to be able to control the bulls. While saying this, a smiled formed at the corner of his face. It makes him feel empowered. Hearing him say this made me think. This person who is deprived from so many things in life, who has to take orders from others day in and day out, feels good about the fact that there is some being whom he can boss around, even if it’s just two animals.

Bull Cart Puller

Posted in Bull Cart-puller by rrasheeka on February 24, 2009

Photography: Salman Saeed

Bull carts are not seen in all parts of Dhaka very often. But in Old Dhaka, if you go around the streets you will come across many bull carts everyday. Especially if you are in any street that is linked towards Shadarghat, you will definitely see a number of bull carts pass by.

From early in the morning the work of the bull cart puller starts. These people are very hardworking. They not only look after the bulls but they are also responsible for the bulk of goods that they collect from the Shadarghat and take to the destination. They work from sunrise to sunset taking goods to and fro. Most of the pullers are people who do not own either the bulls or the cart. They cannot afford to buy these. There are people who give bulls and carts for hire. The pullers take it from the owners early in the morning and return them at night. So, everyday, they have to pay the owners a percentage of what they earn everyday. After that, a very small amount is left for these people and their families. The lives of these people have ended up becoming sad tales that people tell to each other. It’s a sad tale of how life has treated these people. The labor that they give is underpaid to the extent to which it can be called exploitation and they don’t even have a voice.

Bottle Cleaner

Posted in bottle cleaners by rrasheeka on February 20, 2009

Photography: Salman Saeed

I noticed a very interesting profession in Old Dhaka. The profession is that of a bottle cleaner. Interestingly, these bottle cleaners are all women. The bottles that they clean are medicine bottles. These bottles come in sacks. There are hundreds of bottles in one sack. The sacks are of three sizes. The amount a bottle cleaner earns per day depends on the size of the bottle. The cleaner who cleans the bottles of the biggest sack earns tk. 40, the cleaner who cleans the medium sized bottle earns tk. 35 and the cleaner who cleans the bottles of the smallest sack earns tk. 30.

Although the income is not quite satisfactory, most of the women are satisfied with the fact that at least they have a source of income. As only women work in the place, the family members of these women have no objection in their working in this job. Old Dhaka is a very traditional and conservative area. Compared to men, hardly any women can be seen working. So, the fact that these bottle cleaners were all women made me feel better in the sense that it reflected a form of women empowerment to me. But then again, on the other hand, many may argue that women are hired to do this work because then they can be paid less. Men would not work from 7 o’clock in the morning to 7 o’clock at night with only tk. 30-40 per day. Whatever it is, this is a source of earning for some people and their livelihood depend on this.

Pinhole Cameraman

Posted in pinhole camera by rrasheeka on January 27, 2009

Photography: Salman Saeed

A pinhole camera is a very simple camera with no lens and a single very small aperture. Simply explained, it is a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box. Cameras using small apertures, and the human eye in bright light both act like a pinhole camera.

There was a time when pinhole camera was used for taking photographs. It was introduced by the Nawabs in Old Dhaka. That is why most of these cameramen were found in the Old Dhaka area near the Johnson and Gulistan road.As technology keeps being upgraded, different types of more user friendly cameras became available. As a result, the demand for pinhole cameras fell. The people engaged in this profession had to give up their jobs and start looking for an alternative source of income.