Me: Explain in your own words, one by one why you cried so badly and could not sleep. Me: Asma, tell me? Asma: They invited me and so I arrived. And stood. And that is when they asked me this. Asma: Aunty spoke and asked me “Are you the fishermen ladies?’ I replied yes. Asma: Aunty said “I heard your fishing net has torn?” Asma: I replied “Yes Aunty, you see even the fishing boats need repairs every year due to rot – so hence the net’s also rot'”. Asma: Aunty then asked: “I thought you would catch and feed me some of your fish?” Asma: I replied “I cannot fish as it is out of season so could not feed you any”. Then I sat down. Asma: When I sat down Aunty did not say anything. Later more village women arrived. Asma: I noticed that these women were getting money. Me: Was this hard cash? Asma: Yes. Me: How much? 100 Taka? (approx £0.80/$1.30). Shayra (nodding) & Asma: Yes, 100 Taka each. Me: Were these in bundles? Asma: Yes in bundles. I saw these being distributed. Me: Who was this? Asma: The ‘fakirs’ (poor women). Me: I meant who was present from my family? Asma & Shayra: Borokhala (eldest aunt) Me: My…my… sister? (Note – I was stammering in shock) Asma & Shayra:Yes. Me: And my mother? Asma: Yes. She was seated just over there. Me: Who else? Both: Uncle Javed (aka Jahangir Alam Chowdhury – a very distant cousin of mine). Me: Ok, carry on. Asma: After Uncle Jabed….then Aunty said to us ‘hey women you….’ something…. Shayra: ‘Why have you come here?!’ Me: Who said this? Which aunt was this? Asma: The eldest one. Your sister. Me: Oh. Ok. So what do you call my mother? Asma: We call her ‘Bibiji’. (Mistress). Me: Bibji..? And my eldest sister you call ‘Borokhala’ (eldest aunt) yes? Asma: Correct. Aunty said to us “Hey women – are you not going to move from here? Move, move, move!”. Asma & Shayra: Aunt asked us “Why have you come here?” Asma: I replied “I came to you Aunt”. And stayed silent. Aunt then said “Get out of this house. Go, go. Or shall I fetch a stick to beat you up with?’ Asma: That is what she said. Get beaten with a stick. Me: Huh! Who said that? Asma: Aunt said those words. Me (to Shayra): Were you present? (Shayra nods.) Shayra: Aunt told a village man: “As these women do not leave, use a stick and beat them off this estate.” Me: Who said this? My eldest sister? Both in unison: Yes. Me: The one who is a lawyer? Whose nickname is Parvin? Both in unison: Yes. Me: What did my mother have to say? Shayra: She was inside the house. Me: Did my Mother not hear this? Was this said in front of Javed? Both: Yes. Me: What did Javed have to say about the stick? Shayra: He said “Get out. By giving help you have become greedy.” Shayra: He said to me “you got given during your daughter’s wedding. You got 5,000 Taka (Approx £40/$65). Shayra: I said “Yes, I got money I cannot lie. Big aunt helped me and I was very happy. But my leg is giving me pain”. Shayra:I stated ‘Whether you wish to help me or not, I will still remain happy.” Shayra: But it was Asma my sister in law who got mistreated the most. Me: What – what names did you get called? Shayra: “Speak up” Me: Talk, talk, talk freely. Asma: “Well I think I got the most verbal abuse” Me: Like what? Shayra: “Verbal abuse” Me: But what type? Asma: Uncle Javed said “Hey women, are you not going to leave. Are you returning again – again?”. Asma: I was standing right on the path over there. Uncle Javed said ‘Look at this woman she is still returning. She is evil’. Asma: Uncle Javed then went to the local mosque and complained about me “That this woman swore at me.” Asma:When I walked until I got to the mosque, he then declared ‘This woman swore at me.’ Asma:I then said to Uncle Javed “There is a mosque here. I did not swear at you nor get angry at any person”. Both: “That I did not swear at anyone”. Shayra: Uncle Javed got into the car to drive to the mosque to declare Asma swore at him. Asma: I said ‘Uncle Javed please give us 100 Taka we’ve been sitting here; and of course there is desire but only because I am destitute.” Asma: That same day I had no food in my house. There was no rice for my kids. Me: Did you inform them? Asma: Not about the rice no. There were so many folks. It was crowded. Just like it is now. It was mayhem. Asma: For me to share such news – how can I explain…it’s… Shayra: It’s embarrassing. Asma: Isn’t it shameful? Now talk to me about crying? Explain why? Both: it was the stress and threat of a beating and of being thrown out. Me: Tell me one by one. Go on… Shayra: The threat of being beaten with a stick. Shayra: You see if only we had our own means of income we would never come to your house. And hence never hear this threat. Asma: The verbal abuse….hence the anxiety. Me: Keep on telling me. Explain it. Why look at you. You are tearful. Me: Is it perhaps upon hearing this abuse you felt embarrassed? Shayra (tearful): Of course I felt embarrassed. Folks will say “Well if you beg you can expect to be abused and thrown out.” Shayra: If only we had our own means we would never feel compelled to come here and ask. Shayra: It is because we are destitute we are forced to keep on returning. Me: Why are you crying – oh dear Allah… Me: Why that day was so….it was….you both were sleepless? Huh? Me: Bubba? Shayra: No. Me: Huh? Why…my family are so…? Shayra: I went and fetched Asma from over there. I said let’s turn back given we are being shouted at. Shayra: But Asma said no. She thought if she stood around en route they will perhaps give her some cash. Shayra: I said “Come let us leave Asma, let’s go”. Let us leave. Shayra: I then dragged Asma by the hand to go stand by that pond over there. Shayra: Yet again Asma kept insisting “Let us try, let us go back as perhaps I will get 100 Taka.” Asma: That day my kids were also ill. They had pneumonia. Me: And what about Javed? What did he do? Shayra: Uncle Javed joined in to say “I will beat you up – your aunt is asking you to go.’ Asma: Uncle Javed said to us “we are crap’ how they all came to relax and ‘you lot never give any peace.” Shayra: Aunt said: “Get a stick and beat them up and get them out”. She instructed local man Ainul too as well as……to that other man…. Me: Do you recall I came that day and asked for forgiveness on behalf of my family? Both: Yes. Me: Next I gave you 1,000 Taka (£8/£13). Asma: Yes, yes you did my dear. Me: Please hear me? My father’s spirit… my father was not like this. Asma: No he was not. We have heard people still talk of him. Me: And after hearing all this, frankly for this reason alone on the spot I gave you 1000 Taka as it made me so sad. Both: Yes. Me: Does this help you understand? As I am so distressed. Me: Know this. I even speak into the camera to ensure I teach this to you all. Me: Even if you are poor there is in place a code of conduct (aqlaqh). The fact that my family are so wealthy is in fact a great exam upon them. Me: This test is how reasonably are they when interacting with fellow humans. Me: I know I can be firm too I also explain – as then do you not agree folks will understand? Asma (nodding): Yes, yes. Me: When one explains…. Shayra: Affection earns diligence! Me: Yes but not just that….if I respect you as my fellow humans….then you too will… Shayra: We’d jump over our heads… Me: But we’d build affinity because as a woman – she is openly admitting to you that she has no hard cash to donate. Shayra: Yes. Me: Do you think it fair that I get a loan to fund destitute folks? Both: No, no. Me: I might appear rich by the sandals I wear, the rouge on my lips. Maybe this ring looks like gold – but it is not. Shayra: Ok right it is not gold. We understand. Me: But I accept I look rich….so it is my duty I help manage your expectations by explaining I have little cash. And I am more focused on delivering my huge social dream to ensure folks like you find a permanent sustainable income. Me: But now having heard this incident I am raging. Even if you are poor, my family, who threatened to beat you.. I will resolve this. Me: Because never…and in fact I am at peace….. Me: You know why? You know what I will tell them? Want to know? What is needed here? Want to hear it? Me: My decision is my eldest sister and Javed have to come and seek forgiveness from you. Me: Yes. Asma: If you are happy, we are happy. Me: No no – this is not about my happiness. Forget me. I am nothing. Me: You are human beings. Have I not returned? Am I not taking a stand? Both: Yes. Me: So both your tears …. Me: Those large teardrops of yours that rolled down…this crying…understand me…? Asma: Yes. These tears….even now – when she thinks of it all – she hurts – even now.. even now…. Me: How many nights were you sleepless after hearing this abuse? Me: Huh? How many nights? Shayra: That day I was so traumatised. I said to myself if Allah had given me means I would never have gone. Asma: That night I cried so very much. Me: You too? Asma: I was so stressed. I visited the lady I call Amma (Mother) your neighbour’s house. She helped me find peace. Asma: Amma told me call on Allah for help and mentioned your name to us. Shayra: Amma told us if you arrived we’d find some solace. Asma: Yes. We’d find solace with you. Me: Are you finding any solace? Me: You know what? I will get the car and you will sit inside it with me and be taken to the local Drs. Ok? Asma: Yes Me: Although I have little hard cash…I need an insight. Me: But listen. I keep repeating – I am so saddened. Who dares to beat you with a stick? Is there no decency and manners (aqlaqh)? Me: Could my family not explain to you there was no cash? Me: Anyhow you only came as my family were the ones dispensing cash! Me: That day were you given any cash? Both: No but another local woman did. And they gave the cash to her all the way over by that pond over there. Me: Who gave it? Was it done secretly? Both: Ainul. Not secretly. It was done openly in front of us. The man called Ainul. Shayra: We were standing away as we were too scared to approach. They left poor womenfolk sitting to dole out cash in 100 Taka notes. From your brother. (I think Asma means Nazmul Hassan Choudhury) Me: So 100 taka? Such an arrogant show off display. Me: What show offs they are! Oh Allah! Another little girl got 500 Taka (£4/$6.50). (I believe cash aid like this is wrong, divisive and damages rural dynamics). (Rural women are illiterate; have no financial rights. And are subjugated by their men and the local land owning families) Much of the local economy is controlled by minority of elite families and feudal landowners who own arable fields often left dormant. Not even NGOs and global charities can reach these folks. Many do not understand this. (It’s partly why I started Lovedesh & Amcariza Foundation as new models for ‘Third World’ poverty). (I have spent 2.5 years in deep grassroot field research in Bangladesh listening to destitute folks explain their poverty.) (Sadly a few weeks later my pious ‘Muslim’ family destroyed my entire research base and field projects). (They loathe the philanthropic work I do! Hence why I now expose my family. They cannot stop empowered women like me from speaking up). (The fact I now talk negatively and openly like this on film will be seen as bringing dishonour and shame onto my family). (Notice how when upset, I speak in staccato!) Me: If I take you to the doctors – will that bring some resolution for you? Will that make you happy? Shayra: Yes. Me: Then that’s ok. Now we finish. Me: What else can I do….? I feel so sad for you. Both: There is nothing more to be done by you. Shayra: Only Allah – if Allah were to give…even if you give us cash every month……we will just take it, eat it and then that’s it. Both: But when Allah choose to give, it never reduces. Shayra: And even if humans given to fellow humans, will this appease us humans? Unless it is given by Allah. Asma: Which is why when means are given by Allah nobody can lessen it. Even if you eat it, throw it or donate it away to others. Shayra: It will only increase. Me: I never understand why it is that when I arrive to the village you seek me out but why be scared of my entire family? I do not understand. Asma: We do visit but it is just that…but you see the way you sit us…. Shayra: Take today, you sat us down, showed us affection and fed us tea. Both: We never get to sit like this. Me: Why? Don’t they sit like this? Shayra: No. They make us sit separately. Talk to us separately. Both: The fact that you are sitting with us – for this I give hundred thousands of thanks to Allah. Shayra: I give hundred thousands of thanks to Allah. Hundred thousands of thanks. Me: Because you are sitting with me?! Both Yes. Proof that concept of untouchables exist within families like mine. Me: Huh? The fact I’m sitting next to you…what you think….does nobody else do this? Shayra: No, no. Me: So me sitting next to you makes you burst with happiness?! Both:Yes, yes – happy. Me: Look. I am touching you, yes? Both: Yes. Me: Look you see?(I kiss them using the ancient rural custom of using our noses) Do you understand? Me: You call them ‘elite – the elite’ – they are nothing. It is all nothing. Me: It all depends on someone’s conduct. Me: Just because someone is rich does not mean they have manners. Ok? Me: The end of the chat. Let us get going. Shall we go to the doctors? Thank you and well done. Both: Yes, yes. Me: And you know this video clip…do you agree I ensured I got your permission first? Both:Yes. Me: Let me now tell you where it will go. I will show it to one of my cousin’s who seems very worried. He cannot believe it. Me: By slowly sharing I can help change my family. I have to fix them. And now it is being exposed others will help to fix them. Me: As it gets shared others also can tell my family that this is wrong. If we do not expose this, how can we expect change? Ok? Both: Yes. Me: Now do you feel like smiling? Me: Are you finding some solace? Both:Yes. Ok – then let’s say goodbye by saying Allah Hafiz (‘Allah protect you’ is the Bangladeshi Muslim custom of saying goodbye). This is the prequel clip. Shot the first time I learnt of this awful incident I now call ‘Ali Nagor Tears’. (A reminder that for rural Muslim women, Islam and Allah is often their only rock. A comfort system the destitute cling to passionately to help them survive.) (So please viewers respect their faith and belief system. And understand why many references made to Allah). xx Asma was very malnourished, weak that day and tearful. She also has a disability – she’s lost full use of her fingers in one hand. Me: So please understand what I am going to say? Hear me? Me: No matter how poor you are – nobody has the right to reduce you as a human being. You are one of Allah’s. Asma:Yes. Me: As for what I’ve heard I am so sad to know my own ‘elite’ family, mistreat and are treading over destitute folks. Me: There is always manners (aqlaqh). Yes? Me: Right now I cannot do anything. I heard you. You did not tell tales to me. I learnt of this from my own research. Me: But I have to now gain insight into my village. Me: Given my mother, brother and sister arrived together. How they conduct and interact with destitute folk. Me: I wonder whether my family are affectionate to villagers? Me: Please do not think that getting their cash is affection. This is not affection. No, no, no. Me: Let’s speak another day? Ok? Me; I understand you have a burden…. (After this film I helped train Asma as a daily house cook where she earnt short term income for her entire family). (I’m now seen telling Asma to seek comfort in Allah and that I will return to help her – which I did). (The Drs was closed the day I took the ladies in. Sadly I never saw Shayra again due to a new crisis meted out by my family). (I was told Shayra fell ill. I receive reports even now and will try to help her). (Who led an array of family members all of whom destroyed my research bases in Bangladesh?) (Anyone who hurls abuse or seeks to troll my family – please do not. They are simply products of a backward family and not worth it). (Instead share/support the work I do at Lovedesh & Amcariza Foundation). Thanks xx.