TRAVEL | EDITORIAL | BANGLADESH

The Silent Acceptance of Fate

Part I: Brick Factories of Dhaka

Bright orange hues, trails of smoke from furnaces, vibrant outfits, endurance and silent acceptance of fate are the hallmarks of Dhaka’s brick factories. The rhythm of life of a Dhaka factory worker is exhausting, with barely enough time even to eat and pray, let alone love.

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Brick workers in Dhaka work six and a half days a week and earn barely enough to cover daily expenses. The children who should be in school must join the family’s labour force as soon as they leave their toddlerhood behind. A large number of factories use either coal or firewood as their primary fuel source to fire bricks. The chimney stacks are too low, and the fumes are toxic.

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The workers awaken at dawn and must get to work at 6 am. By the time they start their daily labours, every man, woman and child is already looking forward to the 9 am break of just half an hour. Some shovel clay into machines to mould bricks, sweltering in the heat. Covered in red dust – the rest of the men, women and children (as young as six years old) scurry around carrying bricks to dry in harsh sunlight and then back into the scorching heat of ovens under the chimney. 

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left: Unquenchable smile in the hot sun

Bottom Left: Carrying the heavy load

Bottom Right: right orange against the grey 

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Come storm or harsh sunlit hours, they must continue working until the second break of the day at 2 pm for lunch to make enough to get by. They get paid by the number of bricks transported on a given day and work twelve hours daily. Their day ends once dusk falls in bushels, calling the weary to rest. The workers then flock to nearby rivers and lakes to wash off dust, fatigue and despair from their bodies, clothes and spirits as best as they can. They return home in the darkness to cook a meagre meal in their narrow sparsely-furnished homes. 

The worker families live in makeshift camp-like villages not too far away from the factory. Most homes lack the primary facility of electricity, and on days they get late to go home, the women are forced to cook in the weak light emanating from kerosene lamps and the stove. Once fed and watered, they fall into an exhausted sleep.

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Touchingly, in spite of the harsh conditions, most people seem to remain friendly and even offer hospitality to visitors – a silent testament to the unbreakable human spirit even in the harshest of conditions. 

As the sunsets, it is the end of another day, and tomorrow life starts all over again, at the brick factories of Dhaka