A week ago when we visited the community at Gazipur, we were told Mustafa was not there because he had gone back to his village in Eastern India. When he returned, Mustafa told us that a poor family in his village had a son who had broken his leg, and the family didn’t have the money for his surgery. Mustafa went home to give them 10,500 rupees (roughly 200 USD) to fix the boy’s leg. Back in Gazipur he told us he didn’t know how he could continue supporting his family because no job paid enough. Mustafa has gone back and forth between waste collecting and selling chickens, but with a wife and five children to support he is constantly struggling to make enough money to feed his family.
As we sat with Mustafa he began to recount a story he had heard while in his village.
“In Kolkata,” Mustafa began, “one man was told by an American fellow to catch crabs. He did so and the man gave him much money for the crabs. When
the man came to get the crabs, he put them in a bucket and left the bucket out with the top open. ‘Why do you leave it open?’ the other man asked, ‘the crabs
‘No,’ the first man replied. ‘The crabs will not escape because each time one tries to climb out, the others pull him back in.'”
“I am like the crab,” Mustafa explained. “Poverty and lack of education keep pulling me back down, no matter how far I get or what I do.”
Mustafa got up, pushed aside the tattered cloth hanging across the doorway and vanished into another home. Seconds later he emerged carrying a worn gym bag. He set it on the bed where
he had been sitting and unzipped it, revealing folders and piles of papers. He pulled out a single folder and opened it, handing us a leaflet of papers. The top paper had his name, his (estimated) date of birth, and the number of years he had attended school: 3.
“I know the importance of education,” Mustafa told us, “I want my children to go to school. I want to learn and fight for my rights, but I don’t know how.”