Rana Plaza Tragedy!!

What to describe and what to write? All I could see were dead bodies all around me. A silent anger, unbearable pain and helplessness froze my finger to click. Besides dead bodies and each drop of their blood asked me to tape their catastrophic death memoir to show the people around the world how painfully they left the world. Those memories have been haunting me for a long time.

I witnessed the tragedy of the Rana Plaza collapse 10 years ago today, surrounded by dead bodies and blood. 

Drinking tears now is a daily menu to the people whose life collapsed with the building Rana Plaza.

I don’t know how many times we will remain mute and hollow out graves! I don’t understand why the world’s most innocent souls have to always be trapped as vulnerable victims! Their souls will never rest in peace until we know how dreadfully they died without even being able to tell their last wishes.

On that stormy day when I arrived at the hospital door, I was repulsed by the sorrow I encountered. No, rain was not the reason; it was the pain in every face which no words can describe. 

Looking at a hundred wounded bodies and amidst the cries of the hundreds of wounded, I felt an urgent need to share their stories with the world, to shed light on their unbearable suffering…

Today, as we mark the tenth anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, let us remember those who lost their lives and those whose lives were forever changed. May their memory serve as a reminder of the need for justice, for greater protections for the most vulnerable among us, and for a world where such tragedies never happen again.

Remembering Rana Plaza Tragedy…

(The 2013 Dhaka garment factory collapse (also referred to as the 2013 Savar building collapse or the Rana Plaza collapse) was a structural failure that occurred on 24 April 2013 in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka District, Bangladesh, where an eight-story commercial building called Rana Plaza collapsed. The search for the dead ended on 13 May 2013 with a death toll of 1,134. Approximately 2,500 injured people were rescued from the building alive. It is considered the deadliest structural failure accident in modern human history and the deadliest garment-factory disaster in history.)

Dreams of child laborers

Every time I am working with children on different projects, I like to collect their stories and I always ask them to tell me their dreams. Here, I am sharing with you 10 common dreams that these working children keep inside their hearts! These dreams can give us insights into the souls of these little angels.

Child labour in Bangladesh is sadly very common with 4.8 million child labourers or 12.6% of all children aged 5 to 14 finding themselves in the work force in order to survive or to help their family survive.

I have been working on this issue for the last 15 or more years to create awareness and to bring about positive changes in our society.During these last years, I have taken a lot of steps in an effort to contribute to the education of some of these impoverished working children.

A few years ago, I set up a school for unprivileged children outside of Dhaka where around 160 children from rural villages receive nearly free education. Most of their parents are illiterate and these children will be the first generation to be able to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

I have also given scholarships to hundreds of students who, otherwise would not be able to continue their education and might end up working in factories and in hard labour jobs.

Recently I have been trying to admit working children to school. I have been giving small businesses to their parents so they can earn enough money for the family and send their children to school instead of a factory. So far, I have admitted 22 children to school and have taken full responsibility for their education including all expenses. I will see that these activities will be continued for these children and hopefully more children, until my last breath.

These efforts have, of course, been effected by the COVID-19 health pandemic and the resulting economic and labour market shock that is having a catastrophic impact, in particular, on poor people’s lives and livelihoods.

Unfortunately, children are often the first to suffer. This crisis can push millions more vulnerable children into child labour.

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When I grow up, I want to be the owner of a factory and I will name my factory after my mother. _ Razu

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I want to send my younger sister to school; she loves to study and to go to school. _Sojib

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I want to build a factory where there will be more light, drinking water, fans and more space for working._ Munna

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We will rent a big house in our slum so my parents and my younger sister can sleep comfortably at night. Now, in one room four of us cannot sleep. It is too warm and crowded!- Sobuj

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My mother works as a maid and my father pulls a rickshaw. I want to grow up fast so I can earn more money every day. Then my parents won’t need to work._ Parvin

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I wish I could work in a textile factory. They have a better environment with a fan, toilet and clean building._Shilu

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I dream I will have my own factory where nobody will beat any children nor say bad words to them. _Jewel

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I studied until class 3 and then we came to the city for work. I miss my school and our village. I Hope I can return to our village and study in our village school._Midul

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I want to buy everything that my mother likes. Like new sarees for her, good shoes for her, anything she loves._ Koli

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GMB Akash 

Photojournalist and Profile Photographer at Panos Pictures, London

Founder of GMB Akash Institute of Photography, Dhaka



Website: www.gmb-akash.com

Photo Agency: www.panos.co.uk

Photography Workshop: www.gmbakashworkshop.com

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/gmbakash

Instagram: www.instagram.com/gmbakash

Blog: www.gmbakash.wordpress.com


‘Heroes of Life’ – Part I

‘Heroes of Life’ – are those incredible humans who always find their way to light and love. They had known defeats, sufferings, struggles yet they possess a beautiful story in their hearts, which is worthy to share with the world.

Kawser Hossain, Shamsuddin Miah and Rani’s stories touched everyone’s heart. They were featured first in GMB Akash facebook page and become an inspiration for thousands of people all over the world. This video is about how we have helped three of them so they can give a good fight with their lives and remains as unbroken as they were. Thanks everyone for giving them love, respect and support.

You tube Video: ‘Heroes of Life’ Video interview



Yesterday, I was able to buy a new dress for my daughter after two years. While I handed sixty pieces of five taka note to the seller, he yelled at me by asking if I am a beggar. My daughter held my hand and cried to leave the shop by saying that she did not want to buy any dress. I wept off her tears with one hand. Yes, I am a beggar. Ten years ago I had never thought in my nightmares that I have to live by begging from people. The night coach fell from the bridge and unbelievably I was alive. I was alive by becoming a disable. My youngest son often ask me where had I left my other hand. And my daughter Sumaiya feed me every day by saying she knows how difficult it is to do all work with one hand.

After two years my daughter is wearing a new dress, that’s why today I brought her with me to play for some time. May be I will not be able to earn anything today, but I wanted to roam around with my little girl. I secretly borrowed this mobile phone from my neighbor without informing my wife. My daughter has no picture and I want to make this day memorable for her. When one day I will have a phone I will take a lot of pictures of my children. I want to keep good memories. It’s very difficult to send my children to school, but I am educating them all. Sometimes they cannot attend exam because giving exam fees is not always possible by me. On those days they feel very sad then I tell them, sometimes we can miss exams because the biggest exam is life which we are giving every day.

Now I will go for begging. I will place my daughter in a signal where she will wait for me. I will look at her from distant while begging. I feel shame while she looks at me when I lend my one hand to others. But she never leaves me alone. Because there are big cars, she thinks accident can happen again, these cars could run on me and I would die. Whenever I managed to get some money I return to home by holding my daughter’s hand. We do bazaar on our way and my daughter always carry that bag. During rain we love to get wet and talk about our dreams. In someday I do not get any money, on those days we return to home silently. On those days I feel like to die but at night when my children fall in sleep by holding me I feel being alive is not a bad thing. Only bad is when my daughter waits for me in the signal by keeping her head down. When I cannot look at her eye while begging. But today is different. Because today my daughter is very happy. Today this father is not a beggar. Today this father is a king and here is his princess.

– MD. Kawsar Hossain


This father and daughter received love from all around the world. It takes almost one month for me to find out him. After several meetings with the family, Kawser wanted to have a source of income. He wanted to do vegetable business in rickshaw van. He also wanted to educate his daughter and he never want to beg in his life.


I promised Kawser to gift a van rickshaw and settle his vegetable business. He has received vegetable business and a rickshaw van. His children received scholarship for one year. I long a few generous friends contributed for this cause. ‘This Heroes of life’ – are extraordinary human beings. Sumaiya and his father Kawser is already making differences in their life.









‘We can help someone with the minimum we have. Someone’s nothing can be someone’s everything’   

Remember the elderly couple?’ For everyone they are ‘The Baghban couple’!

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Last year we fled together. We never thought we could do that. I knew that our children may stop communicating with us. But I and my wife are living forty seven years together. Every day after sunrise she wakes up me first and together we do our prayers. Forty seven years we never had spent a day without each other. Seeing my wife’s face was the first thing happen to me every day. We struggled together with our six children. In the past, often times I was able to manage one time food for my family, I and my wife starved whole day after feeding our children. She never complained, never told me that I was failed as a husband. After so much suffering we never left each other’s side, never fought one single day, and never lost faith on each other. When my elder son took me and the youngest daughter took their mother, we did not realize that they decided to take us separately. Our children earn little and they have their expenses. After fulfilling their children’s need our need was burden to them. We knew everything but it was impossible for us to accept that we cannot be together anymore. I shamelessly asked my elder son and he was very surprised. He informed me that none of them are capable of taking care both of us.

I tried to adjust. But every morning when I wake up I wanted to see her smile. I spent my whole day by waiting for my son’s arrival so I could talk to her with the phone he had. But he arrived late night when on the other side my daughter usually went to sleep. The day when I was able to hear her voice none of us could speak a word. I heard how hard she tried to keep clam her tearful voice and I murmured stupid things. I never thought life can become so meaningless without each other. Every day I felt to run to my daughter’s house which was far away from mine. Then one day by gaining some courage I told her that I wanted to run together. By surprising me, she asked me to go right away. I took my walking stick and never looked back. We run away together with empty hand.

Now I sell children’s toy. I hardly can manage 100 taka every day and after I return to home I found food on our bed. Our children arrived once to see us last year; they told us how we failed them, how humiliated they felt for our behavior. We did not say anything. We do not want to hurt them. They decided to never come again. Sometimes we feel bad for our children, we miss them. But we know we are running out of time. I am fifteen years older than my wife. Any day I may die in the road while selling children’s toy. So I keep saving some money in a mud bank, I do not want my wife to beg to people to finish my last work. But every day my wife cries a lot during her prayer, whenever I ask her why she is crying so much, she would always say, ‘I want to die with you’.

– Samsuddin Miah (77) with her wife Rekha Begum (62)


For Shamsuddin Chacha, it’s very hard to walk miles after miles by carrying toys in his back. After all his hard work the little money he earns goes for his cancer patient wife’s medicine. After daily struggle of managing food and medicine, every day they find their way in their wrecked one bed room house. I along my facebook page GMB Akash friends comes forward to help him. ‘After receiving the rickshaw van and shoe business we are very happy. We pray to God so we can move forward with this work. I cannot thank enough everyone who has helped us. We are feeling like today is an Eid day’ – Shamsuddin Miah


Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal …



He was about to throw my one month old boy. I was holding his leg and he was kicking me constantly. There were scars in every parts of my body. With blade, knife and needle. Sometimes by holding my legs he pulled me out in such a speed that it was very difficult to keep my clothes on my body. My daughter had run behind me by taking one of her scarf to cover the naked parts of my body. She used to scream, ‘Please, help my mother.’ But no one came to help us. He had beaten me on the road. Someday my girl counted the scars of my body and often told me that she lost those unlimited counts. My husband was a heroin addict. After selling everything I had, we were the only things for him to sell. I used to keep poison with me all the time. My daughter knew that it was poison. Whenever we were hurt, by holding and crying to me she asked, ‘When will we have the poison, maa?’ I asked her, ‘Why?’ By weeping her eyes off she replied, ‘It’s very painful to live.’ Then that night arrived when I decided to end all our pains. We were counting hours for our death. My one month old son was smiling in his dream. I could not put poison on his mouth. I held both of them with my chest and ran away, ran away before anyone could sell us or kill us. At that midnight no one asked us what had happened, where were we going? Whenever I was slowing my daughter was crying and telling me, ‘Run Maa, run.’ When the sun was rising, we heard the sound of azaan and crows were flying all over above our heads. I asked myself, ‘Where should I go?’ I wanted to give a chance to me and my children, by breathing in free air, by having some courage to dream. Without knowing where to go, whom to knock. I do not know what we will eat tomorrow. My daughter is struggling every single day to feed us. I am incapable of walking straight. Every night I heard my daughter crying secretly, whenever I touch her head to calm her down she often whisper, ‘Everything will be okay, very soon.’ I nod and say ‘Yes’ to her. Knowing very well nothing will change, light will never enter in our lives, we will never be able to smile. Not everyone knows how it feels to be happy in life.

– Rani (33)

Rani wanted to change her life. To help her we settled her with a rickshaw van and spice business.



Everyone can help someone. Everyday can be a different day. Thanks for becoming a part of this change making journey by giving your warm words, by offering your gift and making everyone believe that humanity exist

–         GMB Akash

‘Smoky World’

The suffocation is unbearable in the dark. The smoke is so intense that you cannot breathe for a few seconds. When you will be able to see something then you will realize that hundreds of people are working attentively. Suddenly you will hear the sound of coughing by some small kids; very soon you will be discovering that half of the people working in the area are children, as young as they can be. The faster they work the more they get paid. But their production rarely increases and their payment remains in the same range: 100-150 taka daily for 12-16 hours of work. Still, all of them are continually trying to do the only job they know.

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Most of the poor villagers are dependent on this job. Small kids sometimes forget their surroundings and start to talk to each other. Parents swiftly scold them or punch them in their arms. Again the kids start to work and fill the local cigarettes (Biri). They know well that there is no value in talking but there is value in working. Children can deliver a quality production because their soft hands help them to do that without any wastage.

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These children learned the cruel reality of life first and then they learned work. They know feeding themselves is more important than going to school. ‘They cannot live with an empty stomach but they can live with an empty brain’, a parent biri maker said. Sojol echoed his father’s statement by saying, ‘I want to go to school. But school is for rich people. ‘

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Rani always feels a burning sensation in her eyes. While she is filling the cigarette she often touches her allergic eyes with her finger, which causes irritation and tears fall the whole day. Rani does not like to make biri, but she has been doing this work for three years.

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‘What are you making?’ the question was for Bablu, a nine-year old kid who innocently replied, ‘Biri..it causes illness. ’What illness?’ He again promptly replied, ‘Cancer.’ ‘From where did you heard that?’, with a brighter smile he added, ‘Television’.

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Workers toil at a hand rolled cigarette (locally called a biri) factory in Haragach. Workers have to labour from dawn to dusk making biris filled with tobacco flakes, earning very little money and in hazardous conditions which can damage their health. Children who work at the factory work from 9am to 8pm every day and are only paid 50 Taka (GBP 0.45) for making 5000 biris.

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‘Today’s Slavery’

The sound of Monu’s footsteps compel us to look at him. It seems he is willingly trying to make the strange sound grab our attention towards his new gum boots. Before I speak to him, he shows all his teeth and enthusiastically says, ‘Bhaijan I bought them for 200 taka from the street. Bou (his wife) had washed them so well that I can see my face in them! Ha! Ha! Ha’

Before I compliment him something someone on my right side, Nibaron, who is Monu’s colleague of 15 years loudly said, ‘Hmm, does your new wife, still cry for you to drop the job, Monu?’ Monu recklessly replies, ‘Women are fools! She thinks tannery labourers die earlier. Allah is the one to decide. Women are crying party. Now I have these gum boots to protect me. She is happy and I am happy too!’

Monu got married to ‘Salma’ five months ago. Salma heard that tannery workers die at an early age, so she started requesting Monu to leave this dangerous job. But by doing this job for last 15 years, Monu, a 21 years-old man is surviving. He cannot imagine doing any other work than tannery nor is he capable of doing any other job.

The chronic cough he has or the rashes on his skin do not bother him anymore. Still he dreams of a better future with the 8000 taka salary. Now the dream is sweeter with his caring wife ‘Salma’.

Posing for the camera he said roughly, ‘By working in this hell, I am still alive. God might be giving me a long life bhai.’

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I have been taking photographs in this factory for many years. I cannot find many of the faces I used to know. When I inquire about them the common response I hear is that because of illness they moved to their villages with their families.

The repulsive smell on my body or the sticky chemicals on my favorite jeans does not affect me anymore; Just like Monu. Only when I return from this work and the rickshaw puller turns his head several times and at last wisely says, ‘Sir, you came from tannery!’ Then I realize I am also polluting the air.


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Like Monu many labourers believe that a pair of gum boots is their safe guard. Some of them tie gamsa (a traditional cotton towel) to save their lungi from the filth. But when they start working their sweat, factories chemicals, and raw leather shower them with poison and loathsome smells. A pair of gum boots and gamsa can not not save their hope to survive very long.

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Every time I enter these deadly factories, I imagine that I am leaving the 20th century and have gone back 100 years in time. The ancient plan has neither fan nor any air circulation system. Thanks to those decades old broken bricks in the wall there ia a path for some fresh air. The leather hangs from the ceiling makes the air more toxic. The unstoppable giant drum keeps moving restlessly with raw leather pieces  and produces extreme laud noise. If fatigue overcomes labourer they fall asleep in the piles of raw leathers. Some labourers get a cigarette and take a break to see the sky outside. But the sky is dark and filled with smoke. The drain that is passing by is full of red chemical liquids that keep polluting the area and the mighty river Buriganga for 60 years now.

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11-year old Rakib gives me the brightest smile and curiously asks, ‘What do you do with all these picture, sir?’ But he then rushes away before I can speak to him. Carrying uncountable leather pieces  in his shoulder he has no time for questions and answers. Rakib’s friend Monir (7-year old) keeps pinning up the leather at the yard. After the death of his father he got the job in his father’s factory. He had no idea what had happened to his father. He only knew he was suffering from an incurable disease. He feels good to work during the whole day and it is only in evening when his heart cry for playing.

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Standing beside Monir I was trying hard to understand their miseries but laughter broke my concentration. I saw a group of workers cracking jokes outside and were laughing hilariously. Life goes on. These simple people risking their lives everyday in order to live the best they can. Society is not actually willing to know about their sufferings but they are nevertheless  willing to buy their processed leather which leather has a good worldwide reputation. However the savles of the toxicity and repugnant odors have no good reputation. In their way home to to their slums they cannot sit in any tea stall to relax. People shout on them for their repulsive odors which disturbs everyone. Only their produced goods get place inside a branded shop with a prestigious tag ‘Made in Bangladesh’. The makers only receive humiliation.

Tannery worker Omar Faruk sadly says, ‘If we travel by bus nobody will sit beside us. One day a man harshly said to me, ‘You must come from hell.’

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(Almost all of Bangladesh’s 200-plus tanneries are concentrated in Hazaribagh, a densely populated, filthy neighborhood on the banks of the Buriganga River in southwestern Dhaka. You can smell them long before you can see them: an unbearable stench like bad eggs, rotting fish and harsh ammonia. It’s almost impossible to walk through the tanneries without a scarf pressed to your nose. At almost $1 billion a year in sales, the leather industry is one of Bangladesh’s most profitable sectors. The lives of more than 20,000 tannery workers are still at risk. After 60 years of tannery operations, no one knows what content of toxins have been poured into the river, only that it is incalculable and staggering. Chromium sulfate, lead, organohalogens, lime, hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid, formic acid, bleach, dyes and oils all flow into the river)


‘Survivors’ Part II

“My photo book ‘Survivors’ is not only important presentation of my 10 years works. It is significant to me in many ways. Surviving in a poor country — facing adversity daily — is akin to a lifetime of tragedy. So in a number of ways, the images presented on these pages are my own experiences, too. My journeys connect me to the many characters. Sometimes I had to run, take a ride on the roof of a moving train, sleep on a flooded floor and spend many hours walking the maze of avenues through sprawling city slums. It is the reaching of my protagonists, the welcome into their homes and their lives, that makes my work worthwhile.

And if mine is the hand that blocks the scorching sun from their eyes — bringing shade for just a single minute, then there’s value in the work I do. I am touched that people started valuing my small step. Yes, one never can complete one’s quest for serving for humanity but I am trying. While photography is a big task but beside it is my willingness to serve these people whom I photograph which is more challenging.

I am gifting business/source of income to each family I am able to give from my book ‘Survivors’. Finding people from the book whom I captured 5-10 years ago, talking/sharing ideas with them, finding the right business, even in some cases doing the business myself for few days, educating them, monitoring them become toughest than photography. But I believe, every amazing achievement starts with an impossibility. Now after seeing these happy families of Survivors, I realize, when many little people in many small places do many small things, they can change the face of the world” – GMB Akash

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Over the course of the last decade, I have built a collection of photographs depicting the wise, resigned, sad and sometimes bewildered faces of children, sex workers, climate change survivors and many others who share the “struggle” day-in and day-out. And although the circumstances of many of the people I portray may be grim, as individual they are people of remarkable character. And it is the beauty of such people and the human soul that remains when nearly all else is gone. This beauty I strive to capture in the photographs I take.

This post is tribute to those ‘Survivors’ who sifted their life with my small gift and make a bench mark to rest of the people by becoming example to their community or locality.

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Sajib – a child labourer is busy with his immense workload. These children are deprived from almost all human rights, dedicating the entire childhood towards supporting their families in need. Heavy workloads, prone towards injuries and discrimination are common to them all.

I took picture of Sajib in an aluminum pot factory four years ago. Sajib’s (14) mother Salma Begum’s (35) working life started when she was 15 years old. 10 taka (1 USD =80 Taka) was her first salary. She has one daughter and only one son Sajib. She might never send Sajib to work in silver factory if her income can generate three times food for her two children. She came to her slum 26 years ago. She earns 500 taka per week as well Sajib earns 400 taka per week. They have to pay 1400 tk rent of only one room in which she, her husband sleeps along their children.

Her husband has affairs with other ladies and spends his whole income either for women or for addiction. She cannot let him go as he is her children’s father. Her daughter is very good student. She always do top in the class. But Sajib or Salma Begum no one can give her fees, books, dairy or even Tiffin. Sajib sometime manages to do overtime and gives his extra salary to his sister to continue her education. I spotted Sajib and get a picture of him three years ago in silver cooking factory when he was 11 years old.

Through the ‘Survivors’ project I find him out and get the insight of his family. I understand Salma Begum is one who can help the situation, if I lend my hand to her by project ‘Survivors’. She has previous experience of selling bed sheet and she earns enough that time. She was just an employee of a Khala (aunt) who has the capital. She saw khala earns 200-300 taka daily while she sells everything. But end of the day she got 50 taka as her labor cost. She leaves the job as she has no capital and the income was low. Now she wants to do that business again by the assistance of expertise of one of her sister. She wants to sell Kamiz (women dress) and Shari to door to door and later in a shop. The only thing is she needs capital. I trusted on her idea and let her do the business and go to buy clothes with her. Her plan was she will buy cloths with her full capital then with the selling profit she will buy more and again move for selling.


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Her planned worked. She got good customer in her locality and other areas who willingly buy cloths seating at home. She do profit less, sells more thus she gains customer loyalty and this uneducated lady now is a successful seller. It’s been nearly year she is doing her business and her son Sajib is helping her. She sends Sajib to Brac School but he could not able to read or write and feels shame to do study with juniors. Salma Begum decided to involve Sajib more in her business and admit him in a technical school beyond conventional. She bought furniture for her small house and her only daughter now goes to teacher for private tuitions.

She is more than happy with the fact that still woman like her is capable to earn a dream with dignity. And my happiness? Seeing this family, I feel simply proud. 

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31 year old Hashmoth lost half of his face in a tiger attack in 1995. The attack was on his first day out fishing. He was sleeping in the boat when the tiger attacked. Though he survived it, the damage to his face was such that no one from his village would come near him. His parents forced a girl to marry him. At the initial days of his marital life, he would not allow his wife to look at him. The region is home to approximately 500 Bengal tigers, one of the largest single populations of tigers in one area. These tigers are well-known for the substantial number of people they kill; estimates range from 50-250 people per year. Satkhira, Bangladesh

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By the project “survivors” I planned to help him. I ask them what business will be easy to do for them or what income source can be easily maintain by Hashmoth. He & his wife came to a decision that they will sell fish in market. For this purpose they need capital. I go to their near market with them, saw Hashmoth’s capability of selling fish by a trial. Then we went with Hashmoth to see how difficult fish business for him is. As my method of helping is not giving money in hand, so I assign a volunteer who will assist them to do business in first one month. Already I visited twice but still the place is far from the city, so I keep my faith alive that they will overcome all obstacles. 


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And they did. Along help of her brave wife Hasmoth is selling fish in the market and spends his profit for daily expenditure of their family. His wife manages to save little from their profit. Hashmoth goes to sell fishes at early morning and at evening. Rest of the time either he takes rest. Thus Hashmoth is able to stop himself from begging door to door and become a real survivor in the race of life.

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“Several times I have been severely broken heart, injured or illnesses have torn me down. Nevertheless I continue working because of my strong belief that my pictures can make a difference. I learn, the wound of today is the power of tomorrow. And ‘Survivors’ proved me that no matter what happens in life still life is precious, each moment deserves celebration

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“I was searching for ‘Survivors’ to help their families. It was a long journey to find each and every face after ten years later.”

A quote of Helen Keller is a big inspiration for me in this journey which I want to share with you all:

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

– GMB Akash’



‘Street Boy’s Dream’

I am nobody and I have nothing. A simplistic human being stated as photographer who continued to question around his world. I conjure traveling in the different layers of myself and host an activist inside me by innate attributes. Yes, neither I am an industrialist nor do I hold a lion’s share of a company. For me CSR or charity is fancy word. But the passage I walked 15 years smiled melancholic to me. I marvel and interpret it to the world believing for a change. But the verb ‘Change’ itself very ‘dearly-won’. I found 18 years old drug users dyeing abandoned before I take him in my shoulder, I know how a sex worker cut off veins and her bleeding marks keep me awakening nights. I know how cold and deep an old lonely mother’s breathe can be in an elderly home. In the dormitories of injustice of the world I uphold to believe in ‘Miracles’.

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Roton a 12 years old street child once said me. “You rich people just talk, talk and talk! You are nonsense, all of you are nonsense. Children of my age goes to school, plays at park, their mother clean their skin, force them to get shower. Look at my hand, my hair, my skin no one tells me to take shower. I run to carry baggage of passengers, they throw me money like I am piece of shit, police beat me, and goons take my money. No one care, nobody. I sniff shoe glue, I want to lost, and I want to delete my memory. I curse you, I curse government, I curse my unknown parents, I curse everyone of this cruel world”.

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Roton’s voice echoing all the time and I can’t rest in peace with my eminence. This is the story of me and the people I care for. I feel it to tell it to you as I want you to love someone, to give tinniest love of your heart to the abandoned. Try to discover your image in the light of their eyes with love and hope. So sharing a small episode of my continual journey and once more telling you I am one of you, a person having no wealth at all but a heart to give away whatever I have. If my single word, small phase of explanation inspires you, please merge in.

You’re given this life as gift; make yourself a gift to life.

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‘By wiping off tears with corner of his shirt a Teenage boy was walking through rail line. The world seems ugly with eyes pour water. A weird anger runs in his vein which is unexplainable to him even. When he takes a seat under the lazy evening light, he started feeling the pain of his chest. His father beat him by clutching with mango tree. His step mother was literally happy and didn’t give him his lunch. His crime was to fall asleep in the field with cattle. Hungry Shuvo (13) started missing his dead mother, who may never allow him to go away from home without having lunch. In the station and in such a warm day who care about an oversensitive boy and his empty stomach. Anger, depression, misery everything mock at Shuvo. Two days, three nights Shuvo had only leftover from restaurants. When he jumped into a running train, he didn’t calculate about upcoming calamities of his life, only he heard the roar of his angry heart. When he started seeing around him, he saw many of other children reluctantly sleeping in the floor of station’s platform. In the time Shuvo feels he is not alone. Unknown faces become familiar and more affectionate. He sleeps with serenity after three nights of sleeplessness. From the day Shuvo is bohemian.

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When Shuvo tell me his tale, Raihan (11) laughs loud and say ‘Police first day take me and beaten up a lot. They thought I take drug. I don’t even know what Dandi (a drug street child takes) is’. All of their daily earning is 60-80 Tk by carrying baggage of passengers. Sharif (14) remained silent. Neither he wants to share his story nor listen to others. Depression is in his skin, in everywhere of his belongings. When I smiled at him, he smiles back too, then whisper, “Do you think I can do it ?” I replied “YES! Three of you can!’

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Their curies eyes, hope on me, their trust making me nervous inside. What I can do further? In a scorching afternoon I can lend my hands to them and show affection but what about their wound which is as fresh as their age! It’s been already months I seat with children show movies, counseling with them, taken them into lunch BUT THEN? One, two, Three thus hundred children and their dreams! Am I capable to hold them all! But I stop myself questioning. I started doing something. With my nameless family our journey begins. Shuvo, Sharif and Raihan are three members of my family.

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‘Can’t sleep last night Bhai, I pushed Sharif many times and ask him when the sun will rise and you will come’ – It was Raihan speaking to me in the final day. Three of them were wearing two paints and two-three shirts at a time. They don’t want to lose their precious dirty cloths so they wear it all the time. Returning from a long assignment and was on the way when I received call at 6 am from Shuvo asking when I will come. I change my mind and by hanging the bag I started towards them skipping home. I was 10 minutes late but as soon as I appear to the place three of them running to me like kitties. Besides them many of others were wondering with curiosity.  I heard a loud voice of Paglu (self-named) ‘Bhai, if they become good boys I will join you too. I swear my Mojnu (a street dog) that I will never take drug again.’ Paglu is along them with whom I pass a day monthly, show them my images and discuss topics needed to share.

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When I walked with my three boys I realize they didn’t eat anything yesterday. So first we went to have our breakfast and had it full. They listen to my each word carefully and we planned what we will do in coming three months. Already I taught them small calculation weeks ago. Then I went to buy clothes for them. Raihan is the youngest and started demanding many things while Sharif scolds him for his behavior. When again I ask them, is that they can remember their address/home and I can take them back like Masud, then their faces become cloudy. After a long period of silence Sharif said ‘After I become succeed in life I will return back. Then you can take me home’. I realize their mental condition and don’t force any more.

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In the shopping mall they started selecting their desired cloths in the time of bargaining I shared sharing their small story with curious people though none of the shopkeepers sacrifice a penny of profit for the sake of these boys. I don’t wonder because I know ‘responsibility’ term only referred to ‘family’ in our society. & we cannot change until we realize from ourselves. After buying cloths, we buy sandals, combs, mirror, oil, everything they needed to live a children life properly. I took them to cut their hairs and nails. Then I took them to a place for shower.

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When I stood beside them with soap they were the world’s happiest children in that moment. I can’t control to capture the moment with my camera. Crowd of people were following us, few of them thanks me and few of them make me annoyed. After having full packed lunch we moved to our working place.

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I gift them small opportunity of work and connect them with business under a mentor. MD. Melon has a popcorn business who alliance with us and agreed to be their supervisor. I gift them the capital for popcorn business for three months. At first day of their work I myself sell popcorn in the road with them to inspire them by standing next to them full time. We calculated profit and they put it in their own piggy bank as saving of their first day job. They were amazed to see that together they made a good profit and still had enough for food. Thus their story starts, every day after finishing school they come to their Supervisor and take products and go for selling. At evening they return back calculate prices and pass free time by playing. It’s been three months and they make their capital double. The name of their business is ‘Street Boy’s Dream’. Now they are planning to shift their business for selling Ladies accessories and cosmetics.

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Beside them other groups of children are doing different kind of small businesses by my gift which comes from my book ‘Survivors’. It is bless to share that ‘First Light Institute of Photography’, the photo school, I am going to launch in this August will be their institution and support center. I dream to go along with street boy’s dream. Their small steps are gift for my life, reincarnation of my soul. Their affection has filled my heart with utmost peacefulness. I believe, we cannot afford to lose hope, for we are all part of making some small and large changes, each day, each moment. We all can make a deposit into someone’s life. The best part of this form of giving is that it is LIMITLESS. By which we can make an incredible difference in their world.

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‘Inside the Cage’


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I inspect them with wondering mind. Standing in the middle of a place that is difficult to describe with adjective is impossible. The guard opens the door and bumped me in. Before I realize the guard was disappeared and I found myself in the cage.  A whistle breaks my nervousness and I eyed over a young face. He mocked at me and as soon as I take my first step he vanished with sound of his chain fitted in his leg. In a meter distance from me a naked man seating beside the drain. A few meters away some contorting their emaciated bodies as much as the shackles will allow. Others are setting comatose. The 1,000-square-meter center is divided into two iron-fenced dormitories — one for men and one for women. Confined by the length of their chain, the wooden stock in which they are trapped, or the makeshift cage in which they are imprisoned, they are forced to eat, sleep and defecate in the same spot.

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I found the boy mocked me at the door again in water area. A naked boy, thin with protruding ribs, turns his head down as he is sprayed with a water hose and getting bath by the help of center’s stuffs. But this time he didn’t even notice me.

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I continue motivating myself not to lose my mind. As a human being it is intolerable to look into faces which have no more past, no more future in fact no more present even. It’s seems odd to see how patients are living in iron-fenced dormitory and how many are chained but this is somehow logical when the centre’s assistant make me understand later. They do it for patient’s attacking behaviors. Many of them hurt others as well themselves by hitting head in the floor or wood. In the beginning when their treatment starts with the chain they slowly become clam and it helps later for their treatment.

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A man suddenly appears in front of me pointing his finger he is calling me ‘Hello Mr. Teddy Smith, how are you?’ for a second I feel he is completely fine, a normal person like me. Then I saw his chain. His words were echoing in my ears. With another turn I noticed, I am wearing a T-shirt with a print in it “Teddy Smith”.  

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I keep looking at patients lying in the floors. Confined by the length of the chain a patient is lying comatose. Most of the patients have brought by police or NGO’s as they were spending their lives in on the streets for lack of ignorance family to the lack of psychiatric services for the poor. In lunch time most of the patients eats boiled rice and usually there is not much chatter between them. They need at least 3 tons of rice a month and tons of vegetables, but the center hardly can manage the food for enough funds.

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My visiting time ends but the guard forgets about me. I shivered in fear for a moment that how I will pass more hours in these iron-fenced dormitories. I keep listening someone is crying quietly, someone is reciting Quran’s one phase repeatedly; someone is singing a song with an unusual tune. I waited and imagine how life has taken them in such cage. How every day the battle of living gives birth of insanity. There is a small portion of psyche living inside all of us. The difference is people who lost themselves fully only treated as psychiatric patients.

While I was fighting inside, I heard footsteps of the guard. I hurried to go out and listened ‘Mr. Teddy Smith, Bye, Bye’.

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The overwhelming stink will welcome visitors in the entrance of Yasan Galuh rehabilitation centre for the mentally ill, outside Jakarta. Created in 1994, The Yayasan Galuh rehabilitation center is a foundation that cares for mentally-ill individuals who have been debarred from the Indonesian society and who have no access to medical care due to their limited financial resources. In Yayasan Galuh, more than 260 patients spend their days on hard tiled floors hooped by open sewers. Patients are often chained, caged, and naked. The screaming and weeping is constant. Despite the awful conditions, here facility staffs see themselves as healers giving patients – many who have been left at Yayasan Galuh by family members – ancient and effective therapies. Most of Yayasan Galuh’s 260 current patients were referred to them by the police, NGOs or the patients’ families. Tens of thousands of mentally ill Indonesians bear an unimaginable torment, left to battle the demons of severe psychiatric disorders while chained and shackled for years on end. The 1,000-square-meter center is divided into two iron-fenced dormitories — one for men and one for women. There are hundreds of mentally ill people shackled for years, even decades, by poor and clueless families who believe they have no alternative. Indonesia has a population of 240 million, and only 500 psychiatrists. The resulting treatment gap leads many to rely on traditional herbal treatments and prayer to alleviate mental illness commonly thought to be caused by dark spirits. Almost 750,000 Indonesians with mental illness get no medical treatment throughout the country.

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‘Life for Rent’

Night is the meaning of life here. Don’t dare to feel I am talking about moonlit night. It’s about a place where fluorescent bulbs hesitate to light up the great darkness.  You have to go step by step by listening giggles and following Hindi songs. Cheap aroma or local fragrance continually defeated to hide smells of stinks. At this place, dreams never can lose its paths even by mistakes. But it certainly can turn into the ideal background for a horror blockbuster by following nearly naked heroine’s poster or staring into a photographs where a lady wearing red lipstick with her innocent eyes hanging over fungus wall.

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Four storied building’s busy staircases are lively by steps of clients. Girls for converting themselves as women putting all make up from her dearest make up box and keeps doubling lighten up their cheeks with cheap blusher. For killing hunger each moment they have drunk tears and fighting with each other to get same client for a night. Excess make up, vulgar cloths and even by showing off most of the female fascinated body parts these girls can not satisfied their MADAMs.

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In the race by standing full day beside the door dressed like this they have to show their madam their extra talent for hunting a client. While few of them get tired of being waiting and being rejected, lastly they may get one/two clients at the last moment of their very tiring publicity. Then the bargaining starts. It’s the bargaining of beauty, the outer shell. Minimum 100 Tk – to maximum 500 Tk depends on the job’s creativity and longevity.  Either a client comes for an hour, for a night or for several nights they never bother to enter into the corridor of these beautiful doll’s heart. They rather treated her as a toy of entertainment.

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As like being used for years after years these girls started feeling themselves as product. Product of modern day slavery. In the middle of these professionals there is also few girls common who uselessly try to hide their body with their small cloths, who will not look at any one’s eyes either for sorrow or for shame. These girls are new to the place, they been bought by madam one or two days ago. Betrayal boyfriend, step parents or their closest one play with their innocence and sold them in the castle for Tk 4000- 20000. Before realizing what had happened in her life her innocent soul has been captured by brothel’s reality. In between them there are girls who has been gang raped and our civilized society refused to accept her, so she finds her MADAM as mother and releasing all bitters of her life by the profession of sex worker.

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Fighting over getting men at night does not change relationship between themselves on the day. An unknown bonding for each other has tied them up and takes care of them in dear need. That’s why, when a girl out of frustration cut her full hand with blade just to torture herself, her roommate wipe it off and put medicine on it. A six feet by six feet room is world for 3-4 girls, so when customer leave they decorate the bed with flowery bed sheet or place artificial flower for adding beauty of it. Knowing a home never will come in their life still they care for their small room as like their house.

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By remaining in the strict guidance of Guards for several years these birds stop weaving their wings and thus they forgot how to fly. After earning 100 Tk per client 3-4 years passed thus but loans and buying money of madam does not meet up as these fates less girls can’t even calculate. If their luck is good enough few of them get little better madam who let them free after three to four years to do their business independently.


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The story does not change here. Again after doing free business the girl do same mistake by giving heart to a client. Then one day come when the trusted man flew with her all money, gold and faith. All the tiny battles she had within inside that do nothing but shape her emotions, make her able to drink her tears of blood. Stories of a brothel have many shapes. Many girls do not miss their Fazar prayer; many girls learn to recite Quran. Many girls penned their parents and send money monthly putting fake address in the envelope. Many girls forced to take a drug designed to fatten cattle for market name Oradexon.


The Bitterest Pill - A new danger for child sex workers in Bangl

Their day passes by. One day visibly wrinkles can no longer hide by their heavy make up, then they started losing clients, then one night come when they had no one, and they become nanny of younger sex worker. Finally after death their bodies can be buried in a cemetery, though still in a separate one. But better than having their remains floating in the river covered by a sheet which previously practiced as ritual. Their existence remains in their tank which preserve full of their life memories, which lastly kept by their dear one if someone still have time to recall a sex worker.

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“Its been 12 years I am familiar to them. Not only as a photographer but also as a brother. In the photograph, I am seating with my one of the sister from Tangail brothel. Whenever I go there, she runs towards me by calling “Akash Bhai”, she brings sweet, tea and speaks and talked lot about her dreams. These girls are weak for affection as I once treated her as sister now she granted me as her brother. No one knows the story of those faceless girls who are sold by their boyfriend, husband or parents. This is one way journey to brothel a place that is everything to them. By documenting on them I would like to spread their story of pains which are only locked into their own madam’s castle. I can also recall about one girl from those uncountable faces. Unsurprisingly – and despite her name – Asha isn’t very hopeful for her own future. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever get married or have children,’ she says. ‘No one will marry me. If they did they’d only keep me for two or three days, and then they’d sell me back.’ She is more streetwise than some of the other girls here, many of whom share a tragic dream that one day a knight in shining Armour will arrive, to carry them off; then they will marry him, have his babies and love him forever. I wish there would be a knight in shining Armour will surly arrive, to carry them off from this living hell! I wish and I really wish!” – GMB Akash


Inescapable Jungle

“Every day living in the terror of death is enough to sabotage ones life. Behind the beautiful jungle there are stories which has mentally paralyzed 3,000 ‘tiger widows lives’ in the universe of Sundarbans. People living surrounded by the jungle are living in the fence of fear. Fear of losing their own life or their family in any day or night. Sons after losing their parents, grandparents in tiger attack has again walked in the same path to feed rest of the family, knowing their life may end any day, any moment by a second’s ignorance. Their bravery of fighting with a small knife with the ferocious tiger is heroic only if they can fight and win, if not the flesh of the hero will dry and might disappear in salty water of the sea. From there no one can get anything than the blooded cloths. The story of surviving hunts them every moment in their life. As the beautiful jungle is the reason of their life and reason of their death too. They and their breathe belong to the mighty inescapable jungle” – GMB Akash

Marium Begum’s Husband Abdul Hamid went for fishing in Hatdabra canal in the Sundarban along with two fellow fishermen after Azaan. While they were fishing a tiger swooped on him and dragged him into the deep forest while his fellow fishermen escaped unhurt. Later, forest guards recovered the bruised body from the deep forest.  Marium is just one of about 3,000 “tiger widows” in the Sundarbans.

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Marium is bearing the wound of losing her husband. She describe the day with a painful tune , “The day remains nightmare for me. Noisy birds were circling my hut. There were bad omens everywhere. And my heart was beating in rush. I told him not to go but there was no food to eat so he has to leave and never come again” – Marium

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75 year old Momresh Sekh lost his left eye to an attack by a tiger in 1969. He was accompanied by his uncle who hit the tiger with the branch of a tree. A jagged scar runs from his head to the back of his skull. Lumps of flesh were torn from his chest and thigh. He is blind in his left eye.

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Forty-five-year-old Emem Ali poses with his daughter. In 2008, Emem was the target of a tiger attack. Grabbed by the arm, he was dragged into the forest, but abandoned by the predator at last. Found and brought to safety by a companion, he lives to tell the tale. Now he is living by selling fish in the local market. He is hoping to get a shop for surviving.

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It was a small life saving knife as this only tool saved Shofiqul Islam’s (42) life from the men eater tiger which was snatching him to the jungle. Hurts kept marks in his body though honey collector Shofiqul lived form hand to mouth for four months by avoiding the path of jungle. But after four months of his attack while again he was entering into the jungle, he said ‘Either I have to earn my food or I will become food for the prey.’

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This shirt bears the horrific memory but it is an icon for Shofiqul (42) too. The shirt reminds him the roars of the attacking tiger, its unbearable snatch to his backbone and his spirit to fight back to it with nothing but a small knife.

Shofiqul said “You no longer have to go deep into the forest to be attacked. They wait at the banks. I have never seen that before. We believe that even to use the word tiger risks summoning one”

The Sundarbans is made up of hundreds of islands of mangrove forests and mudflats. This is one of the most beautiful but most dangerous places in the world, a place of tigers and crocodiles and dangerous seas and canals. The region is home to approximately 500 Bengal tigers, one of the largest single populations of tigers in one area. These tigers are well-known for the substantial number of people they kill; estimates range from 50-250 people per year. Because of rising sea levels and shrinking forest, humans and tigers are fighting for space. The farmers are forced into the forest to hunt for honey, fish, or collect crabs, putting them at risk for a tiger attack.  Poverty forces people into the forest, into the tigers’ natural habitat. And the animals are hungry, with hunting and newly introduced diseases steadily reducing the populations of wild boars, deer and monkeys in the Sundarbans. Hindus and Muslims alike believe that only the Goddess Bon Bibi can offer protection from the big cats. There are several statues of the forest goddess scattered throughout the jungle.

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45 year old Shaidul has stitches put into his chin in Shemnagar Hospital. He was badly injured by a tiger while he was out fishing. He said , “I thought it was a large dog. I pushed it away and heard a splash within the time its hits me”

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45 year old Abu Taleb lies motionless outside his home. He was attacked by a tiger whilst fishing and has now lost the use of his arm and leg. He is unable to walk without the help of his wife. He spent seven days on the floor of Satkhira Hospital with severe injuries to his head, back and neck. After a year of bed rest he has still not recovered from his injuries and his wife has been forced to become a day labourer and beg house to house.

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In 1995, the attack was on his first day out fishing. He was sleeping in the boat when the tiger attacked. Though he survived it, the damage to his face was such that no one from his village would come near him. His parents forced a girl to marry him. At the initial days of his marital life, he would not allow his wife to look at him.

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Beside men tiger attacked many women of the village too. Faizun is showing her scars which are permanent mark in her head. Tigers are coming closer to villages in search of food. They smartly attacking villagers and standing near the bank. Faizun was collecting woods from near her home beside the bank of the river, while tiger attack she thought it is a big dog while realizing she remember nothing. She believes forest’s goddess saved her. Somehow she manages to escape and after the attack, she fled to her hut and collapsed.

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42 year old Atiar Rahman was attacked by a tiger whilst out fishing. He lost his sight in his right eye, the ability to hear, as well as severe injuries to his back, neck and face. He spent six months in hospital at the cost of 9,000 Taka (80 GBP) and is now completely bed-ridden. His wife works to support their large family by working as a day labourer. She earns 50 Taka (0.4 GBP) a day.

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Because of rising sea levels and shrinking forest, humans and tigers are fighting for space. The farmers are forced into the forest to hunt for honey, fish, or collect crabs, putting them at risk for a tiger attack. 

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The boat is the small vehicle which is use to go for fishing in the deep forest of sundarban. And often while they stay at the boat in night tiger attack fisherman and they have to fight back.

“Inside the Sundarban there is ‘silence’ everywhere, a fear runs in veins with the fragrance of incense, standing in the village of frequently visited by Man Eater Tigers, listening villagers rhythmic chanting and prayers and feeling the urge to get back to safety all these made it helpless for urban, educated, technologically advanced people. This jungle is only understandable for the people who are made from it, the people live by jungle can’t leave the place even knowing how risky to live within. Thus they will face the hungry tiger habitually either to live or to die.”

– GMB Akash

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“Survivors” Part I

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“It seems like a lost world, where standing in a quivering dark, where there is nothing but darkness, a place where you stand alone and shiver in fear. I experienced the same. Children who are inhaling pains within themselves every second make me feel small, their sweating smile flashes their innocent identity, touches of their dirt-oily little fingers interpret their presence in my life, their spoken or unspoken life stories makes me unrest. Since then, I am upholding them inside of me. A simple and small photograph’s emotions might inconceivable to you if still now you do not know any of such children who straggle each day to make a living from nothing. Till the day, I know I had to do and I have to do my bit, may be it could be major, may be it could be minor but that was the day, I open the door of my heart and take them in. I vow to fulfill their lost smile by refilling it in their innocent lips. The creation I am crafting in 10 years never give me such feeling , but then first I felt the tender of giving birth of the creation by dedicating it to the angles of hell, at least my first endeavor to bring them up from the darkest hell.   I celebrate my rebirth by expanding my arms, placing as more children as I can and thus my voyage begins.”- GMB AKASH

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I cannot remain mute about the oppression that divides human beings — which is one of the reasons I commenced photography and it’s been 14 years I am doing.  And it is my duty as a photographer and artist to point with my pictures at every aspect of existence in the society and world I live in, to show what can be shown, to go deep into every milieu and also into every aspect of poverty, deprivation and hardship that I encounter – because the only sin for a photographer is to turn his head and look away. After 14 years, acquiring tons of awards and gaining access to all major media frankly I experience NO CHANGE in the life of people I photographed.

Despite knowing a photographer duty only tilted for showing and investigating reality but this simple rule does not bring peace to my heart. Once an 8-year old balloon maker told me, “I took some damaged balloons for my little sister; I have no time to play. I have only time to support my parents,” I realized at that point I should turn my lens on lives like them.



I decided to dedicate whatever fund I left after make a living of mine to give to these ‘Survivors’. First I decide, I will gift them opportunity which will come from my personal earnings, portion of print sells or selling portion from my book ‘Survivors’. In the industry I am a straggler yet my pursuits provoke me to make my first experiment before I publish my book ‘Survivors’. I started searching faces inside the book and outside the book, which I photographed and found in vulnerable situation. One year I compromise my time, my photography, my assignment and my daily life to search these faces, I started living with them, understanding them and keep finding what I can do to make them able to earn a better life together. My idea is, working with them within the circumstances, gifting them the opportunity which will come as advantage in their life, advocate them as an assistant, monitoring their changes in life in one word to do everything that I will do to change my fate if I were them. Searching a face which I shoot 10 years ago is not an easy job, a face can be invisible in a crowd but I am fortunate to find many of them and building trust on me. 10 successful families consisting of ave 60 members make my dream come true. I ensure their life better, much better than they were living. & this gives me faith to publish my book ‘Survivors’ which is and will be the source of finance and gifting business/opportunity/education/chance to these ‘Survivors’ whom I photographed past 10 years. It was the day when I finally face my eyes to these children and touches their hand knowing I can at least rescue few of them from their daily hell. I become one of them, I become their hope, I become their asset and thus I started valuing myself and understand the significance and purpose of my rebirth.


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It was just one year ago when I again found out Munna, whom I photographed at 2006. ‘Integrity with innocence’ this is the concrete of Munna’s character portrayal. Five years ago I first met Munna. Five years have passed fates of Munna & his father brings no change in their lives. At 2011, only difference was, with his five years experience Munna was getting 1600 taka ($1=72taka) per month. Moreover 12 years old Munna was running his younger sister education with his extra income of Friday overtime.

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Munna’s father Alamgir was a cobber. Their family is consisting of five members who receive continuous negligence from their community as he works as cobber. Munna & his sister ashamed to say that his father is cobber and his little income cannot give education to his younger daughter Shathi and hunger forced Alamgir to send his little son to the factory which produces rickshaw particles. Alamgir elder daughter has to get married at early age because of poverty. They managed to eat hand to mouth, but without depending on Munna’s income their foods cannot be assured. Munna’s younger sister appeared to her class one final exam by borrowing pencils from neighbors, she had nothing without will for education. Munna works in a factory which produces intolerable noise during work. His 9am-7pm works ruined his childhood. His overtime income never allowed him to play. In fact he lost his interest for playing. A shy, unspoken boy whose whole body was covered with dust and permanent scratch on skins dull his brightness in an extent that he seems belong to the darken factory.  During working with him in his work time, I never saw his smile. He had no ambition, no dream and surprisingly had nothing to share with anyone.

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I aim to help Munna & his family. & my journey with them begins.

After seating several sessions with Munna’s family, we come to a decision that Munna’s father is the person who can be the financial in-charge of the full family and setting him in a business that he is capable to do will be helpful for the full family. After our market survey, by understanding the business chains he decided and I agreed with him to let him do business of cucumber. My logic is not to give money at their hand. I went with him and prepare everything; in short I assist him in every way to do the business. After one month of successful business Alamgir take out Munna from the factory. Their family started having three times food and able to provide rent of the house in proper time. He manages to make his capital triple in three months.

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Munna’s younger sister running her school and did top in result. She will be in class four next year. Munna’s only one dream is to support his sister in education and fulfilling his family’s loans which are liabilities of their bad time. Still he wants to support his father by at least doing something. Within two months Alamgir tried to admit Munna at school but Munna told him in his spare time he will go to night school to get same age students like him and at day time he wants to do something he likes. As well Alamgir was afraid as they are living in slum and children who have nothing to do mostly get mixed with people who supplies drugs/engage in bad works. Again after seating with them, Munna expressed to me he wants to do popcorn business and he wants to establish himself independently. I realized I cannot take out him from the situation; I have to assist them to get a better life in their present situation. So I agreed with him and go to see first what will be his changes in life if he sells popcorn near his home at sadarghat.

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Now every day, Munna willingly wake up early morning after brushing his teeth he seats with his sister to learn from her. Then he goes to ghat and buys popcorn from vendor later he sells popcorn till afternoon in ghat and finishing his work at 1pm he came at home. Now within months his appearance has changes a lot, his face, hands, and legs, fingers scars are recovering and mostly vanishes. The best thing is that now he laughs, he is making friends in evening field, he is proud that he is doing his own selling and helping his family beside education. Munna who lost most of his childhood in blocked, dull factory now loves to spend time with people by selling popcorn. He becomes vocal and ambitious. He keeps savings from his selling profit of popcorn. Munna’s sister Sathi dreams to become doctor. With the income of Munna’s father and Munna they are happily dreaming for their future.

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Every evening Munna plays cricket with friends. Within Nine months Munna is recovering his forgotten happiness. His few hours works, playtime, quality family time and private education changes his life visibly. A family who hardly once managed one time food now can ensure nutritious foods for their children. A pessimistic Munna is now very much optimistic about his life and future. His family is earning happiness by putting out of their mind about their past bad days. I dream to get hundreds of Munna in my journey and to refill their lost smile. I am happy that at least there are many munnas with me and I am able to make them a part of my life. I will share these stories of my life with you one by one. It’s my belief that if a single hand comes to hold a child miracle in their life can happen.

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“I am a story teller, nothing but I steal emotions, this link me to those lives which wrapped me in sentiment. I am a simple human being; I do mistake and learn from it. But I like to do experiment and I hate to be defeated. I try and keep trying until I achieve. I will keep contributing magic in lives I face with my camera. I will do my part, I will do my bit. A quote from Helen Keller inspires my journey.

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

If your heart is moved to do something do not make it complex, plan it, do it & do it right now. Stop dreaming in expectation of Superman. Within you there is a vast chance of opportunity spread your wings & bring humanity.” – GMB AKASH

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Angel in Hell – Part II

“Welcome you again in another season of Hell. Down in these dumps the name called childhood get matured for a few at the age of five. Their silent cry echoes from wall to wall of every hell which is considered as blessed place for them to earn bread.  Their compact workstation, fiery factories or even the dusty brick lands are the place where they brought up independently” – GMB AKASH

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Telling about the working environment of these children is a heart breaking job. Factory machines usually produce an intolerable degree of echo in the working place of these children. For adding more strain on them excessive heat works as miserable factor. Textile factory workers start their day at 8am and finishes at 8pm. During these working hours they managed to heal the pain of sound and heat by earning 1200 tk per month($1=83tk). In the brick field scenarios are not different. In brick fields every day work starts at 6 am, carring head-loads of eight bricks from the furnace to the supply pile. Each trip back and forth is allotted a little over a minute. For a twelve-hour workday for each 1,000 bricks child at a brick factory in carry, they earn 80 tk (<$1) after meeting expenses. Other hand, on the construction sites, children must sweat and slog through the intense heat of the sun, working long hours for scant reward. Moreover same obscurity and hardship in balloon factory, rickshaw factory, tannery, dump yards, motor parts factory, mirror making factory, coal and cigarettes factory. There is no such a single risky job where a child labour cannot be found.  For many of them Jeans paint with a torn shirt is their everyday wear.  And banana with bread is delicious meal.

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They are sincerely doing their job because of their family either to support them or for their helplessness. I admit human power is the incredible above all. Their spirit overcomes all difficulties to feed them and their family by any hardship.

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Factory owners straightly said, ‘If we do not employ these children they will be one of the street-addict children. Can you give them three times food, education and a home? Few of these children are helping their mother to survive. Few of them are helping educating of their younger. We are assisting them at least to survive in life with this working training.’  This is the most common answer I received from the majority of factory owner who assigned children to their factory. 

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Children can be a source of income, this insane thought still practicing among many part of the lower class group which leads them to give birth more children. Many families are dependent fully on the income of their 5-12 age children. But for many the stories are different.

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I come to know these heart touching stories which are worthy to share. Many children are running their sisters education on their own income, many children efficiently managing three times food for their sick parents and many children still manages to spend one hour to study in night school. Many children touched me by saying they dream to have a factory with their savings! Even with this limited income! They are soulful and they have dignity which we should not let die. So I realize family is the root by which there must be a way to improve at least few of these children’s life. Helplessness of a family forces their children to work in a hazardous condition.

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“Escaping from a situation where 7.4 million children are standing to you for a solution is pretty shivering. I believe it’s a sin for me as a human and as a photographer to turn my head and look away.  I attach my life with them and thus the story starts” – GMB AKASH

To be continue…

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Angel in Hell – Part I

“If my images bring to life the haunting realities that millions of children face each day then this is fulfillment of my work. And if mine is the hand that blocks the scorching sun from their eyes – bringing shade for just a single minute, then there’s value in the work I do. I am talking about 7.4 million children who are risking their life each second to rescue themselves from hunger and poverty, a tale of those for whom we rarely care about. I keep asking:

Who is there to bring them in the light from their working- living-hell? Who will save these innocent hearts which will decline with time! Is there any one? ”

                                                                  – GMB Akash  

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I have traveled extensively in all developing countries including mine to document the use of child labor in factories. Years after years I have to wait to get entries to some of those hells which are only built to burn childhood in secret zone. I waited hours and hours beside the factory gates to get seldom permission to meet up those fateless kids. They never allow anyone to keep any documents or proof bearing things, but I did it by convincing factory owner. All time the heartless scenario, danger to get caught, inner emptiness frozen my finger to click. But when those children give a look with all the sorrow in expression God give me instant power to overcome anything of the world. & then my clicks never took a break.

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The factories as too dangerous for children. They are “gloomy, unhygienic, smoky” and are fading away the children’s lives.  I talk to the children in the factories and they tell me their stories, adventures and sacrifices. Their innocent smile can break your heart into enormous pieces if you stand in front of where they work/ live. My photos show the terrible environment they work in.  Wherever I go I find great insecurity of lives. No protection, no appreciation, no opportunity. Their treatment varies child to child. There is no specific rule of behavior towards worker nether any of the factory maintain any core of conduct. Generally teenagers get bit generous treatment compare to children. But here experience never adds up any extra benefit for them. All are struggling in their own way.

* According to UNICEF, more than 7.4 million children are engaged in economic activity in Bangladesh. Many of them work in very poor conditions; some even risk their lives. Factory owners pay them about 400 to 700 taka (6 to 10 US dollars) a month, while an adult worker earns up to 5,000 taka per month.

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My intention is not just to depict the children as victims of exploitation. I want to show the complexity of the situation: the parents who send their little boy to work in a factory because they are poor; the child who has to work to earn a living for the family; the boss of the factory who engage children also helping them otherwise, as if these children stay in the road they might take drugs or might become thief. I think it is impossible to abolish child labour completely in Bangladesh in the short term, but I do think it is possible to improve working conditions and to bring more children from factories into schools. I have been profoundly affected both emotionally and psychologically after seeing the repulsive evils of child labor.  I feel guilty when I eat good food, and I feel haunted by the children in my photographs. I hope to achieve justice through documenting these conditions and making people aware of what is going on in these factories.

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It’s positive when after seeing these photos people take a step, even realizing their situation can help. I believe many of us definitely indebted to them who are working for us in such condition. One day one by one we will all gather against such crime. Children will go to schools instead of factories. Yes, I am taking & I will until voices raise & hands come out.

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“Can you exchange a day with your own child in the place of these children? Can you deposit your children’s labor in such a place for a day in return of $1. If you can’t, can you please do something for these children? “Wishing to help” is an excuse. Shame is a mild word to what we are overlooking. May our spirit wake up.”

– GMB Akash

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‘Quest for Justice – Vigilantes in Pink’

“In the time of articulating the story ‘Vigilantes in Pink’ I apprehend that Woman has the supreme power of the supreme Being. She can be the one who eliminates sufferings; she symbolizes her mastery over all qualities which society never admitted characteristically. In their sadistic world – Gulabi gang never lost their hope, fighting against the injustice they are cleaning themselves a bit. Yes, I learn from them, each day we will not get a chance to save somebody’s life, but each day of our lives offers us an opportunity to affect one”

– GMB Akash

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“My real strength is not in the stick, it is in my capacity my goddess gave me to give lessons to those abusive men” – Malti, from gulabi gang

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Dressed in poignant pink saris, the all-female gang shames abusive husbands and corrupt officials.The several hundred vigilante women of India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Banda area proudly call themselves the “gulabi gang” (pink gang), striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers and earning the grudging respect of officials. Fed up with abusive husbands and corrupt officials, India’s poorest women are banding together, taking up arms, and fighting back. Their quest for justice is actually working. “Pink Gang” fights for the rights of women and other marginalized people in rural India.

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Banda is one of the poorest parts of one of India’s most populous states. It is among the poorest 200 districts in India. Over 20% of its 1.6 million people living in 600 villages are lower castes or untouchables. Drought has parched its already arid, single-crop lands. To make matters worse, women bear the brunt of poverty and discrimination in Banda’s highly caste-ridden, feudalistic and male dominated society. Dowry demands and domestic and sexual violence are common.

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Sampat Pal Devi who was married off when she was nine, wife of an ice cream vendor, mother of five children, and a former government health worker who set up and leads the “pink gang”. She utters,

“We are a gang for justice.”

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Everyday many cases come to the gang from the village and villages from nearby. A mother brings in her weeping daughter who has been thrown out by her husband demanding 10,000 rupees from her parents. Sampat Devi tells her “gang” that they will soon march to the girl’s in law house and demand an explanation from the husband. “If they don’t take her back and keep her well, we will resort to other measures”. The pink sorority is not exactly a group of male-bashing feminists – they claim they have returned 11 girls who were thrown out of their homes to their spouses. They are against injustice just not against males.

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Even Pal’s group gained dishonor in early days for beating up men who abused their wives. If they heard a husband was being violent, they would show up at his door with sticks – the same wielded by local cops when patrolling their beat—and demand he change his ways. Of the many cases that Pal handles every day, the majority are related to domestic violence, dowry demands, and abusive in-laws.

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At first it was just five women, all old friends. But in a span of five years, the group has grown into a powerful brigade of more than 40,000 women, including 10 district commanders, who run the gang’s outposts across the district of Bundelkhand—an area that spans 36,000 square miles. These local Pink Gang stations operate in the same way as Pal’s own home does: They are meeting places for women to discuss their problems and, like Pal’s own home, the doors are always open.

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” Gulabi Gang proves that unity can be an answer to protest against the wrong stream. Why should we live our lives in constant fear of failure? While we can throw out all nonsense of our life alone! We ought to win the losing battle of life by fatal struggle. It’s not fair only to live in the line of survival. Surely we have got to make something more well than what we have got.” – GMB Akash

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Ships’ Graveyard

“This is an emblematic depiction of the agony of hard labor. For saving themselves from hunger they breathe in asbestos dust and toxic waste. Thus they are risking their lives everyday. On the verge of death they risk their lives in order to endure themselves. They are passing their days on one of the world‘s most unregulated and hazardous industries, leaving a trail of debris, disability and death in its wake. I spend 10 days in the Gaddani ship-breaking yard north of Karachi in 2005.  I witnessed workers dismantling large ships, piece by piece using no protection, in absence of tools, where one wrong move could result in death, but they were continually depending in their bare hands. In a city of dying ships flames with smoke rising, tormented with ship body parts, metal residue, asbestos, and oil spills. Barefooted workers with little access to necessary tools are vanishing ships on the rusty sand of Gaddani and break down these steel giants coming from all the harbours of the world.”

– Gmb Akash

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The beach of Gaddani, 50 miles north of Karachi in Pakistan, has become one of the two world biggest cemeteries of super tankers, cargoes and other vessels in the world. Thousands of men, mostly Pashto migrants, toil over the ships. They are seasonal workers, a large number of native and immigrant workers returning to their homeland near the Afghan border at harvest time. The group consists of perhaps from Afghanistan. They pen for their beloved, whom they get to see only during the year ends. For around USD 1.20 a day, thousands of workers labour to dismantle dozens of ships each year at the ship-breaking yard in Gaddani.

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Rashed, a labourer at the Gaddani ship-breaking yard has worked for five years dismantling ships. He said: “Had we had any other way of earning bread, we would not have come here.” Workers are always under high risk of accident, though they hardly care to secure themselves. Under hitting rains of sparks, blowtorches split through the thick steel skin of a ship. As they are cut lose, the pieces of metal plummet to the ground with a roar. I saw workers, toiling ceaselessly, as though banished forever to an underworld.

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Many workers operate in tight spaces where the air is thin, and in high temperatures caused by hot welding, which is widely used, not to mention that they are constantly exposed to flammable liquids like paints and solvents. The work carried well into the night shipyard in Gaddani, Pakistan. This is the ship graveyard that serves as the final destination for a significant part of the world’s fleet.

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“Barefooted workers would take apart, bit by bit, the dying ships with their bare hands, shipyard in Gaddani, Pakistan.  On their shoulders, workers bore great metal plates to their destination. People complain about their crappy lives working in an air conditioned work place, imagine having this as your only option in life.”

– Gmb Akash

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Born to work – A Battle of a “Survivor”

“Survivors” depicts the invincibility of the human spirit to survive against all odds. People who live on the edges of society have had a big impact on me and have been a great inspiration to me as a person and in my career. The existing social hierarchies have made me realize that those who live at the lowest rank on the economic ladder are the true survivors. These people are deprived of even the basic necessities of life, yet they manage to live each day with a smile on their faces. As a photographer I feel it is my task to show the world those unseen realities and to shed light on what most of us never see with our own eyes.

I have been doing my project “Survivors” for the last 10 years. In these years I tried to bring changes in some lives. But now, I moves to work on it highly by bringing the project “Survivors” in light. & lend hands to some miserable souls. Munna is one of them. Here I am revealing life & straggle of Munna – which many of you may never seen but heard many times, which many of you may imagine but never feel. Welcome to the world of a – little soldier ‘Munna’

“Born to work – A Battle of a Survivor”, First video made by me & a documentation on ‘Munna’ from the project ‘Survivors’.

‘Integrity with innocence’ this is the concrete of Munna’s character portrayal. Five years ago I first met Munna, he was same like now. He was a seven years old shy boy who never complains to anyone. At the age of five he comes to the factory. Two years he did nothing & got no money. At the age of seven, he learns & starts working. When I took his first picture his hands remarks his experiences.

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Five years have passed fates of Munna & his father brings no change in their lives. Only difference is, with his five years experience Munna is getting 1600 taka ($1=72taka) per month. Moreover 12 years old Munna is running his younger sister education with his extra income of Friday overtime. His dreams confine to get more experience of hard work & made a big factory. He dreams to give good food to his family, he dreams to take them in a better place. The boy speak too less, stand always like a shadow. Whenever I took picture of him, he tried to clean his torn cloths as well hide torn areas. These little doings, little words earn respect.

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

20 years ago Munna’s family had come to Dhaka for better living. Time never brings any happiness in their lives. By a little donation Munna’s father bought shoe sewing materials & now he is working as cobbler. They pray that rainy season may never come. As people does not come to do shoe polish in rain time. Munna & his family are surviving in the race of life.

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Like Munna around 7 million children are straggling in our country. May be it is difficult but not impossible to give hope to these 7 million children. If only every capable person lend their hands for one family.

My project “Survivors” aims to help Munna & his family. This project designed to help ten families from ten backgrounds. By little collection – a fund will hand over to Munna & his father. Munna’s father will utilize it for lifting their fates. 25% of the selling price of my book “Survivors” will give to these kinds of 10 selected families. You all are invited to stand beside Munna. Won’t you lend your hands? If your heart is moved to do so please visit “Survivors” by Gmb Akash at : http://emphas.is

“Our little help, little words, little recommendations could bring light in some dark places of this earth. ” Gmb Akash

Born to work

“I see the beauty of people and the human soul in the pictures I take. And though the circumstances of some of the people I portray may be grim, back-breaking, depraved, the people themselves are always remarkable characters and souls” Gmb Akash

Child working in a silver cooking pot factory.© GMB Akash

17.5 percent of all children aged between 5-15 are engaged in economic activities. The average child labourer earns between 400 to 700 taka (1 USD = 70 taka) per month

Child working at a silver cooking pot factory. The child labourers earn about 200 taka ($1=70tk) per week and they work about 10 hours a day. Dhaka, Bangladesh.© GMB Akash

© GMB Akash

© GMB Akash

  “He laughs, he run & his eyes sparks like any other kids we see around us. When they spend hours after hours under pressure to become one of capable member of their family, they start to diminish. Poor families have to send their child to face the cruel world by sending them in factories, streets instead of school. Little children start to know the world by sleeping in the street, breaking bricks or carrying sands”  Gmb Akash

© GMB Akash

Shilu works separating sand and stone. At least 10,000 people, including 2,500 women and over 1,000 children, are engaged in stone and sand collection from the Bhollar Ghat on the banks of the Piyain River. Building materials such as stone and sand, and the cement which is made from it, are in short supply in Bangladesh, and commands a high price from building contractors. The average income is around 150 taka (less than 2 USD) a day. Jaflong, Sylhet

Rahman (12) is beating by the owner of the textile factory. His job is sewing children t-shirt. In the mean time of work he was slow to deliver, that’s why he hit by the owner. He earns $1 by ten hrs of work in a day. Dhaka. Bangladesh

© GMB Akash

13 years old Fatema is getting older with the experience of carrying brick for construction sites. She has to take materials for construction firms & moves up to sixth floor with all those heavy materials all day long. She got 1500 tk per month for carrying countless buckets from morning to noon. Surprisingly, this 13 years girl represents herself way too older than her real age. Dual shade of her face, displaying the lost child in the reality of surviving. Dhaka. Bangladesh

© GMB Akash

© GMB Akash

© GMB Akash

Tired Motalib (12) was taking rest in the sand field of Jaflong, Sylhet. Before sun shine he starts to collect stones in his basket. In sunset when the contractor counts stones & fix money in order, he gets some time to relax. He can take 35-40 tk when he leaves the field. While he looked into the camera his sweat & sand covered body defeated by his curious eyes & innocent smile.

© GMB Akash

Nine years old Shakil’s job is to make balloons. In the time of making these colorful toys, he himself mixes by those powder ingredients. His has done his works usually after the sunset. If any balloon is not fit to sell then the seller gives it to him. He keeps it for his young sister because he usually didn’t get any time to play. He gets 700 tk for a whole month of working, Dhaka.

© GMB Akash

© GMB Akash

“Their innocent smile can break your heart into enormous pieces if you stand in front of where they work [and] live.”

© GMB Akash

“I want to deliver their voices to all of you & their hidden pain & cries. If any of you spend one second in a thought to help or even a prayer for them is the reward of all hard work”  Gmb Akash

© GMB Akash

“All the time the heartless scenario, people sufferings & my inner emptiness had frozen my finger to click. But with all those sorrows in expression accompanied by smile when they give a look, they push me to overcome anything. & then my clicks never take a break”  Gmb Akash

© GMB Akash

These are the hands of Alamin, 11 years old brick field worker who starts work from 5am. Smoke & ashes covers Alamin’s whole body but works never cover a smile in his face. He carries brick from the field to kiln. He usually carries 4 bricks at a time top of his head. per brick is almost 2.5 kg in weight. For 1000 bricks the workers get 80 Tk. Alamin covered with smoke & ashes, at the same time he carries 400 bricks a day in cost of his fadedness. His family comes from Kishorgonj with their three children and all of them are selling their childhood costing per day nearly 80Tk.

© GMB Akash

“No one has the time to listen them, they are mostly unseen human. I tell their stories, depicts their emotions, steal their sorrows in my frame…if these stories ever touch your heart please feel free to share ….your sole help can even awaken people to bring their hands to these lost souls..” Gmb Akash

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