Baby Akhter (35), Swing operator, D line, Ethertax Garment ltd.

Deceased: Baby Akhter, 35

By Taslima Akhter

April 17,2014

Translation Sushmita S Preetha

Her youngest daughter had implored her to buy a cake, some chanachur (a traditional dry and spicy snack) and a doll for her teacher’s daughter’s birthday. Appeasing her daughter, Baby Akhtar had left for the factory on April 24, 2013. Her family consisted of two daughters, a son and her husband, Delowar Hossain, who works as a cook in the CRP Hospital. One of her daughters, Diba (14), studies in Class 8 of Shahibag New Model High School and the other, Tisha Moni (10), in Class 4 in a Laltek BRAC School. Her 17-year-old son Badhon had to drop out of school, and is now learning how to do paint jobs at CRP to assist the family.

Baby Akhter's paternal home is at Kauniya upazila in Rangpur. Her father was a landless peasant. She migrated to Dhaka with her husband after her marriage in 1996. It was her dream to educate her children, to create a future for them, to marry off her two daughters to good families. But such dreams required money, so she left for Dhaka. After the birth of her third child, Tisha, Delowar could no longer support the family by himself.

Delowar has nothing beyond a very tiny piece of land in the village. That too, is to be divided among his other siblings. When Baby worked at the factory, she would often talk to Delowar about saving up and buying a piece of land in the village to lessen the family’s hardship. The house in the village was in ruins, and needed repairs.

“She was ready to fight any war with me,” says Delowar, reminiscing about his wife. The incredible hardships in their life hadn’t affected their relationship at all. People would say that they were made for each other – that they were like a pair of pigeon. If one got off early from work, the other would wait. Since their wedding, they hadn’t been separated even for a day. But now the collapse of Rana Plaza has separated them for life.

Baby Akhtar began working at EtherTex on the sixth floor of Rana Plaza on April 9. Before that, she worked at GK Garments for 4 years, and prior to that in Sripur Exports for a year. She had worked in Rana Plaza for only 16 days. On the 16th day, the most horrific incident of her life took place.

Baby had visited her husband at CRP just the day before the catastrophe occurred. They had talked about the death of Baby’s father six months ago and that she would have to go to the village soon. There was more on her mind. A few days ago, when her son was sick, she had sworn to sacrifice a life if her son was spared. But it was taking too long to go to the village, and it was high time that she fulfilled her pledge to the Almighty. Their last time together passed sharing their apprehensions and fears. Everyone at CRP loved the soft-spoken and sociable Baby. She took 10 taka ($0.125 - US) as rickshaw (three-wheeled passenger cart) fare from her husband, and chewing her paan (betel leaf), her favourite, she lovingly asked him to buy her a hand-held fan. Next morning, before leaving for work, she didn’t say much to him. And Delowar couldn’t have imagined that she wouldn’t return home to him ever again. The hand-held fan rests in their room as a reminder of their last day together.

Eleven months have already passed by, and although three DNA reports have been published already, Baby Ahkter’s name remains missing from all of them. Delowar’s mind is full of dread: is Baby’s disjointed and disintegrated body splattered across the ruins of Rana Plaza? Will there be no signs of her anywhere? He can barely keep it together. The children cry every night, hugging him, thinking about their mother. But where will Delowar hide his tears? He couldn’t sleep on the night before Pohela Boishakh (Bangla New Year; April 14). When he woke at 5 am on 14th April, he went straight to where Rana Plaza used to be. Memories of all the Pohela Boishakhs he had spent with her came flooding back and he found tears rolling down his cheeks, till he was sobbing uncontrollably. He stayed there till midday. As he came back to their children, he couldn’t help but think that if he at least had her grave, it would give him some consolidation. But now he has nothing to console him.

Baby Akhter (35)
Ethertax Garment ltd.
Swing operator, D line
Mother:Mossammod Momena Begum
Father: Afsar Ali, Husband:Md Delwar Hossain
Village:Kaja-eTari: Post Office: Tepa Modhupur
Police Station/ Thana: Kawnia
District: Rangpur