Motiur (26), Cutting Man, 3rd floor, Phantom Apparels ltd.

Missing: Motiur, 26

By Mili Akhter

April 15,2014

Translation Mithila Mahfuj
Faculty Member at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB)

My husband and I used to work at Rana Plaza together. My husband’s name is Motiur and my name is Mili. Motiur and I were relatives. We fell in love and got married. My family and I were living in the village back then. His family lived near my cousin’s house. He visited their house often, and that’s where I met him. He was very well-behaved, which is why I always secretly liked him. Mashallah (by the grace of God) he was tall, handsome, and very gentle. My parents didn’t agree to our marriage, but we went ahead and got married against their wishes. My family reacted quite harshly and weren’t in contact with me for three years just because of this. We’ve been married for four years and ten months. Before this, Motiur was a mechanic in his mama’s (maternal uncle’s) workshop. He completed his SSC, and I managed to finish class eight. Neither of us could continue our studies after that. Instead, two months after we got married we came to Dhaka.

Back in the village we were worried about getting work and earning a living. In desperation we sought out an acquaintance, a woman we called Aunty, who told us that we could find work if we came to Dhaka. We took her advice and came to Dhaka. In the beginning Motiur was hired as a cutting helper. An in-charge had to be bribed 300 taka for this job. I started working two months after that. My salary was only 2,450 taka ($31.23), out of which we had to pay our room rent of 1,000 taka ($12.75) . There was no overtime benefit. Motiur earned 3,000 taka ($38. 25) in the first month. We didn’t know how we were going to manage both the room rent and food for the month with that money. Motiur didn’t want me to take the extra load but I wanted to earn for my household. I thought: “If I had a sewing machine, I could earn some extra money to support him.” Sewing I knew, but I couldn’t afford to buy a sewing machine at the time.

On that day I was running late before going to the factory. When I started cooking rice that morning I noticed the time – only five minutes left before I had to start for work. So we went to the factory without eating breakfast. Motiur and I go together everyday, but on that day he had already left without taking his mobile phone with him. I followed later. We worked close to each other, on the fourth floor. That day there was a power cut, which gave him a chance to come and talk to me. I was feeling ill and the power cut allowed me to take a little rest with my head down on the machine when he came over, gently touched my head, and said, “You’re feeling unwell because you didn’t eat breakfast. Do you have any money on you? Then I’ll go outside and buy some food that we can share.” I had a 500 taka note with me that I had planned on spending on the household. But we needed to put something in our stomachs so I decided to spend 40-50 taka to buy some snacks for the both of us.

The previous night, Motiur had been called by the Chairman at ten o’clock to work on the C line. By the time he returned home, it was three o’clock in the morning. The next day, after that conversation during the power cut, he went back to his station. He was tired and starving. I can’t explain why, but it seemed like we kept lifting our eyes off of our work and glancing yearningly at each other from time to time throughout that day. That was how we were working on that day when, all of a sudden, we heard a crashing sound. Not even a second later I could feel the floor caving in and everything sinking in it. I couldn’t tell who was thrown off where. I screamed and screamed. There was a pillar beside Motiur’s workstation and I think it crashed on him and killed him then and there. I was rescued one-and-a-half hours later by the C line Supervisor Faruk.

I can’t recall how I came out. At first all I saw was darkness. I don’t know whether or it was because the building had tilted, but I saw light coming in through a crack somewhere. My head and legs hurt. I was on the ground crying uncontrollably when Faruk pulled me up by my hand. My frantic eyes searched left and right but couldn’t spot Motiur anywhere. My tears wouldn’t stop. This is what happened that day.

We had married out of love, knowing full well that it would be extremely difficult for us to fulfill our desire for children before we could be financially stable. And that’s the reason we chose not to have children in those five years. Motiur’s wish was to first organize our household before children came into the family. We thought we would earn enough to save some money so that we could return to our village and live comfortably there. We were slowly buying items for our household, one at a time – a showcase, a dressing table, two chairs, a bed, a trolley, racks, etc. Although we were still quite poor, we were quite efficient and looked forward to a decent lifestyle for ourselves. There is a saying: “A housewife too eager for a perfect household ends up with no home”. My condition is exactly like that. In my parents’ home, we weren’t rich, but our home was always in perfect order. And my heart was filled with the wish for a good husband with whom I would make a home. I did eventually find one. But my fate betrayed me.

When we came to Dhaka from the village, Motiur had brought with him only three steel plates, two spoons - one for curries, and the other for rice - a glass, two pillows and two quilts. We had no bed to sleep on; it was a pitiful condition. There were no utensils to cook with, not even a jug to hold water. But we were working so hard that we were determined that one day we would have a beautiful household and a complete family. We didn’t want too much; only to build a decent life for ourselves. But now everything is finished. And all I have now is pain.

Right now, my plan is to stay back in the city and work and live here. I won’t return to the village. I have nothing, not even children. Sometimes I think that I’ll never marry again because I won’t find someone as good as Motiur. I don’t know what my future is but I don’t want to burden my parents or anyone else for that matter. Nowadays I get upset when people speak in front of me in a solemn tone. I get suspicious that they’re saying things because I am vulnerable without a husband. But I still want to live in Dhaka. I’ve told my father that I won’t return to the village as long as I can work in the city. I’ll go when I’m old and I can buy my own piece of land in the village to build my own home. What will I do in Dhaka when I’m old and can no longer work? We poor people can’t hope to build a home in Dhaka.

My husband Motiur is still missing. A dead body was found after thirteen days, wearing a pair of jeans by which I identified him as Motiur. But another woman showed up claiming that it was her brother. And so the police didn’t hand the body over to me. I wasn’t able to recognize his face; it had almost turned into a skeleton. Motiur had a cut on his leg from falling off a tree in his childhood. I even saw that on the corpse. But there was no hair on his legs. Perhaps they had shed off in those thirteen days. His name was there on all the missing persons’ lists. Suddenly one day I heard from somewhere that a grave in the Jurain graveyard had a signboard with Motiur’s name and address on it. At first I was frightened by the news but later I convinced myself that at least it’s a consolation that I found his grave. Maybe the DNA would match - I didn’t know. So I visited the grave, but on asking around, discovered that the DNA didn’t match, nor could anyone say with certainty that the body they had found was Motiur’s. I went around asking anyone who could tell me whose grave it was. I desperately needed to know, but nobody could answer me - not the caretakers there, nor the BGMEA officials. To this day I wonder how all this even happened. Who could have put up that signboard? I still don’t know. I think I’ll never know.

Motiur (26)
Cutting Man, Phantom Apparels, 3rd floor
Mother : Modina Begum
Father: Anisur Rahman
Wife: Johura Akhter Mili
District: Natore