Ismael Hossain is unusually old to have teenage children. He doesn’t know his age for sure, but he guesses he is between 60 and 70. Ismael Hossain sits on the bed and welcomes visitors with his kind eyes. He is clearly proud of his children, so he lets them do the talking. He can’t work due to high blood pressure and a ‘stomach problem’ – an official diagnosis given to him by a local doctor.
His much younger wife Mina Begum is a maid and works every day from 9 to 5. She only earns $25 a month – the same amount the family pays to rent a room, which holds all their earthly possessions.
Abu Hanif (17) is the kind of young man you want your daughter to marry. He never stops smiling, he is reliable, curious and trustworthy. He has been working since he was 5 years old. His career started as a tea boy, serving the sweet concoction of water, tea leaves and condensed milk by the side of the road in Dhaka. He then got a job in a restaurant, where he washed dishes.
“First I was a chai wallah, then I became dishes wallah, and now I am Internet wallah. It is up to me to change my life, but I need people to believe that I can.”
His sister Shewly (14) is a sweet girl, who helps her parents at home whenever they need her help. Underneath the sweet exterior is a brave soul – she wants to be an army officer.
The family survives on whatever their mother and Abu Hanif can earn. The salaries are never fixed and the jobs are never official. Their monthly rent is $30.
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