It took him one entire day to gather energies after the last trip to Dhaka; today, Shayed knows it is again time to move. By 11 in the morning he's out – he'd love to start earlier, when the sun is not yet very high and the air still fresh, but his job depends on the availability of a cycle-van, and that, he borrows from a neighbour. At this time, just two curves away on the same pathway, Aijer is leaving his half-mud-half-iron-made hut to catch a bus to Manikganj; he gets his supplies over there. Shayed, with the pace his advanced age and feeble constitution allow, cycles within 10-15kms radius from his settlement, according to a rotation system that considers the regeneration time of the taro plants. Indeed, he knows all canals, backyards, parks, undeveloped plots of the area. 01_SHA_2-2_RHY_PIC_01.jpg
Having reached on site within some 40-50 minutes, the collection of taro leaves is on: bowed on the field, he cuts and piles hundreds beside and over each other. Now and then, when a portion of the field is exhausted, he collects them in a big propylene sack and shifts a little further. Depending on his fitness, the changing seasons and on luck, this whole process can take between 2 and 4 hours. Definitely, he'd try to go back before sunset, as moving on these village roads after darkness gets more difficult, and dangerous. Accidents involving rushing buses or SUVs and passers-by or cyclers occur daily on the busy roads of Savar and especially, on the highway to Dhaka. 01_SHA_2-2_RHY_PIC_03.jpg
Back home with their sacks full of taro leaves or stems, Shayed and Aijer take a little rest: having skipped lunch – actually, they do not even have a tea on their ways –, they get cold rice and dal or vegetables. It is not but by 7/8pm that the two men go out to prepare their supplies for the transportation. On the pathway to his hut, with the only light provided by an oil-lamp, Shayed distributes taro leaves and stems in a line; the stems require to be cut a bit, while the leaves must be tied in small bundles of 20. His wife assists him silently all through the process, binding the leaves or helping him carry the filled sacks, which they line up along the wall of a neighbour's hut until it's time for the final shift. In the meantime, Aijer is packaging his taro stems directly beside the Dhaka highway: they are too heavy to carry them from there down to his hut and back. It is normally 10.30pm when everything is prepared and both men, each in their home, take a meagre dinner; by 11pm, after setting an alarm at 3 in the morning, the lights are switched off. 01_SHA_2-2_RHY_PIC_08.jpg
Covering the eight kilometres that separate their settlement from the street market in Dhaka can be quite troublesome – their bulk of supplies is too small for trucks, the distance to cover too short to make an earning for smaller pick-ups, the burden of loading-uploading too big for most line buses. In some cases, the fee required by the drivers is just too high. One has to bargain hard and take the chance; and most of all, he has to be patient. Often, Shayed and Aijer have to wait for more than two hours for a lift: that's why they take off so early. However, once a means of transportation is found and the fare agreed upon, it takes less than an hour to reach Mirpur I. 01_SHA_2-2_RHY_PIC_21.jpg
Shayed and Aijer spend some 3 hours of their life literally sitting on a road and selling taro in the midst of Dhaka's popular neighbourhood Mirpur, every second day. 3 hours in 48 hours; or 9 to 12 hours in a week, or one whole day in two months. What kind of experiences – of a place, of a road, of the city – might one gather thereby? The city corporation indulges the unofficial daily street market in Mirpur's sector one, as it easies the pressure on the wholesale market, centrally located in the traffic-prone city; all sellers have to pay an occupancy fee in proportion to their earnings. Can this survival tactic be called an appropriation of space? Or does it only have an impact (positive, negative, depending on the agendas of those who look at it) on what the inhabitants of Mirpur would define “their habitat” and on the business of a bunch of vegetable re-sellers? 01_SHA_2-2_RHY_PIC_22a.jpg
All supplies are sold out by 9 in the morning – time to board a pick-up, reach Gabtali bus station and look for a bus to return home, out of the city's congestion, amidst the green. This one-and-half hour trip in the opposite direction is easier and cheaper, and Shayed likes to count the buses parked in front of his favourite petrol station. 01_SHA_2-2_RHY_PIC_23.jpg
Before going home, the two men make little purchases at their settlement's stores. There, everybody greets everybody without need for words; there, nobody would think to buy taro – it grows along the ponds and girls are from time to time sent to plug small quantities: they mostly do that without regret, knowing their mothers and grandmothers will prepare simple but delicious dishes with it. That all in all, for the three hours which shall ensure their subsistence and also a minimal margin of savings in the city, Shayed and Aijer must spend at least eight or nine, thrice as much, on the road, might not be the most impressive fact about their movements. What gives one to think is that they'll have to spend an entire day, 24 hours, at home to recover from the hardships it entails. 01_SHA_2-2_RHY_PIC_26.jpg