Frames from the Sweeper Colony

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We are not respected by anyone because we are sweepers. But in truth we are not sweepers; we should be called CLEANERS- Joshna Rani Das.

Residing in a ‘sweepers’ colony’ at Tikatoly, Dhaka many like Joshna Rani give vent to years’ of suppressed emotions. This colony, a five storied building, alone houses nearly 210 families. With an ancestry which can be traced back to Kanpur, India, the residents of today’s sweeper’s colony had migrated to Bangladesh more than 300 years ago with hopes of finding a better prospect of life through good jobs. However, the colonial British government channelled them into the trade of sweepers. Since then this has been their profession. Today they work as cleaners for Dhaka City Corporation. Life at the sweeper’s colony is really eventful with non-stop activities—while some prepare to go out to work others return from it. With different work schedules the colony never seems to sleep. Superimposed on this is the myth concerning their negative social role, cultural and religious activities which alienate them in the social context. In fact theirs is a segregated world with a strong social taboo against the inmates. In plain words, mistrusted and misjudged by most people they are regarded as social outcasts.

A fact that is evident from the words of Rajesh, a graduate who has recently completed his IELTS exam:

Please don’t take my photo; if the photo is published I will have to face lots of problems with my friends and the people who know me outside this colony.

Taboo or not these people are part of our society and their contributions over the years cannot be denied. Their necessity cannot be denied even in this age and time. All they require of us is what they rightfully deserve in return for their services: acknowledgement, appreciation and above all respect.

 Sweepers have no retirement age no matter how old he or she is. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 27 2007
Sweepers have no retirement age no matter how old he or she is. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 27 2007,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
A new born baby is by birth a sweeper because the baby is born into sweeper family and must carry on the family tradition. There are very few who can manage to change their profession. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. March 27 2008
A new born baby is by birth a sweeper because the baby is born into sweeper family and must carry on the family tradition. There are very few who can manage to change their profession. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. March 27 2008 ,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS

In spite of their financial limitations the residents of the sweeper colony try their utmost to contribute to all kinds of rituals and festivals. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 11 2007
In spite of their financial limitations the residents of the sweeper colony try their utmost to contribute to all kinds of rituals and festivals. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 11 2007,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Pets are great favourites among most of the families. In leisure time they play with animals as a means of entertainment. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 11 2007
Pets are great favourites among most of the families. In leisure time they play with animals as a means of entertainment. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 11 2007,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Darkness has been the most dominant feature of my life. For me the light at the end of the tunnel has always been far from accessible, Pallamma sums up her struggles for survival after her husbands death. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 27 2007
"Darkness has been the most dominant feature of my life. For me the light at the end of the tunnel has always been far from accessible," Pallamma sums up her struggles for survival after her husband's death. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 27 2007,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Common washing space for all sweepers: bath, wash, household cleaning, every thing in a common space. In this colony there are a total of four wash spaces like this one for the needs of all the families. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. December 15 2006
Common washing space for all sweepers: bath, wash, household cleaning, every thing in a common space. In this colony there are a total of four wash spaces like this one for the needs of all the families. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. December 15 2006,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Women immersed in buying trinkets and jewelries from street sellers. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 08 2008
Women immersed in buying trinkets and jewelries from street sellers. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 08 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Food for pets is always available even though the family is running short on sustenance. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. March 10 2008
Food for pets is always available even though the family is running short on sustenance. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. March 10 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Living spaces in the colony is so limited and congested that in most cases to avoid congestion people have to use public spaces for their personal work. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. May 30 2008
Living spaces in the colony is so limited and congested that in most cases to avoid congestion people have to use public spaces for their personal work. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. May 30 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
A common space where the residents of the colony wash their dishes and takes bath. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 11 2008.
A common space where the residents of the colony wash their dishes and takes bath. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 11 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Mother feed her child. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 18 2008.
Mother feed her child. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 18 2008.Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Due to lacking of playground the children of this colony play in the congested balcony of the building. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. March 27 2008
Due to lacking of playground the children of this colony play in the congested balcony of the building. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. March 27 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
In this colony they have no facilities for health treatment especially for the old and the young. To avail these facilities from outside is often too expensive. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 22 2008
In this colony they have no facilities for health treatment especially for the old and the young. To avail these facilities from outside is often too expensive. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 22 2008.Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Dove breeding is a common hobby of many members of the colony. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 25 2008
Dove breeding is a common hobby of many members of the colony. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 25 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
‘Holi’- children rejoice themselves. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. March 27 2008
‘Holi’- children rejoice themselves. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. March 27 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Sound pollution even during the night time is a dominant problem for these colony dwellers. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 25 2008
Sound pollution even during the night time is a dominant problem for these colony dwellers. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 25 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
They have to marry within their own communities. Choices from outside the community lead to ostracization of the couple and their families. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 13 2008
They have to marry within their own communities. Choices from outside the community lead to ostracization of the couple and their families. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 13 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
Children of the colonies involved in their juvenile games. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. May 08 2008
Children of the colonies involved in their juvenile games. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. May 08 2008,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS
With the passage of time the question that confronts this boy and other members of his generation is as complex as to be or not to be. Should they follow the trade of their forefathers or will society accept them in any other profession? Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. May 21 2007
With the passage of time the question that confronts this boy and other members of his generation is as complex as to be or not to be. Should they follow the trade of their forefathers or will society accept them in any other profession? Tikatoly, Dhaka, Bangladesh. May 21 2007,Photo:Amdadul Huq/*Drik*NEWS.

396 Responses to “Frames from the Sweeper Colony”

  1. Khondkar Abdus Saleque

    Every work which comforts our lives is equally important. Every worker deserves recognition. No work is big or small. So none should be look down just because of the nature of his/her jobs. Cleaning is a very important work for society. They are not beggars, thieves or corrupt white color suckers. In my work place at Australian Project site we are all very friendly with all kind of professionals. Our cleaners are even talking freely with Company CEO.

  2. Dewan

    Human dignity is inherent and has nothing to do with ones job description. We should learn to treat people with dignity regardless of their lifestyle or ethnicity. Ones that can be incorporated in a culture through sustained practice resulting from awareness, only then we can see improvement of life in Bangladesh in all quarters. We, Bangladeshis, discriminate among ourselves through multiferous myopic fractious vision. However, we are identified as one soul coming from one country, more appropriately, one world as we venture abroad. Our job ethics, communication skill and so forth has to be the same as the person form any other country. There is an element of standardization in the developed world. We need to learn to implement that in our Bangladeshi societies as well.

  3. hari c.das

    Mr. Amdadul Huq I am really happy to see your photograph on sweeper colony of Tikatuly. Will you please go to Gonaktuly sweeper colony and put your fine arts I mean photography.I must appreciate your thinking the work for the people who has not got social realization the best job is being done.One more time thanks.Please go to Ganaktuly and put your best to take photo and put in website.Thanks and goodnight.

  4. tanjila.H

    It is truly heartbreaking to see such difference in social classes even today. Who are we to say one class should be superior to others. “cleaners” I solute you all for the great contributions you provide to our society.

  5. hari .c das

    Can you bring in web ganak tuly sweeper colony.Hazari bagh.Besides the Peelkhana.I am from that colony sitting in USA like useless.

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