She had a dream to be a lawyer someday. With that in mind, she had been trying hard to chase the dream. But the dream seems to go unfulfilled now as the HSC candidate lost her study materials in a devastating fire at Elias Mollah Slum in the capital's Mirpur early Monday.
Around 2:45pm yesterday, the HSC candidate -- Shahinur Akhter, 18 -- was found to be searching her study materials in the ashes if anything is still usable.
“The HSC exam is scheduled to begin on April 2 and I do not know what is waiting for me. The fire burnt most of my study materials into ashes,” said Shahinur.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Shahinur said majority of the girls of her age in the slum either work in garment factories or have gotten married. But she had been continuing her education, going against the norms in her locality only to fulfill her dream to be a lawyer -- a profession she feels passionate about.
Shahinur is the elder daughter among three children of Shah Alam, a car driver by profession. Her brother Naimul Islam Nayeem is a fifth grader while sister Sumona Akther Shammy is a student of class one.
Nayeem too is scheduled to sit for an exam from Wednesday. His books and admit cards were also burnt in the fire, said Shahinur.
"Though the admit card can be manageable, but what will happen to his studies and exams?" she said.
Another HSC candidate of the slum, Ariful Islam, 19, was seen sitting amid the debris with a blank look.
“My mother died seven years back and my father abandoned me,” said Ariful, who had been living with her maternal grandmother in the slum.
With a dream to be a chartered accountant someday, he said he had been continuing his education by tutoring slum kids.
Though the fire incident has dealt a heavy blow to his studies, he is still optimistic that he will move forward overcoming obstackles.
Earlier, around 3:15am on Monday, the devastating fire broke out and burnt over 1,000 shanties in the slum. A total of 21 fire service units brought the fire under control after four hours of frantic effort.
The fire service and civil defence authorities formed a three-member probe body to investigate the incident headed by its Deputy Director in Dhaka Debashis Bardhan. Two other members are Assistant Director of Dhaka Mamun Mahmud and Senior Station Officer of Mirpur Fire Station Abdullah Al Arefin. The committee had been asked to submit its report within seven working days.
“We have started our investigation and talked with the victims. But we are yet to ascertain the reasons behind the fire,” Debashis told The Daily Star yesterday.
Asked about the number of shanties gutted in the fire, he said the number might reach up to 1,500. They would be able to comment on how many shanties were burnt after two to three days, he added.
Visiting the slum yesterday, this correspondent found the slum residents clearing off the ashes. Some of them were seen building structures with the burnt objects. Low income people, mostly garment workers, rickshaw-pullers, small shopkeepers and housemaids used to live there.
A number of the victims took shelter at the under construction Hazi Kuzrat Ali Mollah Supermarket at Mirpur 12.
Talking with The Daily Star, Ayub Ali and his wife Suriya Begum, both garment workers, said they used to live in the slum for a monthly rent of Tk 3,500.
“All our savings were burnt in the devastating fire. But we are still trying to turn around and start a new journey,” said Ali.