Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Barely making ends meet

"Life goes on somehow…a bit better than many others," Islam, a philosophy teacher at a government college, blurted in a choked voice with tears welled up in his eyes.

Islam, who represents the middleclass and lives in a rented house in the Ghoramara area with his wife and their two-year-old child, has already reduced his family spending and stopped attending social events only to survive the spiralling prices of rice and other commodities.

"I no longer can afford to maintain my status as a first class government official. I cut back on several necessities, yet the monthly deficit is increasing so fast that it's about to drive me crazy," said Islam, unwilling to give out his full name.

"Nevertheless, I feel relieved when I see that the conditions of my lower level colleagues and the ones at private colleges are even much worse," he added.

Even a year ago, he could save a little money after spending out of his salary of Tk 7,450 scale, Islam said adding that the biting reality of the surging prices of essentials does not allow him to even dream of saving up for the future anymore.

"I used to be able to send around Tk 2,000 from my savings to my parents living at the village home, but now it has become too difficult to manage even Tk 1,000 for them."

He now buys three litres of soybean oil at a time instead of his usual purchase of 4.5 litres. To reduce spending, he also switched to kerosene stove from gas stove for cooking.

"I cannot buy good outfits as my heart would desire… Neither can I afford to buy any latest good book -- a professional necessity that enables me to stay updated. I gave up attending invitations a year ago since buying a good gift [for the invitation] is not within my capacity anymore."

"If my situation is like this, just imagine what the second or third class employees are going through. I get some consolation thinking about them," said Islam.

Thousands of other middle class, let alone the low-income group families in Rajshahi and elsewhere in the country, are enduring similar hardships due to the unusual prices of rice and other commodities.

This correspondent spoke with an official of Rajshahi Regional Information Office and asked about the impact of the price increase on his day-to-day life.

Highly embarrassed to speak of his hardship, he requested this correspondent not to mention his name or his position in his office.

This government official who draws a monthly salary of Tk 13,000, was talking to this correspondent while walking toward the nearby market carrying a tattered shirt in a bag.

"I wanted to give it away to someone else, but now I am taking it [to the tailor] to have it repaired for myself," he lamented. Pointing at the pants he was wearing, he said, "It is also repaired.

"I could not afford to send my child to school this year although he turned five years this March."

It is getting increasingly difficult for him to survive with his present income although he and his wife have only two children, with one going to school already.

The financially strained family got into an awkward situation a few weeks ago when the official's brother-in-law and his family members paid a visit to his house. "I had to borrow money to entertain them for three days."

"For the last several months, I have been buying three litres of soybean oil rather than the usual five litres," he said.

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