"I work as a security guard but I’m off duty right now to cut grass for my boss’s deer. I get 5,000 taka ($65) a month for security and an extra 1,000 taka to cut the grass. I’ve been in Dhaka for 8 years and it’s tough to raise 3 sons on this but the struggle is for them. I want them to study hard for a better future so they don’t have the life that I had. My time is over, everything is over, life is over but all that matters is that they excel in life. That will be my happiness."
"Don’t take a photo of me, I’m a spoilt brat."
"The problem with government jobs is that they are respectable but don’t pay well. Take for example the traffic officers, they make about 8,000-10,000 taka ($100-$130) a month but you need a minimum of 15,000-20,000 taka to survive in Dhaka at a very basic level. Of course that officer is going to take bribes, how else will he feed his family? It’s the system that is bad, not the people."
“My son is really good at studies but my husband has become mentally ill so I solely have to provide for our household. It got to a stage where I had to choose between paying for my son’s education or running my household. My son cried at the thought of having to give up his education, his teacher called me to ask why I was considering giving up on such a bright future for him but what was I supposed to do? My son-in-law helps a lot with expenses but there’s only so much I can ask from him. There have been so many meals that I’ve missed to keep things going. I’m barely pushing along, I just hope my son can make something of himself through his studies.”
"I live in a shared apartment with 15 other girls near my college. There’s 3 of us per room. We each pay 450 taka ($6) a month for food. For breakfast, we have potato mash, lentils and rice. For lunch, we eat fish, vegetables and rice and then for dinner, we fry some vegetables. Fish for only one meal a day."
"What about meat?"
"Meat is expensive so we only buy it for 5 days in the month for lunch. Our menu isn’t bad, I guess the more you can afford, the better you can eat."
"I grew up in Adelaide during the Pauline Hanson era. There weren’t that many Asian families back then and people would tell us to go back to where we came from because we were Asian.
After September 11, they would tell us to go back to where we came from because we were Muslim. Livin’ the dream!”
What do you do?
"I’m an architect, can’t you tell?
I’m representing Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire had the highest power during his era and conquered 3 continents – Europe, Asia and Africa. Ottoman Empire architecture was the best during his time.”
Does his history influence you, as an architect?
"He was very open to new things and he was very open minded. I believe to be a good architect, you have to have some ideals as well. The hardest thing about being an architect is getting your own clients. You get clients by chance. Unless you know some really important people, you have to get lucky to get design jobs.
I’m currently employed by a large practice so it’s okay for now but my main goal is to establish my own architecture firm and do my own designs. Even if I know earn less, I prefer to take ownership of my work.”
Why do you think it’s important to have your own job while compromising pay?
"It’s more of a spiritual thing. Everyone will die one day; we won’t stay in this world forever. You can earn billions of dollars and see what happens but my work will be a legacy. I’m not talking about being famous, it’s just to have something of my own to leave behind."
"I love people, everyone has stories. I spend most of my time talking to randoms. You have no idea how much time the street steals from me."
"What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt from a street conversation?"
"I never finished high school so Sydney streets became my education. I’ve learnt so much about life from watching dry paint. Everything I am is a combination of them experiences. I think that everyone is fragile and the most violent and self destructive ones are the ones in adult bodies, facing adult consequences but in their hearts they are just kids. It seems so wrong to punish kids for making mistakes."
With tears in her eyes and her hands up in prayer, she told me:
"We came here in 1970, my husband and five children. I have one daughter and four sons. My eldest son Wurad, passed away in South Africa by cancer when he was 42. He married a South African woman, but no babies. He was a loving man, very beautiful. Please pray for him and for my family."
"I’ve been here 8 years but I’m from South Africa."
"What was life like under apartheid?"
"I was young so all I remember is curfews. School was important to my parents. I was lucky because of my dad’s job; I was able to go to a good school."