Proudly wearing her first-ever school shoes, my baby girl was beaming in a fresh uniform. Her glossy, small hair knitted and well-combed, she was all set for her bright school days.
A brilliant student at school and an agile birdie at home, she was a star in the making. I believed this with all my heart and was ready to ensure at any cost that she got all she needed.
At this crucial stage of my life this year, when my eldest daughter began her schooling, and we planned to celebrate my son's first birthday in the following few weeks, I asked life for blessings.
However, unfortunately, life gave me lemons.
The very first day of my daughter's school always seemed to us as if it was just yesterday. But, after all that has happened in my life in the last few months, that happy day now seems to me the distant past; as if it had all happened in another lifetime.
We have all been worried about the future since the first novel coronavirus cases were detected in Bangladesh on March 8. But a hope persisted that things would turn around. We would defeat the virus eventually.
A nightmare that the virus would defeat us hardly crossed my mind back then.
Within a few days, however, when the government announced general holidays starting on March 26, I began to realise that the nightmare was in the making.
The worst ever nightmare I suspected in the last few months finally came true in June. I – the only earning source of my family – lost my job.
Holding a diploma in engineering, I always struggled to find a good job in Bangladesh. Mismatches in educational backgrounds and areas of expected jobs are not something novel in Bangladesh.
Since there lies a scarcity of decent jobs in the areas of my education, whenever I pursued employment, I was rejected because my academic credentials were different.
On the other hand, the petty jobs that matched my education would not meet my needs and salary expectations.
So, I went through tremendous ups and downs in the early days of my career, and eventually settled for a job outside my academic expertise. After proving my expertise over time, I gradually emerged as a valuable employee and was paid a good salary.
As life settled in, I married a pretty woman who eventually blessed our family with two beautiful children. An educated woman herself, my wife holds a masters' degree and worked at a renowned private bank.
When our second child was born, she decided to quit her job, and concentrate more on the family and the children. As I had a stable source of income and life looked comfy with the wife being home at that time, I did not interfere with her decision.
At the outset of 2020, we knew that this year was going to be a big year in our life. This year marks the maiden birthday celebration of our son and the first school year of our daughter.
After the government announcement of public holidays in March to control the transmission of the novel coronavirus, our company allowed us to travel back to our home districts.
However, at my village home, I began to have sleepless nights instead of enjoying the "holidays." A constant worry for the future gripped my mind as the government continued to extend the holidays phase by phase.
In the meantime, my company did not even pay my March salary even though we had worked the whole month. It indeed put my family in a very complicated situation as starvation looked like a real threat.
I communicated with my office continuously, only to learn that they could not pay us because business was dull. When almost all our savings had dried up, the government finally announced the end of the holidays.
Leaving my family back in the village, I came back to Dhaka alone in June. However, the very first day I stepped in my rented flat, I stumbled into a new worry. Rent for three months was due.
Even early in June, I still had a little hope that things would be alright again once work resumed and the office paid our due wages.
But sadly, all hope was lost when I received a phone call in mid-June. It was from my office. I thought maybe it was good tidings like the way a lost traveller looks for water in a mirage.
Instead, the caller said, "We cannot afford you anymore."
I instantly realised what those words meant. They fired me without saying it directly. They dismissed me with a certain euphemism in their wording.
Since the day I officially lost my job, it has been now around a month. But it has been quite a few months since they paid me last.
Now my house rent for four months is due. And "hope" is no longer a word available in my dictionary.
I simply do not know how I am going to survive this pandemic.
Everyone out there knows how this pandemic has squeezed our job sector. Everyone knows that if you lose your job now, you are not going to get a new one.
However, these truths have not stopped me and my wife from searching for jobs, no matter how difficult it is.
This is the question of our survival. This is about managing meals for my family three times a day.
But as I said, all hope is gradually fading away. There are companies functioning here and there, but not a single job for us is out there.
These days, I kind of feel the pain of that godforsaken sailor in an English poem lost in the vast ocean – who said, "Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink."