Suma Khatun, a mother of three, lives at Korail slum in the capital's Bou Bazar neighbourhood.
As the sole breadwinner of her family, she has taken up a unique business – buying half-rotten fruits from the high-end fruit shops in the city, salvaging the better fruits from her collection and selling them to low-income buyers in the slums.
"I've bought these fruits from a shop in Gulshan at a cheap rate. I will sell them throughout the day," Suma told this correspondent on Saturday.
Suma trades in an alley adjacent to the Bou Bazar fish market. Asked why she chose this business, she said there was no other way for her to make an earning. Her whole family's survival depends on it.
Her husband has left her and the children after marrying someone else, she claimed. She has lost touch with her parents as well.
"I used to work as a housemaid. I also worked as a day labourer. But now that I don't have that opportunity, I have settled in this business," she said.
Suma further added that she invested Tk700 on the day. Of this, she bought grapes worth Tk500, while the remaining Tk200 was used to buy oranges, apples and tangerine. She hoped to earn a profit of Tk150- 200 by selling those fruits.
She was dealing with customers while speaking to this correspondent. As a customer came to buy 500 grams of grapes, she set the asking price at Tk120 per kg. After two rounds of bargaining, the buyer bought half a kilogram of grapes for Tk50.
Suma could not provide a good answer to the question of whether these fruits have any health risks. She did not seem to be too concerned about it either.
"This is how my family is surviving. I can feed the children. That's the big deal. We are poor people. If we think too much, our stomach will stop filling up," she said.
The mother of three said her husband is irresponsible and has stopped inquiring about their well-being.
"My husband has married someone else and lives with her in the village. Far from taking responsibility for taking care of us in Dhaka, he does not even inquire about us," Suma said.
Suma also said she has not talked to her father for a long time.
"In the struggle of life, I have forgotten almost everything now. I have married off the eldest of my two daughters. But, I am in peril about marrying off my youngest one."
Looking at her eight-year-old son Ramzan Ali, she said, "He's my last hope. I'm hoping the boy will understand my grief when he grows up. Besides, there is no other recourse. There is no way back to my parents either."
Ramzan studies in the Najrana department of the local Darul Uloom Karaul Madrasa. Even though he lives in the madrasa, he has to eat at home.
"I come to the market every day to help my mother," he said.
Suma's fruit business does not always guarantee a profit. There are days when she is forced to sell fruits at lower prices than she originally bought them at.
"If I got the opportunity at a good job, I would do it. It would be enough if it supports the expenses of our food and rent. This business has both profits and losses. I am in peril if I fail to sell the fruits by the end of the day. These fruits cannot be preserved, meaning I am forced to sell them at a lower price than I bought them at," she said.
"If I sell fruits at a lower price than they were originally bought at, there is that fear of not being able to extract even my investment. I have to pay rent for this place for selling fruits here. I can pay the rent on days when there is a good sale. On other days, I ask for it to be waived," she added.
However, with the fruit shops in Gulshan closed during the ongoing lockdown, Suma can now buy some better fruits at lower prices. Better fruits are easier to sell.
Also, she has hooked a few regular buyers by now.