Every day, Md Amzad Ali sets out in his CNG auto-rickshaw at approximately 6 o'clock in the evening, steering it for an uninterrupted 12-hour stretch until 6 o'clock the following morning. Upon arriving at his residence in Rampura, he promptly retires to his bed, slumbering until the afternoon hours.
However, the nocturnal lifestyle isn't the sole distinctive aspect of his character. If you happen to be a traveller during the night along the Jatrabari-Malibagh-Uttara route or its surroundings, chances are you too have been captivated by the exterior of Amzad's auto-rickshaw.
Adorning its rear is a poster that reads: "Amzad bhai in the service of humanity – individuals born with physical challenges are provided with wheelchairs using the funds accrued from CNG driving on Fridays."
On both sides of the auto-rickshaw, additional posters convey messages like "Rental is free for the needy and vulnerable" and "Amzad bhai has distributed free food among the poor and helpless throughout the corona pandemic."
While most people are deeply moved by Amzad's humanitarian endeavours, there also exist some sceptics who raise queries about his motives. Some even take it a step further, casting doubts whether the 47-year-old man is a "batpar" (fraud).
However, such criticisms hold no weight in the eyes of Amzad, an exceedingly vibrant individual who arrived in Dhaka at the age of 15 and has since engaged in all kinds of menial jobs, ranging from peddling rickshaw to ferrying vegetables and working in the construction industry, all to sustain himself.
"People may question my intentions if they wish, but I remain unmoved. I know what I am doing, and I plan to persist in them as long as I can," he says.
Since initiating this practice back in 2019, he has so far bought wheelchairs for 20 people, with every wheelchair amounting to around Tk6,000. Additionally, he frequently provides meals for the homeless and has played a role in installing multiple tube wells in his village in Tangail.
As per Amzad's account, his earnings on Fridays tend to surpass those of other days, occasionally reaching as much as Tk4,000. Nevertheless, he remains resolute to spend not a single penny from that on himself, or even his family in Tangail – his wife and two children.
However, making such a choice is far from simple. He shoulders the responsibility of being the sole breadwinner for his family. Just 17 months ago, he invested in a new auto-rickshaw valued at Tk6,42,000. Presently, he's obligated to make monthly instalment payments. Moreover, he also bears the educational expenses of his daughter and son, currently studying in the eleventh and fifth grades, respectively.
He resides alone in a small house in Rampura, which he humorously likens to a cowshed. "I could have opted for a more relaxed life, but I've deliberately chosen this path for myself. My family also doesn't discourage me any longer, because they too have come to understand that I am a 'vadaimma' [vagabond]," Amzad says laughing.
But still, this begs an essential question: Why does Amzad do what he does? He recalls his early days of deprivation and hardship. "When I was a little boy, I would often cry to my mother for rice, but we didn't always have it in our house. This acutely made me aware of how it feels to be in hunger, and now I want to make sure the people around me don't have to go through the same experience."
Amzad's decision to provide wheelchairs to physically challenged people was also driven by his desire to alleviate their suffering.
"Many physically challenged people are older folks. Some of them hurt their backs from staying in bed all day. They can't even sit on their own without someone's help or sitting on someone's lap. So, one day this idea crossed my mind – if these people could use a wheelchair, they could move a bit, even if it's just in their own yard," says Amzad.
However, it's beyond Amzad's capacity to stretch a helping hand to anyone and everyone. "I have so far kept my efforts confined to providing wheelchairs only to those who are physically challenged by birth. Surely, I want to help all people, but being poor myself, I have my limitations," he explains.
At times, Amzad encounters individuals in need, while on other occasions, they reach out to him via phone. While he typically refrains from providing direct cash assistance, he maintains a belief that those seeking help from him are unlikely to deceive him.
"It is a sin to lose faith in humanity. I would never do that," Amzad reasons.
That said, Amzad has made it clear that he has no intention of becoming a commodity for anyone. He recounts an incident involving a wealthy man who got in touch and invited him to his office. Upon arrival, the man's manager instructed Amzad to provide a list of people in need of wheelchairs. Amzad compiled a list of seven individuals, only to be informed that they could provide assistance to just two of them. However, this offer came with a condition – Amzad had to publicly declare that he was sponsored by them.
"It couldn't be more ridiculous. Why would anyone seek publicity in return for charitable efforts? After that incident, I realised that there was every chance of me getting corrupted by the people with money and influence. Consequently, I swiftly removed myself from that situation," he states.
Amzad also knows very well that some people try to cash in on him, as several YouTubers came to make videos of his work to gain views. "I don't mind my name being promoted in this manner, as long as people also have access to my phone number and can reach out when necessary. Unfortunately, most YouTubers solely focus on producing videos about me but neglect to share my contact details."
To prevent such situations, Amzad took the initiative of establishing his own Facebook page, where he frequently posts images and videos of his philanthropic activities. However, the page has not garnered as much attention as he had hoped for.
"I'm an illiterate person. I struggle to even write my own name correctly, let alone promote myself on platforms like Facebook and YouTube," Amzad candidly shares. He goes on to confess, "Nonetheless, I do wish for my name to reach a wider audience."
And Amzad has his reasons behind such an aspiration. "One day I want to reach a point where I am able to provide meals to the underprivileged for as little as Tk10."
Amzad Ali can be reached at the phone numbers 01924-475773 and 01739-517586.