Umaresh Bala had been in Khulna Medical College Hospital for over 10 days when I met him. His wife Sujata Bala and nine-month-old son Sumon Bala had tested positive for Covid-19.
His small shop back in the village remained shut during most of the pandemic months.
He used to sell products like toiletries, but when the pandemic hit, people became more focused on managing basic necessities like food.
Umaresh barely managed to survive with his family in debt.
Now his entire family is in the hospital. "I was already surviving on loans. Now, for how long and how much can I depend on the charity of my relatives? I do not know how long they will keep providing for me."
Umaresh Bala would eventually return home after his wife and son tested negative. But he does not know what he would do for a living.
Far from the country's capital, in the coastal districts or in any random village, it is tough to get a sense of the coronavirus – people hardly wear masks, and life seems to be going on as it always did.
People like Umaresh barely come out to tell the tale of their woes – if they are getting their salaries, if they have something to feed their children, if their small businesses are functioning at all, or when was the last time they had a decent meal.
Unless asked and unless they trust you enough that you genuinely want to understand their plight, these people will not reveal the stories of their helplessness.
But once they do, you will come to know the stories of pain, defeat and hunger around possibly all the corners in the southwestern districts.
The long months of pandemic crippled the families of salesmen, small shop owners, drivers and most people engaged in the informal sector.
Shormila Sharkar, a woman in her early 40s, used to be a small entrepreneur in Dacope Upazila, adjacent to the Sundarbans.
Years ago, her husband Topon Sharkar was a Sundarbans pirate. After he returned to a legal livelihood, Shormila directed the family towards tourism-based financial activities. She now also works for the protection of Sunbarbans' tigers.
Through an eco-tourism company based in Khulna city, tourists, mostly foreigners, would stay in her lodge.
She would perform pot songs – pictorial dance performances to introduce the guests to the beauty of the Sundarbans – and cook them food. She managed a decent income.
But her husband became suspicious that she was cheating on him with the foreign tourists.
"Since I would dance and entertain the tourists with pot songs, he began to believe that I was a bad woman. He would quarrel with me," Shormila told The Business Standard.
Despite everything, thanks to Shormila, the family went on living. But since the pandemic, her world has come to a stop.
"I had my last guest in February 2020," Shormila said, sounding quite well-versed, "after the guests left, my husband quarrelled with me. Unlike other times, this quarrel never ended because we never received any guests afterwards."
Shormila had to leave the home and family she built, and now she lives with her parents. "If the pandemic did not stop our earning, perhaps my family would remain intact. We would not come to this dead end."
The manner in which the struggling tourism sector rattled Shormila's life, it did the same to hundreds of other families who were dependent on Sundarbans' tourists.
When we talked to them in early August, it was not peak tourism season, but in the past, it never meant a complete absence of business. The families would go on surviving in the off seasons.
But this year, survival has turned out to be the biggest challenge.
Back in Khulna city, in a clothing store, we met Tanvir Rana, an employee at Alvi Garments. He said he is the only earning member of his family.
"I got salaries only a few times during the pandemic," Rana told us. "I do not know what is the use of saying this to you. But we do not have anyone to look at our problems."
The family members of Umaresh Bala, or 60-year-old Shahjahan Mia whose six-month-old son tested positive for Covid-19 and was admitted to the hospital, are barely reflected in the national statistics of daily infections.
We know little about how an elderly father like Shahjahan Mia could provide for his baby boy while staying for days at the hospital, or people like Tanvir Rana – who are not represented in any statistics at all – survive the days of the pandemic without any income.
In Jashore town, we met Nurul Islam (not his real name ), a fomer driver for Eagle Paribahan. Since the pandemic began, transport was one of the worst-hit business sectors.
"My employer did not pay me a dime in salary during these months. I drove his buses for 30 years. One day when I went to ask him for Tk10,000 in loan because I had no way to survive, he called me names. He threatened me instead of helping me out," he recalled.
Nurul Islam quit his job right at the spot. "I am poor but that does not mean I do not have self-respect. I bought an auto-rickshaw afterwards to save my family from hunger," he said. "But there are too many auto-rickshaws in town and I doubt if and when I will be able to pay back my loans."
Back at the gate of the Crescent Jute Mill Company Limited in Khulna's Khalishpur area, we met Md Harun, a former lineman at the jute mill who was forced to resign.
The mill is yet to pay back half his dues. He was there during a protest, demanding his dues. His autistic daughter sat in a wheelchair beside him.
Harun was not alone. Hundreds of jute mill workers, all victims of layoffs, were also there.
Almost every day, they gather in dozens in front of jute mills, demanding their rightful salaries and incentives, which the authorities never paid them.
Some of them were young, but some of them had white, chest-long beards. "Son, will you help us?" one of them cried out. There was a glimmer of hope in his helpless eyes when I introduced myself as a journalist.
He really wanted to believe that someone could save him. But I just felt a pang of sorrow as I stood there, helpless.
The Business Standard's Khulna correspondent Aninda Haque contributed to this story.