Bangladesh was liberated on a Thursday. The next Sunday, Mariam moved to Dhaka, charting a new course in search of better opportunities for her family and herself.
But life was harsh in Dhaka, and Mariam and her husband initially had to live on the streets. Later though, it was the streets that would go on to be her place of business.
Originally from a humble village in Cumilla, Mariam now spends her days on the bustling streets of Dhaka, running a modest 'food stall' on a sidewalk in Gulisthan. This venture of hers has been running for 50 years now.
Unable to make ends meet, she began selling affordable meals to those in need in the '70s. Her clientele quickly grew to include the homeless, tempo drivers, and rickshaw drivers who, much like her, struggled to make ends meet in the unforgiving city.
Humble offerings of atop rice, lentils and fish were the first dishes she sold. "Rice used to be only Tk10 a kilogram when I first started selling at Gulisthan,'' she said.
Over time, her menu expanded to include a range of home-cooked dishes such as chicken, daal, fish, bhorta, and vegetable curry. One of her specialties is the beloved 'bot' or beef tripe. Most of the street vendors like Mariam cannot afford to sell beef, so they resort to selling tripe as a beef substitute.
Mariam's is a floating stall. Every day, before the break of dawn, she gets up to prepare the meals that will be sold to her customers throughout the day. From 6 a.m., she sits in her corner on a street in Gulisthan, ready to serve breakfast to people, mostly belonging to the lower-income groups.
Her hard work continues as she prepares rice and other delectable items for lunch and dinner. With minimal breaks, she tirelessly works until 10 p.m. every day.
Tempo driver Shamsur is a regular at Mariam's as he likes the way she cooks and her prices suit his budget.
"I like her cooking. It's got a homely feel to it. We're out in the streets most days. You can hardly get any home-cooked meals out here," he said.
Two homeless children, not more than the age of 12, were reluctant to speak on record about their lives. But they did say that Mariam keeps them fed from time to time and they pay her whenever they can.
Mariam, who happens to be a grandmother, has three children. Her older son is 40 years old and the middle child is in his 30s. All of them work very low-paying jobs and struggle to survive in Dhaka.
Her journey has been marked by challenges that extend beyond the streets of Dhaka. In Cumilla, Mariam faced the painful reality of having her ancestral land taken away by her relatives.
In a city that is often the first to get hit by inflation, Mariam's services are a necessity for the lower-income and marginalised communities.
Her menu is a testament to that. She sells three items for Tk50 — daal, rice and vegetables. Rice with fish costs Tk70 and rice with fish is Tk80. And rice with beef tripe sells for Tk100.
Miriam didn't want to disclose much about her income or where she sources the food from. According to her, she takes home just over a couple of thousand taka in cash after expenses.
"After covering my rent and other expenses for my family, the monthly income is barely enough to get by," Mariam said.
Usually, she finishes up her lunch shift by half past two. Then she goes home to get some rest and prepares for the evening shift. She tries to start her evening shift by half 6:30 pm to 7pm.
As Mariam looks towards the future, uncertainty lingers. Despite being eligible for a government pension, she has yet to receive the support promised to her. The bureaucratic red tape and endless paperwork have kept her waiting, adding to her challenges.