She is not held in high esteem but she does not care. Hers is what society considers a lowly vocation ---hawking newspaper. But the elderly woman named Dil Afroz Khuki in her 60s sees nothing wrong with what she honestly does for a living. Even if she had taken to newspaper hawking for her own survival, her persona would not be as extraordinarily illustrious as it is today. She does not live only for herself although she is alone and lives by herself. Khuki, as people of her known circle calls her, reportedly shares her income with people in need.
Both her tenacity and nobility are a shining example. She has been in newspaper hawking in Rajshahi for the past 40 years and amazingly by now helped a number of poor families to buy sewing machines, bicycles for their livelihoods. She also regularly donates to orphanages, mosques and temples.
Earlier this year, Nazimuddin, a beggar from Sherpur proved that in generosity he surpasses kings and emperors. He donated his lifelong savings in aid of people in distress on account of coronavirus attack in April. Now here is Khuki, a woman with a golden heart, whom many in her neighbourhood consider a mad woman. Married at an early age, she became a widow soon after and since then she has been on an exceptional life's journey. She hates to be dependent on others much less begging.
No wonder, Afroz extends her helping hands to needy men and women for their self-reliance. With sewing machines and bicycles women and men can pursue their own livelihoods. She herself walks as long as 30 kilometres a day and sells around 300 copies of newspapers a day. Quite a feat in a city like Rajshahi!
Perhaps her family background has been a source of her inspiration. She comes of a well-off family but luck has not been particularly kind to her. Yet against all odds she has fought admirably to establish the dignity of labour. Taking note of the woman's magnanimity, the district administration has come forward for a permanent arrangement under which she will no longer be required to perform her daily arduous routine. Along with renovation of her house, she will be provided with a monthly allocation for her living. Also an art teacher staying in her neighbourhood has been put in charge for looking after her so that she does not have to fend for herself.
When everything was thus settled and many people from the city came with gifts for her, it was her reaction that once again highlights how self-conscious the dignified woman in her is. When people drew her attention to her sudden and surprising fortunes, not only did she display her total disinterestedness in the hullabaloo but posed the unerring question, 'What's the harm in hawking newspaper and earning a living from it?' Then look at her soliloquy, 'What shall I do with all these?" Her last wish, true to her character, is to donate her house and whatever immovable property she has to two schools of her locality.
Who says she is eccentric or crazy? She who has a heart so rich and an aversion for wealth and money is indeed a modern-day hermit. If she has been correctly quoted and the reports are not exaggerated, Khuki surely has a life's philosophy that is not far from what Lalon Fakir and many of his followers in the Baul tradition have practised and promoted. A billionaire may have want but not a hermit who lives on the minimum possible supply of ingredients for human survival.
It is inspiring that the administration has taken good care of the woman needing it at this advanced age. Much as she may be reluctant to accept material help she is not used to, time and age take their toll. But her frugal living and generosity for the needy would be duly honoured if others in society took a lesson from her and practised it during this crisis arising out of the pandemic.