Komlaphur station… a place where most trains in Bangladesh come to rest, a transit hub, a place of work and for many a home. On first impressions, it is chaotic, but as you choose to stop and stare there is a slow realisation that there are many who are cooking, sitting, nursing babies, enjoying a cup of tea and offering you some of their hard earned bread… It was this offer of bread, from one of the station boys, who calls Komlaphur “home”, that stole my heart and has caused my head to try and catch up ever since.
if someone offers you some of their food and the invitation is accepted, separations begin to break down. Being present becomes easier, safer and important. The station inhabitants, young, old, orphans,prostitutes and those with disabilities, all reveal immense courage that builds our faith and breaks our fears.
The street children who live around the main railway station in Dhaka are not always shown respect. Yet the Taizé initiative of a weekly meeting in the station for these children shows just that, alongside an understanding and love for those who live on the station. It was to one of these meetings that we invited Yann to attend. Yann is a French clown who usually lives in Mexico. Anybody who attended the meeting that Wednesday, or found themselves on platform 8, was shown respect by Yann, who brought many children into his act and made the rest of us laugh and forget our worries! When the police came to break up the gathering, Yann was able to side with the audience and, with humour, persuade the police to allow the show to continue for a further 10 minutes. This gave the station community a feeling of worth as their weekly club, called “We are all Kings and Queens”, continued peacefully, even against the wishes of the authorities who seldom give the children, or their activities, much respect. It was 45 minutes of fun!
This little event reminded me of the words of a Taizé song, sung as we commemorated some months ago Brother Frank of Taizé, who died recently after 40 years living close to the very poor in Bangladesh: “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est - Where there is love and living charity, God is there.” Maybe one day this will be painted over the entrance to the station. In the meantime, the presence of that other Taizé brother, Brother Guillaume, who for years has worked with the station children together with Polash and the little team of Bangladeshi volunteers, gives us a safe place to meet. There, in amongst the chaos and suffering, we have the privilege of meeting God who can be found in the courageous folk who call Komlaphur home.