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Full Frame: Death of dreams

A photographer follows parents in Bangladesh who are forced to live out their old age alone.

Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers in the field.

What happens to parents when space is limited in the heart and homes of their children?

Old-age homes have become popular in urban Bangladesh. The traditional structure of the Bangla family is turning into a fast, racy lifestyle, where ambitious youth are discarding the old values and in turn, their parents.

The parents are forced to live out their old age alone. An old man, once the head of the Bangla family, is now a subdued member of a house of strangers. The woman who once happily cooked three meals a day is now forbidden from entering the community kitchen. There are no phones in the old-age center, and the residents know no one will ask for them. The wrinkles on their faces are as pronounced as the pains of being discarded. The bitter realization that we are all dispensable comes into focus. They are nearing the ends of their lives with unfinished dreams and many unanswered questions.

In Dhaka's largest old-age home, Boshipuk, the residents ask this question everyday — how after a lifetime of striving to establish individual ownership and entitlement, they are now fumbling to cope with this new involuntary communal life? Dhaka is the fastest-growing megacity on the planet, and the landscape of the traditional Bangla family is being rapidly erased. Respect for elders is being washed out.

This is what my documentary project focused on. I believe in immersion photography. I listen, observe and talk with my subjects over an extended period of time. I focused on one old-age home and followed the daily lives of the residents for two years.

My story focuses on the process of forgetting an old life and coping with a new habitat. Most of them fervently wish things would be how they always dreamed — singing lullabies to their grandchildren and belonging to a happy family. My photos address the question of how the older generation in urban Bangladesh deals with this loss of ownership and learns to share with strangers. Simple hobbies such as reading the newspaper or watching TV now require consensus. The menu is now voted on. As they reroute their lives, they learn to manage tales of new friendships, gossip, bonding, petty fights, arguments, jokes, negotiation and the myriad emotional challenges.

We, the young and working class of our society, claim that we are working to create a better future and society for our next generation. While claiming this, we ignore the people who have created the present; who contributed their entire life for the betterment of their children. We have forgotten about the contribution of the last generation, and the sacrifices they made for us.

About the photographer:

Khaled Hasan was born in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, in 1981. He started his training as a photographer in 2001. He graduated from South Asian Media Academy and Photojournalism (Pathshala). He tries to document a culture and to tell a story with his photographs. It is essential, he believes, for the photographer to create communication and trust with his subjects.

Hasan has worked as a freelance photographer for several daily newspapers in Bangladesh and International Magazines. His photographs have been published in Sunday Times Magazine, American Photo, National Geographic Society, Better Photography, Saudi Aramco World Magazine, Guardian, Telegraph, The Independent and The New Internationalist.

He was awarded the 2008 All Roads Photography Program of National Geographic Society for his documentary project, as well as the Alexia Foundation Student Award (Award of Excellence).
In 2009, he was the Grand Prix winner of “Europe and Asia — Dialogue of Cultures” International Photography Contest organized by Museum of Photography (Russia), and won the Mark Grosset Documentary Prize 2009 exhibited in Les Promenades Photographiques Festival 2009 in France.
Other awards include the Humanity Photo Documentary Awards winner 2009 organized by UNESCO in China, CIWEM’s Environmental Photographer of the Year winner 2009, View Book Photo Story and Documentary Jury Prize winner 2009. He received Honorable Mention in Professional Category of Photo Philanthropy First Annual Activist Award 2009, the CDP Emerging Documentist Award winner 2009 and the 6 Days Japan International Photojournalism Award 2010.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/asia/101004/bangladesh-elderly-homes-photos