After Rana Plaza Fell


Today Rana Plaza fell.

He stares, in fearful air,
as white ghosts emerge,
like walking dead of a 9/11 scene.
for familiar eyes to lock in recognition.

Her last words; that rushed morning
on a mobile, now ringing hollow on their bed.
Left in haste,
not to miss a day, for a cut of pay.

He enters
a hole from next-door RS tower,
to the sandwiched third, fourth and fifth.
Blunt metal hammering by unlikely heroes,
to a claustrophobic nightmare.

A sticky redness drips.
From a stuck head between pillars,
fixed eyes stare,
as he prepares
to find her.

Two days since Rana plaza fell.

Perspiration with pungent decay.
Hideous swollen arms blocking way
in mine-like shafts,
serendipitous paths of 15-inch beams,
on elbows,
past cloth stacks, cartons spilling jeans, MANGO label reams,
to persistent, weakening cries,
of a group huddled alive.

His new sister stifles her pain,
while freedom finally gained, from pinning concrete.
As he saws off her arm
his crude instrument and virgin hands shake,
a two-minute lesson by doctors who could not take
the risk.
He, who used to faint at a vaccine jab.

No joyful reunion.
A grateful stranger grasps
till he let go, that afternoon, or was it night?
Difficult to tell,
when time stood still, as it was running out.

Exhausted hours of searing will,
for the lucky to have another chance.
He must have brought out over 200 alive.

A wet patch of brown-red.
A baby born a few hours ahead,
shocked into silence,
till a heartening scream in the blinding sun,
swathed to her mother’s belly,
pulled out on fabric rolls strewn
in tunnels on the brink of collapse.
Held by flimsy car jacks.

Seconds and minutes creep by.
Spotlights catch terrified eyes
with sudden hope, after unbearable heat
made them strip bare.
Holding onto life; taking in urine, licking up sweat.

A handyman, foreman,
gardener, student, and cook.
A motley team, with no names,
On whom his life depends.

Take a break, they say, but how, when this
unexpected calling
blots out reason.
Snatches of sleep on a neighbour floor.
Adrenalin propels him back for more.
Several days since Rana Plaza fell.

He tastes that smell
despatching dignity to the dead.
Later, unable to eat for days. Gasping oxygen
under shifting plates.

Skulls seem to look up.
Hands, with no body parts.
Heart still leaps, with a reminiscent ring on bare bones.
Just so he could bury her.
Even if never to feel her warmth again.

He heard
of someone like him,
left with a battle of his own,
without use of arms and legs.

Five months since Rana Plaza fell.
Still no job, after that fateful month.
Saving souls and reuniting the dead
was not enough to keep it.

His grip tightens on his daughter’s hand.
Her mother’s teasing tones echo.
Visit his dreams.

As do the screams
of those he left behind.
Begging him not to.


On 24th April 2013, an eight-storied building housing half a dozen garments factories, collapsed at Savar, Bangladesh, after developing cracks in its pillars the previous day. Ad-hoc rescue workers, mostly untrained, worked day and night for 19 days, managing to rescue 2,438 people alive. According to official records, 1,127 persons lost their lives, including two rescue workers. Many more were injured, suffering from physical injuries as well as psychological trauma.


Author: Sadaf Saaz

Sadaf Saaz is a poet, writer, entrepreneur and women’s rights advocate. She grew up in the UK, and studied Molecular Biology at Cambridge. She now lives in Dhaka, where she is involved in a range of initiatives as a cultural activist and curator. She is a festival director and the producer of the annual Dhaka Literary Festival (previously Hay Festival Dhaka), which she co-founded in 2011. She also runs an Arts Management and Boutique Travel company, as well as an Ethical clothing company. She is a trustee of Shadhona, a non-profit centre for the promotion of South Asian culture and arts. She also is co-founder and chairman of SAFE (Safety Assistance for Emergencies), a non-profit trust involved in occupational health and early response, which supported rescue efforts after the collapse of Rana plaza in 2013. She is the author of a collection of poems Sari Reams , and her monologues based on women’s stories Je Kotha Jai Na Bola (That which cannot be said), have been performed in various locations in Bangladesh. Her work has also appeared in various anthologies and international literary journals including Wasafiri, Index on Censorship, Weber and Bengal Lights.