“I have always smiled despite all my difficulties and sorrows, but I couldn't continue smiling after seeing the hardships that my parents and sister are facing due to my illness,” said the paralysed patient in her village home in Rajshahi's Dargapara area.
These could be the words of any working Bangladeshi beset by illness and lacking the support mechanisms to cope with the hardships. But that the words were spoken by one of the country's few genuinely all-round sportspersons, whose achievements gave her an audience with the Prime Minister -- a picture of which she proudly displays beside her sickbed along with her medals and crests -- should raise serious questions about how we treat our sporting heroes after they leave the spotlight.
On Monday afternoon when this correspondent visited her, Chamily Khatun could not move unassisted when she tried sitting up on bed to have lunch. Her mother helped her to sit up, supported by a pile of pillows against the decrepit wall of her one-room home.
Chamily began her versatile sporting career with athletics and won medals in the 17th, 18th and 25th National Junior Athletics Competitions. She won silver in the Asian Games in China in 2010 and played for the national women's football team in the under-19 AFC Cup in India in 2006.
She is however best known as a right-handed batter and off-spinner. She played for the national women's team that won the 2008 South Asia Cup Cricket in Malaysia. She took part in the Tri-Nation Cricket in Sri Lanka in 2009 and 2011 and was with the Bangladesh team that qualified for the World Cup and achieved ODI status.
However, she was forgotten and dropped from the team after suffering an injury during a practice session in a Dhaka gym in 2011 and has not received proper treatment since. Even so, she continued her stressful job with Ansar and Village Defence Party, before eventually becoming bedridden due to paralysis.
The 30-year-old did not marry, thinking of the needs of her parents and divorced sister.
“I had to leave the playground since I got injured. Now, my right side has become paralysed twice in the last 15 days,” Chamily Khatun told this correspondent, “Doctors advised me to go for better treatment years ago, but I couldn't afford it as I was fighting to survive. I have my parents and a divorced sister to look after.
“I haven't talked about it all these days because I had my job. But now I have become helpless because of my paralysis. My job in the Ansar and Village Defence Party is at stake. If I lose the job, I will have to starve to death,” she said.
Chamily has dealt with poverty ever since her childhood, and realised that she would have to leave home for a better life.
“I passed many days when I ate one meal and starved for the rest of the day,” she said. “I miss my days in the fields. Although I played for my own survival, my love for sports and my country was above everything else. I began my career in the sports for my love for it, but I learnt to love the country through sports."
She sought help from the cricket lovers and countrymen so that she can start her normal life again.
Bangladesh men's team all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan called Chamily on Monday evening and asked about her wellbeing. A representative of bowler Mustafizur Rahman also called and both popular cricketers promised assistance soon. Women cricketers Panna Ghosh and Shahnaj Ahmed have been helping Chamily for the last few months.
"The [Bangladesh Cricket Board] president [Nazmul Hassan] has already given us directions and we have contacted her. We have to learn what treatment she requires, and then we will give her all the medical assistance she needs," Bangladesh Cricket Board CEO Nizamuddin Chowdhury told The Daily Star yesterday.
“I want to play again. It is possible if I get proper treatment. I want to live a normal life again,” Chamily said.