By Deepshikha De
The Udbartan social welfare organization has pulled in all its resources to provide a safe heaven for those who have no place to go, and no one to take care of them. This old age home is situated in the village of Khandra in the district, Burdwan. Old citizens from all over the state and some from all over the country have resided here during their retirement period to live a peaceful life. I had the privilege of visiting this home, and to my wonder and amazement, I found souls who had faced a lot of pain and sorrow, yet they had not given up on life.
The foundation stone of this old age home was laid by the Governor of West Bengal , M.K Narayan on 11th July 2012.The orphanage consists of over five acres of land, there are beautiful gardens and a pond with plenty of fish. The president of the Old age home is Mr.Prakash Sha, he had donated all the land and a vast amount of money to the orphanage. Arup Sinha is the vice-president, while talking to him, I found out about the routine of the old citizens and the lives they lead.
There are fifteen of them, twelve are female and three are male. The food they get is decent, although they all have different tastes, and it is extremely difficult to cook dishes individually for all of them. Sometimes, these senior citizens act like children. For example, every evening, they are given a light snack of Muri(puffed rice) and Beguni(a fried item). Since these snacks are oily, and elder people need to have light food, the caretaker decided to give them fruits instead. However they all protested against this, they wanted their fried snacks back. This is almost childlike behaviour. When asked, how they spend their time, most citizens said, they invested their time in gardening, reading Bengali books and books about God. Doctors come to the old age regularly to conduct check-ups for the patients. Occasions like Rabindra Jayanti are celebrated, pandal hopping is mandatory during the pujas.
Some people have incredibly disheartening stories that led them here.
Mr. Gorachand Mukherjee used to work for DSP(Durgapur Steel Plant). He had bought a few apartments in different parts of Kolkata. Unfortunately his son sold them all and decided to shift to Pune, he asked his father to come with him. Mr. Gorachand agreed, however an unfortunate turn of events occurred. Mr.Gorachand’s son left him in a hotel in Pune and fled. After that, Mr. Gorachand tried contacting his daughter, however his daughter denied their relationship, and told him, he had ceased existing for her from the day her mother died. Fortunately, Mr. Mukherjee’s daughter got him admitted to this old age home. He says he has found peace here, and he has stopped thinking about all the pain he had faced before. He spends his time by reading novels written by Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray. However the most surprising fact is, Mr.G.Mukherjee calls his caretaker, the same name he called his son,-’Bubla’. Mr. Mukherjee deludes himself into thinking his son stays with him, even after all the turmoil he had to face because of his son.
We also came across another old lady, who could not accept reality, and lived in her own world. Her son is an aircraft engineer and lives in U.S, however he comes all the way from U.S to visit her as much as he can. It was very difficult approaching her for an interview, as she was wary of anyone trying to talk to her and was suspicious about everyone. She thought people were trying to hurt her .I couldn’t help admiring the staff who had to deal with such tough situations every day.
Before leaving, we came across a jolly resident known as Saraswati, and although she was a little hard of hearing, her smile was so infectious that we could not help smiling back at her. It was a treat to watch all the resident’s eyes light up when we offered them sweets. By ‘we’ I mean, me and two of my cousin sisters, who were a big help. We did not know how time passed by, as we had interesting conversations and maintained a steady rapport with the elderly. Soon, it was time to go and we came out wiser out of the orphanage that we had gone in. We realised all lessons can’t be learned from books, we need to experience slices of reality to learn the life changing lessons.