The struggle to live seems to never end for seventy-year-old Jahanara Begum. In the beginning, she was struggling to raise her nine children alone and then the struggle was to learn to live without them in an old home.
The elderly woman who loves to eat Malta and fresh mangoes despite her diabetes and talks to people putting aside her grief, talked to the Dhaka Tribune correspondent while she was sitting alone in a chair at a balcony of Boyosko Punorbason Kendro, an old home at Monipur Bazar in Gazipur.
Despite being a mother of four sons and five daughters, Jahanara had to move in to the old home one and a half year ago. Before the new shelter, she was living with her husband in a hut in Comilla.
Jahanara said: “I lost my husband in 1975, a few years after Bangladesh’s independence. He was kept in a Pakistan prison in 1971 and at the time, the government used to give me a grant for the survival of my family.”
But after the departure of her husband– a former warrant officer of Bangladesh Air Force- from bronchitis, the grant was cancelled. That made life for the mother of nine even more difficult.
Jahanara's father used to support her with financial aid, while she did household chores and agriculture work for her livelihood.
Through her hard work, she educated all of her children, who now live in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rangpur and other places across the country.
Jahanara's eldest son worked abroad before his demise recently. Among her other sons, one is a sergeant at Bangladesh Army, another works at Bangladesh Government Press, while the youngest one is working at a private radio station.
Jahanara took turns to visit them.
Besides, four of her daughters are teachers while another is a doctor. She has 18 grandchildren, all of whom work in different government jobs and the private sector.
With a smile on her face, she praised her grandchildren saying: “They come to see me sometimes and want to take me home. I am grateful to all of them.”
With tears rolling down her cheeks, the mother of nine talked about her fate to this correspondent.
When asked why she was crying, Jahanara said: “All my children have their own houses but there is no place for me in them. My younger son and his wife compelled me to move here.”
“I only had Tk5 lakh in my bank account and my husband’s property which is in my name. They [younger son and his wife] conspired to take my money and forced me to write over all my property to them. My younger son’s wife always tried to find faults in me.”
The environment at the place turned venomous, she said.
She also said: “My children scolded me for giving an interview to a private television channel last year and they also threatened not to provide me with shelter and money because of it.
“They claimed they lost their standing in the community because everyone came to know I am living in an old home. I was frightened and from then on, I did not talk to the media for a long time.”
Jahanara added: “They did not look for me nor did they call for six months. It is very hard to live like this.”
Recalling the memory of her eldest son, Jahanara said he died six months ago from cardiac arrest after hearing that his mother was living in an old home.
After his death, her grandchildren took her home but she had to return to the old home as they started misbehaving with her within a few days.
When asked if she would like to live with her children, Jahanara said: “I will never go back to them.
This place is my home now and I am fine here.”
An old home is a house for where a group of old people live together.
Md Robiul Islam, coordinator of Boyosko Punorbason Kendro, said about 216 old people, of whom 112 are women, live in the old home.
According to the Parents Maintenance Act 2013, parents can file a complaint if any child does not provide maintenance of his/her parents without any logical reason or if they compel the parents to live in a parental care facility or any other place.
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