Ms. Sarala Panthi is the chairperson of Himalayan Briddha Ashram Center, which is located at Jalbinayak Chowk in Gongabu, Kathmandu. The Center, established in 2061/62, is home to 25 elderly people aged between 70 to 75 years. Each of these unfortunate souls has a tragic story behind them. The eldest person here is a 93-year-old woman of the Tamang community. Ms. Panthi recounts her story: “She says she is from Sindhupalchok. Her son lives in Kathmandu in a rented room. Apparently, one day last year, the son gave her Rs.50 and told her to go back to their village in Sindhupalchok. Someone found her wandering around in Mahrajgunj Chowk and brought her here. Imagine her son’s callousness! One needs to take two buses to reach Sindhupalchok.”
“And then, there is another old woman here, Ms. Bed Kumari Bhattarai, who comes from Trishuli, and is asthmatic,” she continues. “Her son is a drunkard; he drinks all day long. His mother was forced to seek refuge here in the Center. Her alcoholic son sometimes comes to visit, but he makes sure to come when I am not present! In spite of all his faults his mother loves him dearly, and is always waiting to give him biscuits and other snacks when he comes.”
Ms. Panthi sounds distressed when recounting such stories, and laments, “You know, after having seen all this happen day after day, I get really depressed. You begin to lose faith in humanity.” She herself is from Lamjung, and is now living in Kathmandu with a husband, two daughters, and a son. “Both my daughters are doing their Masters, while my son is in the U.S., having won a DV lottery visa. I am happy that he, too, is inclined towards social work.” Explaining the reason for her running an old-age home, she says, “Right from childhood, I have been very socially oriented. Even as a child, I couldn’t tolerate injustice. My grandparents were the feudal type, and I just couldn’t stand how people of lower ranks were treated, and I used to have quarrels with them about this.” According to her, the old-age home does not have a regular source of income, but manages to get by—with much difficulty, doubtless.