For the residents of Old Rehabilitation Centre in Gazipur, the occasion of Eid comes with more sorrow than joy.
This correspondent visited the old age home and met with some of the residents on Eid-ul-Azha on Saturday, all of whom had a look of longing when they spoke about celebrating the occasion – they all wanted to be with their families.
“I have been waiting to celebrate Eid with my only son, but he has not visited me yet,” said Firoza Rahman, former economics teacher of Oxford International School in Dhaka.
Firoza, 67, had an impressive life when she was young. After completing her honours and masters degrees in economics at Aligarh Muslim University in India, she came back to Bangladesh.
She got married to a businessman, but unfortunately, she lost him after nine months of marriage.
In 1998, she joined Oxford International School to teach O Level and A Level economics, and retired in 2015.
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Ferdousi Khatun, 77, has been living in Old Rehabilitation Centre for 25 years. Over all these years, not one family member has come to visit her Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune
Her only child, Mamun (not real name), went to Dhaka University to complete MBA and is currently running a coaching centre in the city's Dhanmondi area tutoring for O Level and A Level exams.
She has not been living in the old home for long.
“I had a fight with my son over some family matters. I left home angry and came here,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.
“I hoped that my son would come to take me back home, but he never came. He fulfils his responsibility by sending me some money from time to time,” she added.
“I want to go back home. If my son came now to take me back, I would definitely go with him. But he has not even come to see me on Eid day,” Firoza said, her eyes full of tears.
Gulnahar, a 59-year-old mother of four, has been living in the home for two years.
“I always wait for my sons and daughters to call me, especially on Eid. But they never do. I am dead to them,” she said, crying.
Ferdousi Khatun, a 77-year-old woman from Savar, said she had been a resident of the home for the last 25 years.
“During this time, not one person has visited me. I only get visitors when people from media come here on Eid to talk to us. You are like my sons and daughters,” the elderly woman told this reporter.
'I prefer living here'
Not all is doom and gloom for some of the residents, though.
“I am happy here, living in this old age home. I prefer living here,” said Rashid (not real name), a former government official.
The 65-year-old retired in 2003 from his post of audit and account officer at the Office of Controller General of Accounts under the Finance Division.
“I invested all my money from my pension and other benefits in the share market, but lost all of it in 2003. I became a burden for my engineer son; my daughter-in-law abused me verbally every day. I could not take it. So I left home in 2005 and came here,” he said.
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For most of the residents of Old Rehabilitation Centre in Gazipur, it is their only home now, and the fellow residents are their family Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune
In the old age home, Rashid has gathered a group of friends who are more like his family now.
“I do miss my family sometimes, but I am very happy here with by old-age buddies. They are helpful and my companions,” he said.
On Saturday, Rashid and his friends performed Eid prayers together before having many delicacies for breakfast that the old age home authorities provided.
One of his friends, 67-year-old Abdur Rahim, who has been living there fore seven years, said: “We live here like a family. Eid brings more joy for us. But we do miss our families.”
Rashid requested this correspondent not to use his real name to protect his family. “I do not want to put them in an embarrassing situation,” he said.
Trying to bring joy to the helpless
Old Rehabilitation Centre is a privately run establishment at Bishia-Kuribari in Monipur, Hotapara, Gazipur.
It is home to 101 men and 109 women who have now become each other's family.
Khatib Abdul Zahid Mukul, chairman and managing director of Givensee Group of Industries Ltd, established the old age home in 1987 and has been running its operations and looking after the residents with his own funds. He has never taken any form of financial support from outside to run the home.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Abu Sharif, caretaker of Old Rehabilitation Centre, said: “We provide everything that the residents need: food, beds, clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc. They all live here like a big family.”
When the Dhaka Tribune met with Sharif, he was busy cooking beef for the residents for lunch.
“Although we take care of everyone here, some of the residents want to go home for Eid, but very few get to do that.”