Mother’s Day was just a few days away when I met Morsheda Begum. Standing taut and proud in her 70s, she appeared strong and confident. In a bleak room at the Old Rehabilitation Centre in Gazipur, she recounted her life from sitting the SSC exam at Dhanmondi Girls’ School in 1973 to teaching at Ali Hossain Girls’ High School.
She had raised two loving sons. Morsheda could reminisce her grownup sons hugging her, kissing her, bringing her presents on Mother’s Days. But now, the affection has passed on to the next generation. Now it is her daughter-in-laws who receive the hugs and kisses from their children while Morsheda reflects on where she went wrong.
After her husband’s death, their sons had grown distant, and eventually they abandoned her at the old home.
She recalled a time when she would cook special dishes for her children on Mother’s Day. She loved giving back much more than she received. The elation on the faces of her sons was all the reward, all the incentive for her efforts.
‘’ I want to live with my sons and spend time with my grandchildren. But my sons do not want me to stay with them,’’ she spoke hoarsely through a cavalcade of tears.
There was only the noise uncomfortable silence displaced by her sobbing. She cannot call her sons or grandchildren or any other family members, the institution does not permit outside contact. It was incredibly difficult to secure an interview with one of the residents because of the stringent regulations. Another mother
Morsheda is like many other aged mothers at the Old Rehabilitation Centre located in Bishia-Kuribari in Monipur, Gazipur. It is certain they are receiving better care than what they would have received, but it does not take away from the fact that they are deprived of warmth and filial bonds.
Some parents are sent to old homes because their children live abroad, an understandable choice. There are parents who have been forced out of their families because there was no room, or because the children were irresponsible.
Aged parents at old homes are often victims of circumstance. One woman, who admitted to putting her mother up at an old home and later withdrew her, said: “There were problems in the family, and keeping my mother away was the best option until we resolved the situation and brought her back to the family.”
It is an example of how differences in families can reach peaceful solutions benefitting everyone.
If mothers are so easily discarded and recollected like material goods, then it begs to ask the question “What is the point of a Mother’s Day?”
Prof Akhtar Sultana at the Dhaka University said: “Celebrating Mother’s Day is not part of our tradition, but Bangladeshis are very much inclined to celebrate the day. It is not bad to celebrate the occasion but children should remember that a mother is not just a mother on a specific day.’’