Their stories: Forgotten and abandoned
It is said that God created Mothers because He could not be everywhere. But what about those children who have been abandoned? Or those mothers who have been forgotten?
Mother’s Day was observed a day earlier and the harsher side of life was evident in the lives of a few mothers we met at the Social Welfare Centre Old Age Home, Pashupati. Each of these mothers had hoped their offspring would be their support in their old age, but life has dealt them a bitter blow. They are alone with only their memories for company.
Says 76-year-old Annapurna Koirala, who has been living here for the last four years, “I was happily married with four children but three of them died. My husband also died leaving me alone in this world. My only surviving child is a daughter, who is married and has a life of her own. I chose not be a burden on her. My daughter is mine, but son-in-law is somebody else’s, and I was wrong to expect the same kind of feelings from him like my daughter’s. She comes to meet me and this gesture of hers is enough to keep me satisfied.”
And Narayan Puri has two sons and a daughter, but has been living here alone for the last five years since her husband died. “My sons come to meet me at times, but never offer to take me home though they are earning well. I don’t think they hold a place for me in their hearts anymore.”
Bhagwati Kharel’s story is no different. Her husband left her and her father brought her here. She says, “My son comes to see me, but as I am not capable of doing any work, I am of no help to him anymore. In fact, I haven’t even seen my grandchildren.”
Sixty-eight-year-old Devaki Kandel feels that those who do not have a child of their own feel the emptiness more and speculates that if she had had a child, her “life would have certainly been different” She says she was expecting a baby, when her husband married another woman and kicked her out. “My husband’s brutal beatings resulted in a miscarriage. My step children also never missed a chance to hit and mistreat me. Living in this old age home was the only option left for me.”
Laxmishwori is 80 and says her son is ashamed to visit her because “he feels I survive on sarkari bhaat (food given by government)”.
She has memories of a life full of children having raised her brother-in-law’s children too. But today there is no one. Even her sister who used to live here died a few years ago. She says, “My son is doing well, even has a house of his own, but he has never come to take me home.”
And another side of the same coin — abandoned babies. Some have found a shelter that they can call a home at Bal Mandir, Naxal, but many do not. Bal Mandir is one of the biggest orphanages in Nepal sheltering around 300 abandoned children from all across the country. From just born babies to teenagers, this is a place that for many will be the only home they’ll ever know.
Says Sarita Gurung, 13, who’s been living here since she was six, “I was brought here with my younger brother as my mother could not take care of us. Living here for so many years, the caretakers who brought us up have become our mothers. I miss my biological mom but I would not want to go back to her as it was due to her decision to leave me here that I never got to have a family or a chance to learn my own culture, language and tradition.”
Another 13-year-old Manamaya Rawal was brought here with her younger sister after their mother eloped with another man after their father’s death. Her sister has been adopted by Spanish family. She is bitter as her mother “never even bothered to enquire about our whereabouts and I haven’t even seen her face since then”. And she is sure that she will not go with her mother as “the people here are my family and I will always cherish what they have done for me”.
Sunita Kandel, 14, says she is not an orphan but that poverty forced her mother to leave her here. Her younger brother and sister live with their mother in Chitwan and come to visit her. “I did not cry when she left me but I do feel bad about it. I understand her obligations and don’t blame her entirely for everything. I have felt so loved here that nothing else matters now.”
Kudos to all the ‘Mothers’ here who have brought love and a sense of belonging to the lives of these children.
Dinesh Raj Kharel, 13, who has been living here since he was four, lost his mother to brain tumour and his father died of a snakebite. He was brought here along with his younger brother, who has been adopted by Italian parents. He has an elder brother too, who dissuaded Dinesh from getting adopted. Says Dinesh, “I refused. I now regret that decision because once we cross the age of six, adoption becomes very rare.”
They’ve been neglected, abandoned, forgotten and left unloved. Yet despite the unfair cards that life has dealt them, what shines through is their determination to live their life with as much dignity as they can muster. And to make the best of whatever life serves them.