Shanti Tuladhar recites a poem from her book, Unko Samjhana. This poet and resident of a senior citizen shelter at Pashupati Bridhashram in Kathmandu, Nepal, is still writing. Married at 30, her husband was in the army and when he died 12 years ago, she was sent here. Shanti doesn’t like to talk about her son. Instead, she reads us her favourite poem: see inset.
The story of how the 230 residents landed here is almost always the same: in their old age they became a burden on their families, who dumped them at Pashupati. For the elderly, it’s sometimes a relief that they are in such a holy place and don’t have to bear the taunts of a home where they are no longer welcome. None of them came here willingly and no-one has anywhere to go. Yet, even though they have lost families and possessions, they still care for each other and retain a deep sense of humanity. The Pashupati Bridhashram is run by the Government so its budget is limited, it is congested, short-staffed and shows signs of mismanagement.
In my old age
My sons have grown up
Huts have turned into highrises
They’re adding floors one by one
For me, there is just the pyre left
As the house grew taller
We were pushed lower
Lower than the staircase dark and dank
My son has grown up but what has he done?
I became a burden and he brought me here
My family is foreign forever,
These strangers are family now.