EVERY year, thousands of elderly people are abandoned by their children in India. Many of them are left with nothing and are forced to live on the streets or live in pitiable conditions. For over ten years, Delhi-based NGO Abhinav Samaj – founded by G.K. Gupta who faced the same fate – has cared for the elderly, abandoned and alone, in their old-age home.
The primary aim is to provide the destitute shelter, food and medical care. Any aged person, irrespective of religion, caste, region, gender, can walk into the ‘Jai Ma Durga Old-Age Home’.
The organisation also provides free legal aid and organises medical camps for the elderly from time to time. GiveIndia spoke to Gupta about his journey with Abhinav Samaj and to understand a little bit more of his universe.
GiveIndia: What led to this journey from a government official to the founder of ‘Abhinav Samaj’?
G.K. Gupta: In the early 2000s, an incident took place that changed my life forever. I used to work in the sub-registrar’s office in Delhi when a lady in her seventies registered her property in a posh colony of Delhi in her son’s name. By evening her son had abandoned his mother outside the airport and left for the U.S. She came to us for help, but I couldn’t do anything in my official capacity. But the incident rankled me for months.
After a few years, I too faced a similar problem with my children. I was very downcast thinking about the sacrifices my wife and I had made to bring them up and the situation we were facing. It shook my value system and faith. But a friend told me that at least I was reasonably well-to-do with a pension. He said that I should think of so many elders who are helpless and forced to live on the streets. That’s when I decided to do my bit for society. Abhinav Samaj officially came into being in 2010. The aim was simple—to treat the elderly with dignity and respect in their golden years.
GI: What are some of the biggest lessons that you learn each day from the elderly of Jai Ma Durga Old-Age Home?
GKG: Elderly people have so much experience, and they are repositories of knowledge. I feel that I learn a new thing almost every day. I feel so happy that so many people have made it their home. When the elderly come to us, they are hopeless, but they realise that they are not alone in this world after a few days. I feel pity for the children who abandon their parents in their old age.
GI: As part of COVID-19 relief, did you get to reach out to communities beyond the elders you work with?
GKG: We were lucky that not a single person from our old-age home contracted Covid-19. We generated as many resources as we could so that we could help others. We distributed sanitary kits, food and other essentials in the underserved areas of Delhi and other places. As senior citizens were facing mental issues because of the fear of the virus, we took the help of mental health experts to counsel them.
GI: If life had not led you into starting Abhinav Samaj, what would you rather have done?
GKG: I would have been like most other senior citizens, spending my time relaxing or visiting friends and making rounds of religious places. Abhinav Samaj has allowed me to serve the people in their sunset years. I am thankful to God for that.
GI: What are a few things that help you stay active and motivated?
GKG: The biggest motivation is to see the elderly who depend on us in their final years never feel hopeless. We want to keep all our interventions and carry on without any problem. Of course, generating enough resources is always a problem, but I look back whenever our mission faces a hurdle and tell myself that what we are doing is noble, and we cannot give up and we don’t.
GI: You have been forced to eat only four things for the rest of your life. Which four items would you choose? And why? Are there any memorable associations with them?
GKG: I am not a big foodie and I am a vegetarian. I want to eat healthily and nothing fancy. I would survive on dal, roti, greens and dry fruits.
GI: What are three things you would take with you on a 16-hour flight?
GKG: I will carry my mobile. I always take my diary to pen my thoughts, plans for the future etc. I think a long flight is an excellent time to think in silence. I also like catching up on the news. So, reading newspapers is a good time pass.
Interviewed by V Kumara Swamy
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