covid-19 Society

What happens in an old-age home during India’s Coronavirus lockdown?

Dev Goswami carrying an inmate in Davo, an old age home in Delhi’s Dwarka

Dev Goswami carrying an inmate in Davo, an old age home in Delhi’s Dwarka   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

How Davo, an old age home in Delhi’s Dwarka, is struggling, during the Coronavirus pandemic

For the senior citizens who live on the premises of the not-for-profit home for seniors, Davo, in Dwarka, Delhi, social distancing is not new. They have been abandoned by their families and do not have the means to afford their own spaces. Of the 60 inmates, who live in a 1,800 square foot area, 20 are mentally challenged, and eight are differently-abled. There are four women too.

Dev Goswami, a former truck driver who started operating the NGO in 2016, is trying to keep them occupied and fed. The restriction on movement though, has kept away the 20-30 volunteers who used to come in daily

When Goswami was on the road, working as a truck driver from 1978 to 2007, his heart would often go out to the elderly. “While driving, I would come across old people on highways like National Highway 24, the Grand Trunk Road. I would feel bad, so I would make extra rotis, share my meals with them, give them a shave, and occasionally bathe them.”

Today, at a time when physical distancing has become a part of our reality, life is difficult. Earlier, the inmates were given a bath in batches of four or five. Now, they have to be bathed individually. The bathing area lies outside the gate, so each one has to be escorted there one at a time. “We cannot let them be outside even for a minute," says Goswami, referring to the lockdown in India, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Luckily, Harish Sharma, formerly a Blue Line bus driver, chips in by giving them bath. Life has been tough for him -- his son deserted him when he got sick, but he is not giving up. “I believe in overcoming hindrances, and we'll get through COVID- 19 too,” says Sharma, who came to Davo in 2017, directly from Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, where he was getting treated for chikungunya.

Harish Sharma came to Davo when his son deserted him

Harish Sharma came to Davo when his son deserted him   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Sharma believes in seva, but says there just isn't enough to around. “In the morning, we serve tea and rusk. For lunch we serve chawal, dal, and rotis. Dinner is light and kichree is made. But our donors have stopped giving us food. Earlier, we would tell them what we needed. Now, they are afraid to come to the ashram," he says, adding that they fear the police and the transmission of the coronavirus. Goswami adds that earlier, tea was made twice a day for the inmates. Now it is made only once, and each batch gets less milky.

He talks of how the elderly could sit in the morning sun before the lockdown, but that has come to a stop. They still try to keep spirits up though. “We play bhajan, kirtan and they start singing.”

To ensure that the inmates are healthy, they are given a vitamin C supplement -- Goswami understands that the elderly are the most vulnerable. Protein supplements were to arrive, but the lack of movement due to the lockdown across the country have prevented it. “Let us hope it arrives soon,” says Kamal, his son, who works in the health department in the Delhi government, and helps his father out. He adds that the situation is made more difficult by shops increasing prices of basics: "Sugar has risen from ₹1,600 for a packet of 50 kg to ₹1,800. Similarly, the price of atta has galloped from ₹20 to 30 per kilo."

Tara, Goswami's wife is also involved, helping the women inmates and supervising cooking and other activities.

How long will he be able to keep this up? “I am a person with a positive frame of mind. I have never given up on anything,” he says.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 11:20:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/home-for-the-elderly-ngo-davo-faces-troubles-in-the-coronavirus-lockdown-with-no-volunteers-and-limited-food-supply/article31207498.ece

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