Sailesh Mishra was raised in a joint family. Activism, he says, runs in his blood. The grandson of a freedom fighter, young Sailesh was always vocal about the need to better society, never shied away from helping others and actively fought any injustice he witnessed.
Driven by the need to serve his country, the idea of working in the family business just did not interest Sailesh.
“My mother always said I was meant to do more with my life, and that its purpose was not limited to the family’s enterprise. Her words fueled me to pursue something different and be independent.”
He refused to join his family’s business but knew he had to work to survive. During these trying times, he fell in love with his now wife. However, the inter-caste marriage did not sit well with his parents, and as a result, he left his home.
At 22, Sailesh had a bride to look after and a career to figure out.
Reluctantly, he became a salesman and spent the next 15 years climbing his way up the ladder to become the company’s marketing manager.
But all those years in the corporate world did not satisfy Sailesh, so he offered to volunteer at the Dignity Foundation, an elderly social support organisation, but destiny had more in store for him. Instead of just volunteering, the group wanted Sailesh to become its Marketing Manager.
The job came with a 75% salary cut, but the pay did not deter him. He recalls his happiness after he signed the papers, “I remember standing on the local train, and smiling, just full of excitement saying ‘yeah! This is what I want!’
I came home, and I talked to my wife about it, and she replied saying “If you are happy, you’re going to keep me happy.” ”
That’s how Sailesh left his well-paying job to work with senior citizens, who he believes is one of the most neglected and ignored segments of society.
After working with older adults for a few years, Sailesh realised children loved their parents, but they were either occupied with their job, education, or their personal lives. Taking care of their parents with dementia was immensely challenging.
In 2008, he started Silver Innings, a social enterprise in 2008. Silver Innings a Social Enterprise established to provide need-based services to elderly with the launch of a dedicated and comprehensive website for Senior Citizens www.silverinnings.com on 10th April 2008 under the leadership of Sailesh Mishra. The site is a one-stop destination for all the information about “Graceful Ageing”.He also started ‘A1 Snehanjali’ – Mumbai’s 1st 24 x 7 dedicated assisted living elder care home.
Sailesh has won several awards including, National award Karamaveer Puraskar in 2008 and Karmaveer Jyoti in 2016 and has participated in various summits. His remarkable work in the field of Dementia and elder right advocacy has brought him accolades, respect, and support from many renowned organisations around the world.
In a decade old experience he has met a lot of dementia patients and each time he had to deal the situation differently. There have been times when 90-year-old senior citizens have asked him to sing a lullaby and Sailesh would sing for them each night. A belief that these silver-haired, golden-hearted people deserve to enjoy their “second childhood” with dignity, respect and care has driven Sailesh Mishra and his team of committed souls to reach out to seniors in as many ways as possible.
During his journey, Sailesh has dealt with a lot of incidences, but a particular incident shook him to the core. Sailesh to narrating the incident, “A senior citizen had expired in one of the nursing homes where I was working. So, we contacted his child to inform him of his father’s death. The reply I got stunned me. The son, very non-chalantly, said, ‘Okay he died, cremate him.’ We waited for the son, but he didn’t turn up. It shocked me.
How can someone become so inhuman to your own parents? In the end, when he didn’t turn up, we cremated the old man like he was our own parent.”
The geriatric healthcare and welfare industry suffers from the lack of funding, human resources and petty ego’s of key decision makers, Sailesh says.
We asked Sailesh what he would like to change and he said, “I wouldn’t allow old age homes and I would make a law where it’s mandatory for every housing society to have either one building or dedicate 2-3 floors for the senior citizens, and this planning should be a part of the community. When people are sent to old age homes, they are detached from a life they were used to living for the last 60-70 years. It kills the elderly people inside.”
Sailesh hopes to leave an imprint in the hearts of people through his good work.
By Aishwarya Parameshwaran