Aruna Mukherjee of Assam, who became 100 years old on August 31, has applied to the Guwahati civic administration seeking permission to start an old age home. She plans to run the home herself.
“The mayor asked who will run the home. I said I will, and loved the look on his face,” Aruna told Hindustan Times.
In fact, the mayor Mrigen Sarania and his colleagues are so impressed that they are speeding up formalities so Aruna can start the old age home by October.
“The zeal of a woman, who at 100 wants to do what many in their youth won’t, is admirable,” said Mrigen.
Aruna is already a known philanthropist in her area. She runs four vocational institutes that offer free training in painting, music, knitting, sewing, embroidery and soft toy-making.
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This spirited and active centurion is in good health except for slightly failing vision and hearing, but does most of her household chores herself.
One of the most remarkable things about her is that she has been surviving on just tea and biscuits (and oranges when they are in season) for the last 70 years. She took this unusual step when she encountered hungry refugees from Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1947. Aruna was born in Dhaka but came to Assam 80 years ago after marrying Jadulal Mukherjee (now deceased), head of the chemistry department in Guwahati’s Cotton College.
“I had seen hundreds of hungry people when they fled Bangladesh and took refuge at Guwahati railway station. I had seen children cry inconsolably for food. I cooked for them and gave them my food. I made paper bags to earn money so I could feed as many as possible…In due course, they migrated to different places, but the feeling that they didn’t get to eat for days together is still with me. That’s why I can’t eat anything except tea and biscuits even today,” Aruna said in an interview to The New Indian Express.
Aruna has always lived independently from her children. Her son and daughter currently live in Canada. Three other sons, who also lived abroad, have passed away.
Documentary filmmaker Bobita Sarma, who is making a film on Aruna’s life, said: “Her spirit is such that even at the age of 100, she gets desperate about visiting flood-affected areas to help the marooned.”