Bangladesh: Puja is yet another reminder of loneliness for orphans

Written by Sohel Mamun | Published on: September 30, 2017

Devoid of parental love, Puja knows she will not be receiving gifts for Durga Puja in the same way as most other children during the festivities, and must be grateful for what she has


Bangladesh Orphanage
A boy stands near the main gate of the orphanage in Dhaka | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Joyous festivals like Durga Puja can make orphaned children such as Puja Sarker become acutely aware of their plight.

The nine-year-old lives at the only orphanage in Dhaka for Hindu children – the 116-year-old Dhaka Orphanage Society (Hindu). She arrived there three years ago after her father passed away and her mother could no longer afford to keep her.

Devoid of parental love, Puja knows she will not be receiving gifts for Durga Puja in the same way as most other children during the festivities, and must be grateful for what she has.

“I got a new dress for puja which made me really happy. I did need a new pair of shoes but that was not possible to get this time around,” little Puja said.

The biggest religious festival of the Hindu community began on Tuesday with Maha Shashti Puja. The 92 orphans including 67 girls of Dhaka Orphanage Society, however, are only getting to celebrate Nabami and Dashami today and on Saturday respectively, due to security concerns about managing so many children all at once at the temples.

The orphanage is located at 59 Farashganj, next to the river Buriganga. It was established in 1908 by a Zamidar’s wife and later supported by the British Raj in 1914.

Kalipada Saha has been working at the orphanage for 24 years and is now its superintendent. He told the Dhaka Tribune that children aged between six and nine, without both parents or a father, are eligible to be housed at the orphanage, although they also take in neglected children who still have parents.

“On average, we spend Tk2.2 lakh every month on managing the orphanage includes school fees, food, school uniform, medical costs and clothes,” he said.

Kalipada said the children generally celebrate Durga Puja in Dhaka.

“They usually spend a whole day at the Banani and Gulshan mandaps, especially on Nabami, where grand celebrations take place. They also visit Dhakeswari and Lakshmibazar mandaps during Durga Puja,” he said.

One of the older residents at the orphanage is Niyati Das, a second-year student at Suhrawardy College in Lakshmibazar. “Every year we celebrate all of the pujas – including Durga Puja, Saraswati Puja, Laxmi Puja – and we get to have a special feast during that time, too,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.

Niyati is currently looking for a job so that she can start her own life. Her father passed away when she was two years old and her mother kept her younger brother at home and sent her to the orphanage.

Her brother is now a barber at their village home in Narayanganj, and Niyati thinks the authorities can do more to help the orphans learn a new trade.

“They can help us learn more by getting some tutors. For example we have a computer lab here but no instructors who can teach us how to use them,” she said. “We also have a few sewing machines but nobody to teach us how to use them. If we could learn how to use them, then we could also gain some extra skills.”

Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune