During my visit to Kushgram (read: Lock and Key), Mariam took to me the family of Churki. When I reached the house I saw a small tiny house with two rooms. The house had been built by the catholic mission in the area. An old lady who could not stand up was sitting at one of the doors. Mariam called for a little girl of about 10 years, and told her to call her mother. And soon I was joined by the three females: Churki (about 30 years old), her daughter (10 yrs) and Churki’s mother (55 – 60 yrs). Churki’s family had become Christians, and Churki got the name of Nirola at her baptism. But, as it happened in the village, many had left Christian faith, and few had joined the protestant churches, as they felt that the catholic mission was not caring for them. Churki’s family had been given a house by the catholic mission with little two rooms, but certainly had no livelihood options. And so they lived and live in utter poverty with no food on most of the days, or survive on a single meal. This had lead to the aging of Churki’s mother who is now finding it difficult to walk even few meters. Churki works as a daily laborer whenever there is work in the area. She cannot leave her home to work elsewhere where she can have regular work. Churki’s daughter was studying in the Mustafanagar catholic mission’s boarding school. But because they could not pay a monthly fee of 300 rupees (about 6 dollars a month), she had been thrown out…. Or, dropped under pressure!??? The little girl goes now to the local government school irregularly, as she is not guided or cared for. The family was crying if I can do something for them. I saw that the pressure of the old lady is lying heavily on the family that neither Churky nor her daughter can think of a better future.
I spoke to the family in detail. The needs are clear : the old lady needs a short time care for her to recuperate, and place her in a old persons’ care center, Churki needs continuous job so that she can pay for her daughter’s studies, pay part of her income for the mother’s care and keep a small amount for her own and her daughter’s future needs. I could find a job for her as I called up a friend in Kolkata. But, the old lady needs immediately some short time care so that she can be appropriately sent to another place to care for herself, and spend rest of her life in peace and happiness.
I spoke to the parish priest of Mustafanagar. He knew about the issues, but did not seem to sympathize with the family much. I called up Sr. Magda, a missionaries of charity nun, who is the superior of the tuberculosis care center at Mirwal, near Raiganj. She had problems, as the government has put lots of pressure on the missionaries relating to running of care centers, asking them to report with lots of information on daily basis, telling them clearly that they cannot keep anyone other than tuberculosis patients, etc. She is a good woman, god-fearing and sincere. I also understand that she is not in a position to help in this situation. So, I walked to the brothers of Missionaries of Charity at Mustafanagar. The superior there was not very warm to listen to the story, as he listened partly and he said that he is too busy and can’t do much about this. As I taste a piece of cake, celebrating Christmas, at the convent of the Sisters of Divine Savior in Mustafanagar, my heart is broken. This Christmas is not going to mean anything good for Churki’s family. One issue: poverty, killing three birds in this little obscure village. The family is crying out, “Help!!!”