Dashain, the much-awaited festival of joy and togetherness, is just another day for the senior citizens who live at the Senior Welfare Centre Briddhashram in Pashupatinath. Most of them–there are 230 of them at the ashram–ended up here after being abandoned by their families. For 70-year-old Durga Dahal, who has been living at the ashram for nearly five years, Dashain is no fun at all. “During my childhood, Dashain was a grand annual event, and I had so much fun with friends and family,” recalls Dahal.
For fellow-resident, Bhagwati Dhakal, originally from Dhading, Dashain is hardly a season of cheer too.
“For people like me, who have been left by their family members to die, Dashain is a just a normal day,” says Dhakal. Dhakal remembers how different things used to be when she was younger.
“Dashain used to be my best time of the year. I remember the food, the swings and the fun attached to the festival,” she says. These days, Dhakal–who has already spent three Dashains at the centre–sometimes wishes that the festival would never come.
For many of the residents here, Dashain only serves to remind them about how they were abandoned. And for many of them, Dashain, far from promising something new, entails their delving into the days of old. “Now it is only the memories that matter to me, and I smile remembering the past Dashains,” says Dhakal. The ashram officials and workers, however, do try to do their best to lift the residents’ spirits. “We distribute a set of clothes every year at Dashain,” says Ram Sharan Thapa, an official at the centre. “We try to make Dashain enjoyable here so that we can make our residents feel like they are at home.”