The Hard Life of a 104 Year Old
Taramoni Das, a 104 year old widow from the village of Baishsho Para (in the Mohishkocha union of the Aditmari upazila in Lalmonirhat), makes different items such as baskets, dali, kula (winnowing tray), sieves and other articles using bamboo for a living. She has been doing it since her teenage years at her parents' house in Kathal Bari village of Kurigram.
S Dilip Roy
Two years ago Taramoni Das used to earn Tk 80 to Tk 100 per day, which was somewhat sufficient to support her family. However her present income of Tk 40 to Tk 45 per day isn't enough to support a family of 9. The fall in her level of income is mainly due to the increase in the price of bamboo. The situation has gotten so bad that sometimes she can't afford to feed herself.
Taramoni Das got married to Tarok Chandra Das, of her village, in 1923 when she was 16. After their marriage, she continued making things with bamboo to help her husband. Soon after - she became a mother to six - five daughters and one son. Unfortunately Taramoni lost her husband Tarok Chandra 15 years ago and since then she has been the sole provider for her children. The family consists of her son Moni Das (age 88), his wife Biso Bala Das (age 82), her grandson Bisso Nath Das (age 55), and his wife Bul Buli Das (age 48). All of whom live in a hut next to the Baishsho Para road.
When asked, Taramoni said, “The responsibility of looking after my family falls entirely on my shoulders as my grandson is away most of the time to work. The money I make from bamboo items is so little; it doesn't even meet the minimum demands of my family.”
Biso Bala Das (Taramoni's daughter-in-law) said, “I am not as young as I used to be, I can't work as hard as my mother-in-law can and this is mainly because I suffer from different diseases for a 104 year old she still walks like a young girl, I have never seen any idleness in her and she always struggles for our livelihood.”
“I only get Tk 200 as elderly allowance every month from the Union Parishad office and I haven't approached the chairman or any other member for relief. I prefer working rather than begging people for help,” said Taramoni.
She built a tin-shade hut that cost her Tk 10,000. She did this using the money she had been saving for the past four years from her old age allowance, but she couldn't afford fencing it. Taramoni Das said “Me and all my family members face flooding problems during rainy season as our hut can't keep the rain water out.”
“I know many elderly people go out to beg and they earn in the hundreds, but that isn't me - I dislike begging. Begging is a kind of curse. I may be earning very little but, doing so is peaceful and it's definitely far more peaceful than begging. True, I dream of a having a nice house and good meals, but I'm happy with what I have. However, I do not know what will happen in the future if I stop working” Said Taramoni.
Shefali Khatun, a HSC student at same village said, “Taramoni Das is an symbol for women's struggle. People should to learn from her.” Nurunnahar Begum Mili, the Executive Director of Jago Nari Unnayon Sangstha at Aditmari upazila said, “I personally visited Taramoni Das several times. She works extremely hard for a 104 year old. Members of my organization always visit Taramoni Das and talk with her to see how she is doing”. Local Nishi Kanto Das said “Taramoni, the oldest woman in the village, could peacefully live through the last of her days, if the government or the well-off people came to her aid.” Mohishkhocha UP chairman Mosaddek Hossain Chowdhury assured us, that even though he is the newly elected UP chairman, he will see what can be done for Taramoni Das.