How old is too old to start a project?
Ask Aruna Mukherjee, who celebrated her 100th birthday on August 31, and she will tell you she is capable enough to run an old-age home.
The Guwahati-based centurion baffled the civic administration by seeking permission for the home a few days ago.
“The mayor asked who will run the home. I said I will, and loved the look on his face,” Mukherjee told Hindustan Times.
City mayor Mrigen Sarania said the rule books do not have any age bar on humanitarian ventures. “But the zeal of a woman, who at 100 wants to do what many in their youth won’t, is admirable,” he said.
Mukherjee hopes authorities will speed up the formalities for her to start the home in October.
Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Mukherjee came to Assam 80 years ago after her marriage. Her deceased husband Jadulal Mukherjee was the head of the chemistry department in Guwahati’s Cotton College, the most sought-after higher education institute in the northeast.
The philanthropist in Aruna emerged in 1947 after she met hungry refugees of Partition from East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh) at Guwahati Railway Station close to her residence in the city’s Paltanbazar area.
“I felt sorry for the refugees and began feeding many of them, but members of my family objected. So I decided to give up my share of food to continue feeding the people as long as they could not be rehabilitated,” she said.
She has since been living on arrowroot biscuits and tea since besides seasonal oranges. “The citrus fruit, perhaps, gives me the energy to work,” she said.
She has outlived most members of her family, including three sons who were scientists abroad. The fourth son and a daughter live in Canada, visiting her occasionally.
The reasonably agile Mukherjee has refused to budge because she runs several schools for the underprivileged from her residence. She teaches painting, music, knitting, sewing, embroidery and soft toy-making.
An aide said Mukherjee has never suffered from any ailment but has of late been struggling with failing vision and hearing. “But she insists on doing the household chores,” Ganga, the aide, said.
Mukherjee has inspired filmmaker and former beauty pageant winner Bobbeeta Sharma to make a documentary.
“The film is dedicated to her spirit that makes her, at age 100, help people in distress,” Sharma said.