On a rain-soaked evening seven years ago, Anwara Begum was returning home in Mymensingh town. At an intersection she saw a very old woman lying on the road.
Anwara looked around to see if anyone was there with the woman. There was no one. Rain pelted the woman's body as darkness approached. Anwara felt helpless while she pondered about the lonely body of the woman.
The woman raised her hand as if she wanted to tell Anwara something. She brought her face close to the woman and she only heard a name – Charubala Chakraborty. The woman could not move because of her frail health.
By this time, a few people had gathered around and they all expressed sadness for the old woman. But no one seemed to have any idea on how to help her.
Anwara got on a rickshaw and searched from one end of the town to the other for Charubala's relatives. She could not find anyone. At last she decided to take Charubala to her own home in the Naumahal area of the town.
The first thing Anwara did was to take the about hundred-year-old Charubala to a doctor, and then she fed her. She decided to shelter Charubala until she could finish her search for Charubala's whereabouts.
A few days later, she could trace some of Charubala relatives. The old woman's home is in the Natokghar area of the town. She has a son and a daughter, but neither of them wanted to shelter their mother.
Charubala's children themselves had abandoned her on the road that rain swept night.
Seven years later Charubala is living with Anwara. She is much better now and can speak a little. But she cannot yet eat by herself. Sometimes she soils the bed and Anwara herself cleans it.
Anwara said that none of Charubala children have come to see their mother in the last seven years. It is inhuman to abandon the woman who gave them birth, said she.
Anwara said, "I felt very sad about the whole thing. I gave her shelter in my home. We call each other mother."
On providing shelter to a woman of a different religion, she said, "It does not matter that she has a different faith. We all are humans. First we are human beings, then comes our faith. What use is religion if a person cannot survive? I have been nursing her out of love for humanity."
Charubala shudders now when she recalls that day her children abandoned her. She prays for the welfare of her children and says, "May God keep them well. Let them get food on time. I long to see them."
Anwara Begum is the wife of a retired government official named Akikul Islam. They have two children. Their son is an engineer and the daughter is a physician.
Anwara's husband had reservations about the whole affair first. He said, "At first we did not support Anwara, but we relented after realising her love for the old woman. Charubala has now become a member of our family."