Dar-ul-Sukun: Celebrating Eid without loved ones

Published: August 21, 2012
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The needs of these women are like those of ours; they want love and support. But unlike us, they remember helpers in their prayers. PHOTO: REUTERS

Dar-ul-Sukun (Lahore) is a shelter for the mentally disabled or handicapped located within the premises of Punjab Welfare Society. This shelter comprises of wards for both men and women. The female ward houses ten women in total.

While for many of us, Eid is spent with friends and family, it is different for these women living in Dar-ul-Sukun. Their day begins when their attendant, Ms Shameem Zulfiqar, comes in accompanied by her two young children. Together, the traditional Eid breakfast is prepared, following which, she helps the residents dress up. They do each other’s make-up and have fun while doing so. Several dishes are prepared for the lunch. If their families have sent them money or they have been able to collect some, then they also buy goodies from the market for each other and to share. While their attendant makes arrangements, the residents take care of her two children like their own.

According to Ms Shameem, seldom do the families come to meet the residents or call on Eid. Attempts are made by the shelter’s administration to make the day as fulfilling as possible. However, the void in their lives does, at times, overshadow the festive tone of the day. Many keep on hoping in vain that their families will show up, and some end up crying, which is heartbreaking to see. Nonetheless, like always, they become each other’s strength and lift each other’s mood to help the day go by.

As per Ms Shameen, who started working there in 1980 at the young age of 16, the needs of these women are like those of ours. They just want love and support. However, unlike us, they do not forget those who help them and always remember them in their prayers. Anyone who comes to visit them is welcomed with an open heart.

Come to Dar-ul-Sukun and you will meet Safia, who sews clothes for the residents on Eid and on other occasions. However, her own brother left her there five years ago and gave the wrong contact information so that no one could contact him again regarding matters concerning his blood related sister.

You would also meet Rukhsana Mehboob, who is an expert in drawing and fabric painting. She appears completely coherent with only a problem with her hearing. Her talent would amaze you but her story will, no doubt, dismay you. Her husband and daughter left her in the facility themselves. Her husband has not come to visit her since then – probably too busy to make time for his life partner of many years. She might also introduce you to her mentor in the shelter namely Amtul Hameed.

She is a lady in her early sixties. She was brought to the shelter in 2009 by her daughter-in-law and her daughter-in-law’s mother. She has made several attempts to contact her family since then. However, the contact information was wrongly quoted. She remembered her son’s phone number as well, which she sorrowfully says, has been changed. She still innocently believes that her son has been tricked and does not know of her whereabouts otherwise he would have come to take her home.

The first resident of the shelter also goes by the name of Rukhsana; an epileptic patient who was forsaken by her affluent and otherwise educated family when she was in her early twenties, some 23 years ago. She still misses her family and waits for the call that never comes. Recently, when she kept on asking as to when her sister, who lives abroad, would call her, the attendant pretended to be her sister and spoke to her over the phone. This cheered Rukhsana up beyond words.

With the care given in the shelter, the improvement in their condition has been remarkable. Had they been cared for by their families and not abandoned instead, the improvement would have been even quicker that is if any psychiatric illness was present in the first place, says Ms Shameem.

It is a shame that we have become so caught up in our lives that we do not have enough time and patience to care for our own ailing parents, siblings and spouse, and we resort to subjecting them to life of abject loneliness for our own convenience.

There are many under privileged, handicapped, abandoned and disabled people out there, and while we celebrate festivals like Eid with our families, they have no hope of hearing from theirs. We must not forget this fact and try to incorporate these forsaken people and many others like them in our celebration, because their own family and loved ones have ostracised them from their lives. So while we exhibit our well-made henna, designer outfits and eat sheer khurma with our loving families, we should remind ourselves of those who may never celebrate Eid like us.

Read more by Sehrish here.

Sahrish.Ahmad

Sahrish Ahmad

A trainee clinical psychologist, who loves to read and write.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.