Spenta F. Khambatta chairs the Welfare Committee of the legendary Parsi institution Karachi Zarathoshti Banu Mandal. She wrote in with some updates on the various activities she and her team at KZBM do.
Over the last decade or more the Zarathushtis in Pakistan have dwindled at an alarming rate. The majority are still in Karachi, a few are scattered in other cities. We are now truly an aging community and most of us can safely be called seniors.
Many young families (45 years and under) have emigrated to greener pastures, hoping to secure a better future for themselves and their children. A few have managed to take their aged parents; others have not due to various constraints. On the other hand to be fair, many seniors refused to leave their lives here and settle in a new place, which is understandable.
We as a community have always tried to help one another in any way we can, whether young or old. Karachi Zarathushtis are a close-knit community and have always risen to any call, regardless of differing opinions.
The Karachi Zarthosti Banu Mandal has been in the forefront for over a century. Not only basic necessities are taken care off, but we have evolved over the years keeping in mind the needs of the modern day world.
Special care is given to our elderly, particularly to those who are frail and unable to take care of themselves. Many are single, have lost their partners or couples whose children are abroad – they all need love, care and attention. We at KZBM ensure that these community members are frequently visited by one of us or have a relative, neighbour or friend keeping an eye on them. They are comfortable at home but do need caretakers. The facility of employing 24-hour help has now become expensive and most people are unable to afford this from their savings. KZBM along with other trusts offers this much needed care to many elderly of our community.
We at KZBM realised that caretakers were not enough, good nutrition and food was imperative to keep healthy. Many were not eating well as they could not cope with the stress of grocery shopping and cooking. Keeping this in mind, Parsi meals from a caterer on a daily basis have been arranged for them. For a few we order basic groceries and everyday necessities each month and make sure they are delivered to them in their homes. This additional help has further facilitated many and eased their anxiety.
On 15 November 2015, KZBM opened a beautiful home for Zarathushtis aged 65+ years at Karachi, in the Dinshaw Avari Colony. Arman Home is a non-profit, subsidized facility, a blessing for those who are able and well, but now require assisted living. We offer all facilities – an in-house cook, single and double bedrooms with bathrooms designed for the elderly, a lift, air conditioning, generator, wi-fi, and every conceivable comfort.
Parsi doctors visit Arman Home weekly and in an emergency one of them is at their doorstep within minutes. Cards and Mahjong is frequently played by some, by inviting their friends and; each person’s birthday is celebrated with the inclusion of friends and relatives.
A senior citizen’s evening hosted by the Karachi Parsi Institute, our community centre, together with our associations, is held a number of times during the year. All members of the community who are 60+ are welcome to attend, gratis, subsidized by various donors. This gives an opportunity for everyone to meet, eat, and have an outing.
Unfortunately all our hamdins are not so lucky. Many cannot be taken care at home. Family members may have restricted space / facilities amongst other reasons. They are now permanently housed at the B M H Parsi General Hospital.
Once again KZBM plays a vital role. Hospital bills, medical expenses, supplementary nutrition, clothing, personal caretakers, is being provided to whoever requires and cannot afford. It may be pointed out here that private trusts also play a key role and do come forward. It is indeed a collective effort, as KZBM alone cannot take up this major expense.
Loneliness leads to depression, this is seen in many as they have nothing much to look forward to. Most importantly we visit them as often as possible. They do enjoy a chat and a laugh or two. We also address their woes and try to resolve them without interfering with the hospital’s rules and regulations.
The medical plan set up by the Karachi Parsi Anjuman Trust Fund further facilitates not only the seniors but also the community at large to meet additional medical expenses. Consultations with specialised doctors, extensive tests, surgeries and hospitalization is all arranged and paid for.
The YMZA has arranged many a musical evening for our folks at the hospital. Old favourite songs and tea time snacks lighten the mood and bring some cheer to all. YMZA also makes the effort to take the abled ones to the agiary or for an outing, every once in a while.
Our school children are now aware of the lonesomeness of our elderly at the hospital. They are taken for visits with cards and gifts for everyone. Some children are happy to entertain them with singing and dancing, which is much enjoyed and appreciated.
Volunteers play an essential role to keep the infirmary/ hospital running as smoothly as possible along with the dedicated staff.
Sadly it is a home away from home for most. We strive to do more for each one of them to give them all a better quality of life.
May Ahura Mazda bless us and guide us to help others.
By Spenta F. Khambatta,
Chair, Welfare Committee, KZBM, Karachi