By Arnab Mitra
Upon reaching a senile age, everyone wants to lead a peaceful and relaxed life at home, surrounded by family. However Shila Ghosh, who’s almost 87-years- old, has a different story to tell.
At such a decrepit age, Shila has to sell homemade chips at a busy Exide crossing to support the meager income of her family.
In 2012, a Facebook post by college girl Sufia Khatoon brought the hard life of Shila Ghosh into the limelight. This led to various media outlets, from regional to national, covering her story.
The media, in a bid to serve their self-interests, presented different stories about her and started chasing her everywhere.
Shila wanted to earn her living with respect and lead a peaceful life, even by earning a pittance. But all the media coverage, instead of helping her, created havoc in her life.
In an interaction with Arnab Mitra of NewsGram, Shila Ghosh expressed her dissatisfaction with the media and talked about her daily struggle for sustenance.
AM: Why are you frustrated with the media?
Shila Ghosh: I don’t know how I came into the limelight. I just wanted to live my life with respect, and that is the only reason why I chose to work even at this age. But suddenly, the media started following me and made different types of stories. From morning to night, I found people were clicking my photos. All of this brought a new misery to my life. I had to leave my rented home as the landowner didn’t like this media nonsense. I have now shifted to my new rented home in Bally.
AM: Do you blame that college girl Sufia Khatoon for your miseries?
SG: No, she helps me a lot through her NGO. She is a young girl, I have never blamed her.
AM: Do you still have contact with her?
SG: No, she met me last December. After that, I haven’t had any contact with her.
AM: But after the media coverage many people might have helped you.
SG: I don’t want anyone’s help. I want to earn respectfully, not by sympathy.
AM: From where do you get your mental strength?
SG: In the Gita it is written, “Work is life. Do your work, never think of the result.” This has been my source of mental strength.
AM: What made you sell chips at this age?
SG: I don’t know, maybe it was written in my fate. I was born into a feudal family, my father was a doctor, my husband was a station master, and my son worked as an Upper-Division clerk at the Eastern Railways. After my son’s death in 2010, everything changed. My grandson was jobless, my daughter-in-law was a kidney patient, and I had to work to feed them.
AM: But your grandson should get his father’s job, according to the Government’s policies.
SG: I wrote a letter to the former Railway Minister Mamata Bannerjee, and she gave my grandson a job. But the locals felt jealous and my grandson was forced to leave his job on a court order.
AM: Can you give any details about that court order?
SG: I don’t know the details, maybe he did not have the requisite educational qualifications for that post.
AM: You are soon going to enter into the 90s club, for how long will you continue with your struggle?
SG: I want to work till my last breath. I have already got a chance to act in an upcoming Bengali film ‘Panther Panchali.’ I will play the role of Harihar’s mother in the film.
The interview was done by Arnab Mitra in Kolkata. He is an alumnus of Jadavpur University and Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal. Twitter @Sabkathani