GUWAHATI: Philanthropist Aruna Mukherjee, who has been living on just tea and biscuit for the past 70 years, had a message for people as she stepped in the age of 100 on Wednesday – live for mankind.
She made a reference to Assam’s legendary singer-musician Bhupen Hazarika’s immortal song “manuhhe manuhor babe” (man for mankind) in this regard.
In 1947, the granny had stopped eating everything, except tea and biscuit, on seeing the sufferings of people who fled the present day Bangladesh following the partition of India post-independence.
“I’d seen hundreds of hungry people when they fled Bangladesh following the partition of India and took refuge at the Guwahati railway station. I had seen children crying inconsolably for food. I had helped them with whatever I could. I cooked for them and even gave them my own cooked food. I made paper bags to earn some money so that I could feed as many people as possible. Their plight was such that I couldn’t eat food and restricted myself to just tea and biscuit,” Aruna told Express.
“In due course, they migrated to different places but the feeling that they didn’t get to eat for days together is still with me. That’s the reason I can’t eat anything except tea and biscuit even today. It is that feeling which made Bhupen Hazarika to compose and sing the song ‘manuhhe manuhor babe’. There are many among us who do not have that feeling,” she lamented.
Born in Dhaka, Aruna came to Assam following her marriage some 80 years ago. Her husband Jadulal Mukherjee, who is no more now, was the head in the department of Chemistry at Cotton College in Guwahati.
The couple had four sons and one daughter. Three of the sons, who lived and worked abroad, died. The fourth son and the daughter are settled in Canada.
“They come here once a year but call her up on the phone often. When they visit the house, they bring gifts for all of those who are taking care of their mother,” Gayatri Adhikari, a family friend, said.
Despite being a centurion, Aruna is healthy and has a sharp memory. She herself does most household chores. On Wednesday, she cooked a sweet dish for well-wishers and visitors.
“She is adept in art, music, knitting, sewing, embroidery, painting, soft toy-making etc. Currently, she runs a school and three vocational institutes. The courses are offered for free,” Gayatri signed off.