As I was waiting to interview Dr Dipankar Datta in the sultry summery afternoon in the Baruipur office of Peace Senior Living, something about the ambience made it clear. “Peace Senior Living is different from a typical Old Age Home”!
Soon enters the man with a dream in his goggles-clad bright eyes. A dream that is already fulfilled but he dares for more. A man of a saintly mind and simplicity personified. A New Yorker with “Machher Jhol Bhat” at heart.
He is Dr Dipankar Datta, founder of Peace Senior Living Home, who although physically dwells in the US, but his heart and soul stays in the shadow of the mango groves of a Kolkata suburbia.
A PhD by qualification and a very successful Pharmaceutical Official in the US by career, opulence could not hold him back to the foreign land for long. He came back to follow his passion and made his dream of a unique social service, true.
Starting Peace was his dream. When I asked Dr Datta what is the story behind this successful Senior Living Facility. He answered, “I owe it all to my mother who was lonely after my father’s demise, but was not ready to be bogged down by depression”.
“So when this idea of a Senior Living Home struck my mind, I asked my mother first – How would it be like if you and like-minded senior citizens stay together, eat together, make merry together?”
“She jumped up in joy at the idea and at once said in her ever-sweet Bangaal dialect, ‘Aami tor first client homu. Tui babostha kor’ (I shall be your first client. Arrange what has to be done). And that set the ball rolling in my head,” informed Dr Datta.
Although she did not live to see Peace taking a flight, but saw her elder son buying 5 Bighas of land in a remote corner of South 24 Parganas for his dream project.
Peace is not just an Old Age Home. It is like a luxurious apartment complex with staffs taking care of the residents every moment. It is like a leisure retreat for the seniors who think their life is useless and they have to live on somebody else’s mercy.
But isn’t it intriguing, how Dr Datta came up with such an idea? So different from a typical Old Home? And how difficult was it to let people know?
Dr Datta laughs out loud and says, “Difficulties never put me off. Back then in 2005-06, I employed two young men from Indian Statistical Institute to inspect about the scenario of elder care in India. It was just a know-how of Elder Care Homes 15 years ago.”
But the final survey report did put Dr Datta in a tough spot. Those two men visited 14 Old Age Homes in and around Kolkata. They explained the grim and awful plight of those Homes. None of them had enough amenities, nor did they have a happy environment. All of them were gloomy, frowzy and dismal. A neglected, melancholic and compassion-hungry bunch of senior citizens passed their days in those Homes silently waiting for the final call.
“Just by looking at the report, I knew that mine would not be the 15th one. It could not be. From that moment I discerned what I wanted, but not sure how.”
“I went back to NYC and started visiting Senior Care/Old Age Homes there. Found a completely contrasting picture in the West. That was when I thought about the inter-blend of oriental culture and occidental outlook in building what you see as Peace today” – he recalled.
“By occidental outlook I did not mean a pricey western way of life. I wanted the environment to be airy, spacious and cheerful where seniors can live either independently or ask for assistance. But most importantly, they should be happy and satisfied.”
Living in a Senior Care Home is A TABOO in India. The biggest and most common challenge that Dr Datta faced. But he was not a man to step back, frightened by taboos and challenges. He lives by examples. So he initiated a “short term living” facility in Peace (still very much in vogue).
“Whoever feels that he/she will fall prey to the social stigma of leaving parents here or living in an Old Age/Senior Care Home, I ask them to come for a short term visit like a holiday in my property. Till now it has never happened that anyone who had come for a stay had left dissatisfied,” affirms Dr Datta.
Dr Datta is now a prominent face of the gradual change in the common perceptions of elder care in Kolkata. In fact, the taboo called “old age home” is gradually withering away with people like Dr Dipankar Datta introducing unique senior home concepts.
“I shall always say, you come with your children, grandchildren, relatives and friends for a holiday, here in Peace. Stay with us for some time and I am sure your views will echo mine,” assured Dr. Datta.
Indeed it will!!
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