“When we are all together I feel strong. Alone I cannot go even one block. But together with so many people I can go ten blocks also.”
India Home interviewed* member Rabeya Khanom, 67, who came to America from Bangladesh in 2002 and has been a member of India Home’s Desi Senior Center since 2014.
On her life in Bangladesh:
I was a teacher in Holy Cross School in Dacca for 25 years. I also taught in Shine college for eight years. I taught botany, zoology, biology and science and math. My husband was the General Manager for Janata Bank. He died eight years ago. We were in Bangaldesh and he woke up from sleep and said he wasn’t feeling well. We went to the hospital and in half an hour he was gone. He was 63.
On what she tells people back home about America:
When I come here I see no leaves on the trees. Every day I watch the tress. I wonder, what happened, what happened? Then when April comes I see only flowers. Then slowly the leaves come back. I see the squirrel with its long tail. I like this. I told them I like this flower, I like this squirrel.
On her ex-students:
So many of my students from Bangaldesh are in America and so many come to my house. They call me on festivals. They invite me to come to their house. When they see me they hug me. They say, Madam, I haven’t seen you for so long. You look the same but you are a little bit fat. (she giggles). I am so proud that my students remember me.
On what she likes about this country:
I like that the roads run one-way. Because of the one -way roads there are no accidents. I feel safe in this country. The roads are jammed in Bangladesh. It is easy to live here. And the medical facilities are so good. My neighbor is good. He always say hello. In this country, the seniors help each other. Sometimes I use my walker or my cane. On the street, older people ask me, “May I help you?” On Saturday and Sunday’s we cook, we go to the park and other places to see things. Last Saturday I went apple picking. I’ve also gone pumpkin picking.
On what she does for entertainment:
I have many relatives here. All my six sisters are here. I am never lonely. I enjoyed the senior center. When I alone, I always read. I like every book.
When I have no books, I read the newspaper. In Bangaldesh I read Rabindranath Tagore, Nusrul Islam. Mujid. Here I read Koran and the Hadith. The Koran is the code of life. It tells you what to do for older people, how to dress, what you eat, how to behave.
On the Desi Senior Center:
My son and son-in-law go to work. In the daytime, there’s no one in my house. Here I get to talk with other people. I can be with others. The most important thing is that I get to exercise here in the senior center. I go the Mosque here and I pray. The center gives us so many books. India Home took us to the Museum – it had so many different ancient things that I hadn’t seen before. I feel proud, becauseI came back and showed my grandson and daughter the pictures. I could tell them about the history that I had seen in the Museum. People were wondering if I would be able to walk through the Museum. But I said, I have no problem. When we are all together I feel strong. Alone I cannot go even one block. But together with so many people I can go ten blocks also.
* content edited for brevity and clarity