Notun Jibon: Story Of A 70 Years Old TB Survivor Who Is Now Taking Care Of Street Children

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Living in the Tea Gardens of Assam, we were a fairly well off family, all was well till 1966. I lost my father that year and our lives turned upside down. My family moved back to Kolkata where my mother turned to alcohol to cope and my sister started working in dance bars to sustain and support the family. I was still boarding in Darjeeling.

Two years later, in 1968, Darjeeling saw a huge uprising in the number of Tuberculosis (TB) patients and in light of the outbreak, I was asked to leave Darjeeling and go back home to Kolkata. I was merely 16 years old at that time.

I was diagnosed with pulmonary TB. The stigma attached to TB was very strong, especially in those days- as a result of which I was thrown out of my own locality in Kolkata by my neighbours when they got to know that I have TB.

My doctors told me that I had about seven months left to live. The cure for TB wasn’t available then, as it is now, and death was the eventual outcome of the disease. It was at this time that I met Mother Teresa (I called her Maa), who was working for leprosy patients on the streets. When she catered to my health, I had already been continuously coughing up blood for several days. She then sent me to a shelter home. 

With no support at all, Mother Teresa helped me find a roof over my head at a Tuberculosis sanitorium in Kerseong run by the Government of West Bengal. Living in the sanitorium as a sixteen-year-old was not easy. 18 of us were living in a single room and death was what surrounded us every moment. Every time we heard a life support machine beep, we knew we’d lost one more life. I lived there for two years and by the end of those long two years, I was one of the two people who survived

I had gotten another chance at life and I was determined to give back to society. After 2 years of fighting with TB, I got back to complete my education, I played drums and guitar at gatherings to pay for my education. After completing my education I served the corporates in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru for about 45 years. I retired as the Vice President of a Telecom Company in the HR domain and then decided to go back and work on the streets of Calcutta. 

I came back to a city filled with gloom, poverty and hunger, and remembering my own battle with TB, the only thing that I could think of was ‘No one should have to go to sleep hungry.’


I remember it was winter, and I decided to buy winter kits for the kids on the street and blankets for the homeless living in the streets of Kolkata. I also worked with my late wife and friend Jhumki Banerjee to create a community kitchen to feed those children. My friends started joining me in this venture, they funded the work too. I started engaging with social media and to my greatest pleasure, we would always get some funds whenever I posted about any initiative on my Facebook page. And we named this venture, our work, our organisation “Notun Jibon”, or ‘New Life’ because that’s what this cause gave me.

Today, I am 70+ and am currently fighting Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD). The Covid-19 pandemic most certainly reminds me of my days of fighting TB, when we did not have proper treatment for TB and also had to face huge amounts of stigma from society. 

An age-old battle the survivors and patients have to fight alongside fighting the disease is the battle against stigma faced by patients of chronic and/or communicable diseases. TB patients have had to face stigma at the hands of their family, the healthcare professionals and other people around them. What causes this stigma is also an extreme lack of awareness around TB. The misinformation and the fear that comes with TB subsequently generates stigma, just like in the case of Covid-19. While TB is curable, stigma might not always be. Physical recovery from TB becomes all the more difficult when it is accompanied by mental distress due to stigma.

Many patients think that life after TB doesn’t exist, that once you are a TB patient, your life revolves only and only around the disease. But that’s not true, TB is only one of the many difficult battles we fight in life. My life was once supposed to end because of TB and then again, in 1976, when I had a relapse of TB and lost an entire lung. But I fought and recovered again, and am now serving and rescuing others, and I plan to spend the rest of my life doing this work. 



I continue this work because someone was kind enough to rescue me and provide me with the opportunity to have a wonderful life. Now it’s my turn to be able to provide the same support to someone else. Let my story tell you that TB isn’t the end. A Notun Jibon awaits you after. 

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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