No Place Called Home

In a small centre for destitute elderly people in Bangalore, I spent much of 2007 photographing and listening to men and women telling me stories about the circumstances which had led them to poverty. When they were younger, these men and women had jobs, homes, raised children who went to good schools and would never have expected to end their days in the confines of a shelter for the homeless.

Urban destitution as I witnessed in this shelter transpired because of the disintegration of families. In most cases, these people belonged to the urban middle class and made were homeless, not because they were penniless, but because they had been disowned by their own families; the age-related incapitation of these people was the reason they ended up here.

Some of these old people had been cast away by their families after a bitter quarrel. Other were literally abandoned by the side of the road, often sickly and penniless, by their own sons or daughters, for whom they now seemed to represent nothing more than an extra mouth to feed, and a hindrance while struggling to make ends meet for their nuclear family.

There were also cases where a spouse had been deserted by their partner, either because they had found someone younger, or out of desperation because of the inability to bear to other’s medical expenses.

For some of the people in these pictures, the anguish of the separation from their families has taken a toll on their mental balance. Many of them have instead tried to come to terms with their lives, accepting a turn of events that caught them completely unprepared, and make friends with one another to ease their pain if not heal it.

*These photographs were taken at The Home of Hope in Doddagubbi Village, in Bangalore’s outskirts. In 2007, there were about 150 residents. According to its founder, Auto Raja, there are about 370 people at the shelter there today.

(As appeared in the ‘Prisons’ issue of the Motherland Magazine, Dec 2011)