Wonder Woman

Rezaul Karim Manik and Muhammad Ibrahim Ibne Towhid write on the 90 year old woman cyclist who has been providing medical services for the last 44 years

Lalmonirhat Woman Pic

Jiroemon Kimura is till date the oldest person to live, 116 years – a record in the world. As he shared his tips for a healthy life, he ranked everyday exercise to be the first thing in the list. Kimura claimed his secret to longevity; it is nothing other than exercising every day.

Kimura kept this daily habit of exercise and cycling well into his 100s.  When his legs grew too weak after 110, he did a hundred bicycle motions each day while lying on his back.  At 114, he still took time each day to wiggle his hands and legs repetitively, always making sure his muscles stayed active.

Zahiron Baora is the wonder woman of Bangladesh. Aged 90, she paddles from dawn to dusk and provides medical services to villagers in full spirit and energy regardless of her elderly state. With time and dedicated service, she bagged the title ‘doctor of the poor.’

Baora hails from Aditmari upazilla of Lalmonirhaat and is the widow of late Saayed Ali. As her husband departed four years prior to the liberation war, she has been working hard to support her family with three sons and a daughter. With his elder son passing away couple of years back, she lives with his younger son at the moment. However, she is self sufficient and also adds to the family income.

It was the year 1973 and her family was going through extreme financial crisis. Women at that time had little opportunity of employment. Calling all odds out, she took a six month long training on health and family planning. Thus, she started providing primary medical services and family planning advices to her nearby villages as a monthly paid social worker. She went on retirement from the service after working for ten consecutive years with a salary starting from Tk 200 per month which went up to Tk 500 a month. Even after retirement she did not stop her service, she continued to support the health of the locals on her own accord. She is sharing her experience and expertise to care for others till date with all the smiles in her face. For the ease of communication and for crossing distance in less time, she uses bicycle as her means of transportation.

Lalmonirhat Zohiran Beyoa P5

While talking to New Age Xtra, Baora says, ‘I provide treatment to patients with the primary medication. I treat diseases like fever, headache, malnutrition and stomach problems. I do not charge any money for my treatment but sell medicines according to the market rates. My daily income stands at Tk 150 daily from the profit I make. My upazilla has 30 villages. Every day I can take care of at least 70 houses of 7 villages as I visit them by cycling.

For the last 50 years Baora claims to retain sound health and not falling sick. However, she says, ‘I am giving initial treatment to residents of 12 nearby villages from an abundant family planning facility for the last 20 years. My fellow villagers love me and I cannot but rush when they fall sick. On top of that, the condition of my own house is terrible and no one is there to come to my assistance.’

Hamidul Islam (75), a resident of Vellabari village has been seeing Baora paddling for the last 44 years and extending her services. He says, ‘I along with many others consult her in the first place whenever we fall sick. She does not take any money and at times gives medicines for free. If someone is terribly sick, she advices them to go to hospitals and many a times she accompanies the patient to medical facilities.’

Another villager, Jilhaj Ali (50) says, ‘We have always found her welcoming everyone with a smile on her face. She is also renowned as “Bangalir Naani” (Granny of Bengal). She takes this warm gesture with pleasure.’

Abdul Rajjak, Baora’s grandson is aged 42. He does fall sick from seasonal diseases at times. He says, ‘I myself might fall sick, and then she takes very good care of me, but I have not seen her falling sick. Even now, all her teeth are intact, she is physically strong and able. I have lost my father, but grandmother has never allowed me to realize his loss with all her care. She is always there to advise others in good times as well as when someone is in distress.’

Baora’s youngest son Torab Ali says, ‘With all my concerns for mother, I have tried a lot to stop her from travelling distances but she cannot be indifferent when it comes to taking care of others even if the person is many kilometers away. Our family runs sufficiently with the small amount of agricultural land we have but she never quits taking the trouble. Mother always tells us that one needs to always do something for others and for the society. She says that work can be both professional and service provided for others, one shall pursue both till one’s last breath.’

Zahiron Baora is a revolution herself and a one man army. She wishes to take care of others and extend her generous hands till her last breath. Baora wants many others to share her dream of serving people.

 Rezaul Karim Manik is the Lalmonirhaat correspondent of New Age.