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20th March 2017
Dear well-wishers of Shila,

This post has been a long time coming. A lot of that time was spent convincing Shila about the necessity and harmlessness of a cataract surgery. At first I was confused, and somewhat angry, that why after approaching me for help in financing her cataract did she back out of it. But speaking with her over the past year has helped me see things from her perspective.

She was in pain and in no way financially equipped for the medical expenses that lay before her. But she was also terribly afraid of going under the knife at this advanced age. She told of a neighbour of hers who never made it out of surgery. Though I don't know how old this neighbour was or what she was getting surgery for, this was enough of a cautionary tale for fear to have won over the pain.

That is not to say our fundraising was in vain. Shila trudges to work everyday, but someday soon she will not be able to. Her cataract might burst. Any number of medical emergencies that are typical at this age might take hold. Her food and medicine costs will be an obstacle for the family when she is no longer earning. She still has a few debts left to pay from when she had borrowed to treat her son.

I've delayed handing over money to her family because, after my interactions with them, I wasn't sure it would be used for Shila. After some deliberation I've decided to hand over a large chunk to her grandson with the caveat that the amount be used for her whatever she needs- clothes, food, medicines, debt clearance, etc. But he should maintain a rough accounting of the funds.

I'll pay the money to Shila's family in two or three installments-depending on Shila's needs and our verification of said accounting. The exception to this is a medical emergency or hospitalization in which case her grandson will be given as much cash as the situation demands.The total amount that I received from the fundraiser, after deduction of Milaap's fees, were 1,52,524. I also received Rs. 10,000 in offline donations. For the first installment I have deposited 62,500 INR in Shila's account. Please see the attached snapshots. I will continue to be involved with her family for updates on her work and health and will report that here.
7th June 2016
Dear well-wishers of Shila,

I am so sorry for the delay in this update.

In February Shila’s grandson contacted me, asking me if a surgery end of March or early April was possible. I assured him it was, but that it was best we get it done right away because in February the weather was humanly tolerable in Kolkata. He said it was not possible, because he had ‘other commitments.’

I began calling him from 20th March. He told me to settle for a date mid-April. By then the weather had become too hot to allow safe post-surgery recuperation in a non AC environment. Shila, naturally, has no AC and will not hear of recuperating in someone else’s home (I’ve offered mine).

Since the fundraising has been completed, her grandson has been committing to and forestalling a surgery. So I’ve no great faith that his word on this matter means anything. Now he’s said that once monsoon hits the city and temperatures have cooled, they are willing to go ahead with it. But I am not holding my breath.

My work has taken me out of the city. But my family remains there and are available to help anytime she may have a medical emergency. Moreover the doctors at Dristi Pradeep are intimately familiar with her case and know to expect her any day now that her cataract is at risk of bursting. Which brings us to the question of the finances.

We’ve raised a healthy amount for Shila which my family and the doctors are wary of handing over to her grandson, given that this doesn't seem to be a priority for him. Furthermore we are aware that she will have a long and painful treatment process ahead of her, given her stubborn fear to get it treated in time. We’ve been conflicted over whether to start paying her a monthly pension or wait till said medical emergency occurs and then release the funds needed for the treatment and recuperation. There is also the faint hope of Shila’s cataract surgery going underway in July, but as long as that remains her grandson’s decision, I am not holding my breath.

So please let me know what you prefer. You can reply directly in this email thread or let me know in the comments on the Milaap page. Based on your replies, discussing it with the Milaap team and having a final consultation with her ophthalmologists I’ll make an informed decision. Should the overwhelming majority be in favour of starting a monthly pension, we’ll do so from the 1st of July.

A great day to all of you. Should any of you be up to it, you can head down to the Haldiram in Exide and have a chat with Shila about the importance of the operation. Buy her a laddoo from Haldiram (they’re her favourite) and spend a lovely ten minutes (or however long she can spare). She’s usually there from 4 pm onwards.

Warm Regards
Rakhi
12th January 2016
Dear all,

Thank you so so much for yourheartfelt contributions. We had initially set out to raise 50,000. Thanks to the generosity of strangers from around the globe we have now raised thrice that amount and have, hopefully, secured Shila's future for the time to come.

For purposes of full transparency, here are a couple of disclosures that all contributors should know. Since the last week of December, which is when her original surgery was scheduled, Shila is refusing to undergo the operation. She thinks she has only a couple of years to live and a surgery is too scary for her to deal with at this stage in her life. Her own family, who should be making reasoned decisions on her behalf, are alarmingly unbothered about it. Since I am not a family member, I cannot force my opinions beyond a certain point.

At the time of starting this fundraiser Shila was undergoing preliminary treatment (pictured above) and had undergone a battery of tests at Jodhpur Park's Ashok Laboratory. Since then, due to her change of mind, the treatment has been stalled. We have been speaking to her, trying to change her mind, and generally making a nuisance of ourselves. But it hasn't made much of a difference when her own family couldn't care less.

If she continues at this rate, her cataract will most certainly burst. If she doesn't change her mind, then we have to be preapred for that inevitability. The current plan stands thus. We will make a last ditch attempt to convince her of the surgery. If she remains firm against it, we will put the amount we have raised in her name in a new bank account and give her a monthly pension (around 4-5k) from there. If and when her cataract bursts then the remaining funds will be utilised for her hospitalization. If that doesn't come to pass, then the pensions will continue uninterrupted till the funds last.

We are wary of handing over the entire sum at one go because we are not too sure if it will be reserved for her or be used by other family members for their needs. We also need to keep some amount at hand for the emegency medical reasons mentioned above. During the whole process, I will posting regular updates with pictures and receipts to ensure transparency. Milaap representatives will also be involved and notified during the monthly payoffs. Any of you are welcome to head down to Haldiram's in Exide and ask her yourself, or convince her about the surgery, if you are so able.

Since the surgery right now is a no go, if any of you feel mislead and would like your contributions back, please write to me at rakhi.chakraborty02@gmail.com. I will coordinate your refunds. No judgement.

As for me, I did get quite angry at the blase attitude of her family and Shila's own changing moods. But she is the sweetest, kindest little thing and she's perfectly entitled to her decisions-even if I may vehemently diagree with them. I am honoured to have known her and to be able to help her in any way I can. Here's a picture of Shila with my mum. I look at it and remember the wonderful evening we spent with her and the songs she sung for us. After that, it's hard to be angry again.

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A super day to you all.

Warmly,
Rakhi

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