Tag: Anna

shuktara Founder's Day

21 years of shuktara!

It was in October 1998 that Alison Saracena (our webmistress), Bryan Forst (developer and technical expert) and David Earp (founder of shuktara) left their respective homes in San Francisco and London to head to Kolkata and start something that they had discussed for a long time, working with young people with disabilities.

Nothing quite worked out as they had planned and they started teaching typing and computer skills to youngsters in Alison and Bryan’s flat – this later became Uddami, a computer training centre. At that time they all lived on Southern Avenue in Kolkata.

On the 1st July 1999, David received a call to say there were two young men (Anna and Sunil) who were being moved from child care to adult care in a facility outside Kolkata and people had heard that they wanted to work with young people just like this.

That was the beginning of shuktara and on Wednesday we celebrated 21 years.



Our celebration had an element of sadness because Anna passed away in October 2018 and we had our 20th anniversary last year, our first without him.

Everyone misses Anna but we cherish our many wonderful memories of him.

We had a low key ceremony for Anna at the boys house, now known as Anna Bari, with a white floral garland draped around his photo and the boys gathered around.


shuktara - Raju


This year due to lockdown only the staff and shuktara young people celebrated our Founders Day, the boys at Anna Bari and the girls at Lula Bari. As usual everyone enjoyed delicious mutton curry and payesh (Bengali rice-based pudding).

We also celebrated Raju’s birthday on 1st July, the day he chose – as with almost all of our young people, we don’t know his actual day of birth. In the evening David took a Happy Birthday Raju cake to the girls to spend some time at their home on this very special occasion.

shuktara - Anna remembered

Remembering Anna

Anna died on Sunday 21st October 2018.
He had been in hospital for one week during the celebration of Durga Puja here in Kolkata and on the last day of the Pujas, which is called Bijoya and is the day that the goddess returns back to her heavenly abode, we received news from the hospital that Anna was coming home the following day.

He came home and died the next day surrounded by the shuktara family.

According to the Hindu calendar his first year death anniversary and the rituals around it were held on Thursday 10th October which is when all of these photos were taken at Anna Bari, his home, named in his memory and during the course of the day Pappu did the the rituals for Anna’s final shradh.

It included lots of fire and very significant and meaningful moments, like walking outside the house with his favourite food, leaving it by the pond – walking away and not looking back.
Painful, but one more lesson in letting go.

Everyone came to Anna Bari, the girls all came from Lula Bari and the two older boys who are now married and living independently, came with their wives and daughters.
It was an exhausting day for everyone but important in so many ways to honour the memory of Anna who meant so much to us and along with Sunil were the first boys and the beginning of shuktara.

shuktara Founder's Day 2019 - David and Sunil holding a photo of Anna

1st July 2019 shuktara Founder’s Day

On the 1st July everyone at shuktara celebrated our Founder’s Day, commemorating the day that Anna and Sunil came on the 1st July 1999. Twenty years of shuktara is definitely something to celebrate. A dedicated team spent several days decorating the roof with draped vintage saris and jasmine garlands. There was a swing version of the Jasmine Throne, which is starting to be a serious shuktara tradition.

All afternoon and into the early evening a Hindustani music group played. A phuchka wallah was at the entrance of Anna Bari offering everyone what is surely the favorite Bengali snack. For those of you unfamiliar with phuchka they consist of a round light crunchy exterior filled with boiled potato mash, onion, green chillies, boiled Bengal gram or white peas, chaat masala, cumin powder, rock salt, chili powder, a squeeze of lime, fresh coriander, and tamarind puree.

Between the phuchka and the beautiful music most people sat downstairs and it was really lovely. The music was divine and had the most wonderful calming effect on everyone.

So many people congratulated us on 20 years and we thank you for your words of support and encouragement. We’re all looking forward to the next 20 years of shuktara!

Click here for more videos of our shuktara Founder’s Day…

shuktara boys home for young people with disabilities

David’s Newsletter from Kolkata

shuktara homes for young people with disabilities
28th October 2018

I noticed this morning a note in my diary to remind me to do a newsletter with updates of the Puja festivities here in Kolkata and to make sure that it is done before I leave to spend the Christmas period in the UK.

Little did I know when I made the note to myself to do this update it would have to contain such terribly sad news. Over the period of Durga Puja, in fact just as it ended, my first boy Anna died - last Sunday, 21st October.

Anna, along with Sunil, were the first two boys that I took at the flat in Southern Avenue on 1st July 1999 - and for me, it was always about Anna. Sunil very quickly established himself in the loving arms of Alison Saracena, who lived above me and after we all moved to Jubilee Park, her husband Bryan would take Anna out on little trips to buy cassettes, because he loved music.

Sometimes my love for Anna would be a cause of upset for some of the boys and particularly for Sumon who I don’t think has ever felt that I loved him as much. However, when Anna died last week, Sumon stayed by his side the whole time his body was being prepared for cremation and when Anna left the home, Sumon and I sat together waiting for everyone to come back and I told him that now all my love was for him and everybody else.

Anna really was my world and making a safe place for him was always the most important thing and my number one goal. Everyone else, including Sunil, just happened as a matter of course. But it was always Anna that I looked for, to make sure he was safe, OK and not acting up.

The smiles and laughter have now returned to shuktara and even though I feel heartbroken a friend told me that my heart can’t break - but it can be opened. So I feel now, as I approach 60 years in 2019, that I have finally learnt the meaning of love and letting go. That is a great lesson to learn and I am grateful to Anna for everything he has taught me.

The shuktara girls house is called Lula Bari. Bari is house in Bengali and it is Lula’s house, named after our very dear friend Lula Gibson. It made perfect sense to me, that the boys house will now be called Anna Bari.

Within the last month Anna, who was epileptic and had learning disabilities, had a couple of visits to our doctor because he was losing weight. Although the doctor didn’t think there was much wrong he put him on antibiotics and blood tests revealed low sodium levels. After three days of fever Anna was admitted to hospital on Saturday 13th October and on Monday night he was rushed up to the Intensive Care Unit, not expected to last the night. Pappu and I said our goodbyes and stood outside the hospital until 9am the following morning when we were able to see him again - he was still with us, but not very responsive. They found pneumonia and blasted him with antibiotics and then they found TB, so started courses of medication for this. After one day his lung cleared and the doctor said he could come home.

shuktara boys home for young people with disabilities
He came back to shuktara on Saturday 20th October and died on Sunday 21st surrounded by the people he loved and who loved him at 2:36 in the afternoon.

Anna was taken that evening to be cremated at Kalighat and all of the boys from shuktara who could, accompanied his body. The body takes about 45 minutes for cremation to be completed and then Pappu took the ashes to the Ganges where he immersed himself and came out of the water having made a decision to undertake the ritual mourning for a beloved family member, which would take three days.

Over these three days we fed Anna food, by placing a plate outside the house and on the third day the Shradh Ceremony commenced. This was a full day of ritual where Pappu had his head shaved and with a priest, they prayed for Anna’s soul.

shuktara homes for young people with disabilities
At the end of the ceremony, the priest sprinkled everyone with holy Ganges water and then the roof was locked so that Anna could come back over night and see what we had done for him.

The roof of the boys house, now known as Anna Bari, was covered in white cotton and scented jasmine flowers adorned two photos of Anna.

The following day we cooked Anna’s favourite food, fish curry. A plate of this was then taken out to the pond outside the house and given as a final offering to Anna.

That was the end of the rituals and then we all ate together. All the girls from Lula Bari came and soon laughter began to come from the roof.

I write this one week to the day that Anna passed away. I know that many of you who met him will have been touched by his wide smile. I miss it so much, but I am grateful that I had him in my life and that shuktara will always remember Anna Das because our boys house is now named after him, forever Anna Bari.

shuktara homes for young people with disabilities

shuktara boys home for young people with disabilities - Anna Bari

Anna Bari

Although the shuktara girls home is called Lula Bari we've never had a name for the boys home - until now. We think the very best way to honour Anna's memory is to name the boys home after him.

First we had our expert sign maker draw up a design. The photos above show the design and it's creation and installation.

The boys home will always be known as Anna Bari.

shuktara homes for young people with disabilities

Anna’s Shradh

The week following Anna's passing was filled with ceremonies to honour and celebrate his life.

As head of the shuktara family, Pappu decided to perform the traditional Hindu mourning rituals for a beloved family member.

These rituals ensure the soul has sustenance on the journey and reaches the destination safely.

On 25th October a Shradh to honour Anna, was performed. Pappu began by moulding mud from the Ganges to make a place where he fed Anna.

Prayers were said throughout the day, not only by Pappu but also by the young people of shuktara. Anna was their brother.

Pappu's wife Deepika lights incense and leads the older boys in garlanding Anna's photo.

Pappu has been the centre of this Shradh ceremony all day.
Doing the rituals according to Hindu tradition for Anna.

At the end of the Shradh everyone gathered on the roof and celebrated Anna's life by eating his favourite food - fish curry.

Anna's favourite part of the fish was the tail. Right before eating, Pappu offered this plate of food to Anna, this is called Macher Leja.

Having completed the ritual mourning for a beloved family member everyone sat together and ate.

Rest in peace Anna

shuktara homes for young people with disabilitiesThis is probably the most difficult post we've written. Anna Das passed away on Sunday 21st October at 4:00 pm. He was at home, surrounded by people who loved and cared for him.

Anna came to shuktara in 1999, a very frightened young man with serious emotional issues. He always struggled to feel at home in his environment and often it took a very long time for him to feel "at home".

Over the years he had his ups and downs. When the shuktara boys shifted to their home in Behala at first Anna had a difficult time accepting his new home. Over time he really found his place at shuktara and he often smiled. When Anna smiled it would light up the world. It was clear that Anna never forced a smile, his smile came from deep within and gave happiness to everyone who saw it.

Without the love and care given by David, Pappu and all the staff of shuktara Anna would have been a very different person. Shuktara gave Anna the very best life possible, and he had truly found his home.
Rest in peace Anna, we will never forget your smile and you will stay in our hearts forever.

shuktara homes for young people with disabilities


At shuktara we like to post about the wonderful events and people connected to the homes. We even have a hashtag #shuktarasmiles because shuktara is a comfortable, happy, safe place where everyone smiles a lot.

Since last weekend it hasn't been easy for us to smile because Anna was admitted to hospital. His condition is serious and he has been diagnosed with TB and pneumonia. This is scary for all of us and we are quite worried about Anna.

He has a very caring doctor who is doing everything he can to ensure that Anna can come back home to shuktara.

The best place to find out how Anna is doing is our Facebook page. We ask you to please keep Anna in your thoughts - we love Anna and truly believe that love is the best medicine.

shuktara homes

Old friends visit shuktara

In 1999, the very beginning of shuktara, Alison and Bryan stayed in an upstairs flat in the first shuktara home. Their door was almost always open to the first five boys - Anna, Sunil, Shantara, Bapi and Sanjay.

For the next few years they taught computer skills downstairs in David's flat, shared meals with everyone at shuktara, and even went on vacations to Goa and Puri with the boys. While they lived in Kolkata they were frequent visitors to the shuktara homes.

They recently returned to Kolkata for a visit and absolutely loved being back with the young people of shuktara. They took dozens of photos - here are a few of the best.