Photos by Sagar Shiriskar.
Photos by Sagar Shiriskar.

The twilight home

Art of the everyday on Divar Island.

Sagar Shiriskar is a lens-based visual artist working with photography and film. More of his work can be seen on www.sagarshiriskar.com

The aged population of India, like most other countries, is growing significantly every year. As of 2021, there are nearly 138 million elderly persons in India, many of whom are living unassisted. While many elderly people in India grow old with their families caring for them, many are not quite as lucky, struggling even for shelter and basic amenities. This is where charitable organisations step in to fill the gap.

Lar Santa Margarida is one such organisation, run by the Society of the Poor Sisters of Our Lady. It is located on the island of Divar in Goa, a place far from the beaches and resorts of the seaside state known to tourists. The island is reachable only by ferry, with no bridges connecting it to the bustling side of the city. Nestled amidst a grove of trees on this island, the Portuguese-style house originally belonged to a Goan couple, the Gomes-Pereiras, who decided to give away their home to the Society so that elderly people like them would not have to spend their days alone. Goa has the second largest number of senior citizens in India after Kerala, with 11.2 percent of its population aged 60 years and above. A considerable proportion of them live by themselves without their spouse, children or any other outside support.

On Divar Island, life has brought many joys and sorrows to the elderly community at Lar Santa Margarida. Some residents ponder over old photographs or letters they have received days, months, and years ago. In the afternoons they watch their favourite television shows in the dining room. Some have taken on additional responsibilities to help the Sisters. Conversation is invaluable to the people living here – they like to chat about the world outside their home and reflect on memories of the past. Some share more than others, but their stories are always interesting, always human.

A resident of Lar Santa Margarida sits at the dining table reading the newspaper. The room still has the original chequered flooring and old black-and-white photographs of the Gomes-Pereira family on the walls.
A resident of Lar Santa Margarida sits at the dining table reading the newspaper. The room still has the original chequered flooring and old black-and-white photographs of the Gomes-Pereira family on the walls.
Mr Peter, a resident at the home, on his daily morning walk. He doesn't speak much but loves to go for a walk at exactly the same time each day.
Mr Peter, a resident at the home, on his daily morning walk. He doesn't speak much but loves to go for a walk at exactly the same time each day.
A resident sits in the room where mass takes place every day. Some of the residents continue to sit in the room long after mass is over.
A resident sits in the room where mass takes place every day. Some of the residents continue to sit in the room long after mass is over.
A resident shares memories and anecdotes from his life with Sister Monica Rodrigues.
A resident shares memories and anecdotes from his life with Sister Monica Rodrigues.
Mr Carvallo worked as an office assistant all his life. He asked me to take a photograph of him in the garden that he loves and maintains.
Mr Carvallo worked as an office assistant all his life. He asked me to take a photograph of him in the garden that he loves and maintains.
A resident shows a plant from the nursery he built.
A resident shows a plant from the nursery he built.
A resident pores over old photographs and letters that he keeps by his bedside.
A resident pores over old photographs and letters that he keeps by his bedside.
The residents sit in the dining room, watching television together.
The residents sit in the dining room, watching television together.
Mr David, better known as Eddie and 83 years old, was once a dancer.
Mr David, better known as Eddie and 83 years old, was once a dancer.
The residents gather in the prayer room for everyday mass.
The residents gather in the prayer room for everyday mass.
The residents visit the Good Friday processions on Divar Island and watch as actors dramatise the Stations of the Cross.
The residents visit the Good Friday processions on Divar Island and watch as actors dramatise the Stations of the Cross.
Sister Monica Rodrigues is the backbone of Lar Santa Margarida, taking care of the residents, conducting daily mass, among many other tasks. As a young person, she was a student of history; it was then that she decided to devote her life to the service of caregiving.
Sister Monica Rodrigues is the backbone of Lar Santa Margarida, taking care of the residents, conducting daily mass, among many other tasks. As a young person, she was a student of history; it was then that she decided to devote her life to the service of caregiving.

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