Day with the Blissful Souls! | Milaap

Day with the Blissful Souls!

I remember Nagalakshmi paati telling me this story as an example of a baby bird who used to ride on her mother’s back while the mother searches for food. One day the mother asks the baby bird, “when I am old and frail, will you carry me on your back just as I am doing now?” “Oh, no mother”, replied the baby bird, “I’ll carry my own baby bird just as you are doing now”. "It is both a moment of pride as well as disappointment for the mother, but that's how life is, isn't it?", she asked.

Finishing off with a hectic first week, adjusting to the environment and people in the city, I happened to overhear my office people talk about their visit to a nearby Old Age Home. I have never been to an old age home before, and given all the stereotypes associated with such an institution, I was more than curious to see if all that’s true at all.

The old age home is one of the projects that Bharathi Women Development Center, Milaap’s field partner at Thiruvarur, had started in 1994 and has continued with since then. The project has provided shelter to more than a 100 grandparents since its start and presently houses more than 20 grandparents. I was quite excited as well as very nervous to meet the grandparents there.

The entrance to the 'Home'

The entrance to the home is covered with lush green shrubs and trees. As I neared the building, I could see a number of grandmothers sitting out in the sun. Some were drying their wet hair and  some were collecting the dead leaves on the ground. There were a few grandmothers who were making beautiful kolams at the entrances. All the pretty grey haired women welcomed me smiling with their beautiful wrinkles radiating in the morning sun.

Kolam in front of the 'Home'

“Come on in. Where are you from, little daughter?”, one of them called out. I told them I was visiting to talk to them all for some time. I then explained why I was in Thiruvarur and that it was my first ever visit to an old-age home. All of the grandmothers took me inside with so much love, explained to me about the institution and the housing patterns. The complex also houses a small Ganapathy temple and a cattle shed.
When looking around the campus, I found two of the grandmothers with a very familiar looking wooden board between them. PALLANGUZHI! It is a game that is played on a wooden board that has fourteen pits in all. The name of the game comes from the words - ‘fourteen pits’ as pathinaalam kuzhi or pallanguzhi. No wonder it seemed familiar because I had seen my maternal grandmother showing me the game board when I was very young.

Ramani paati and Nagalakshmi paati playing PALLANGUZHI

Seeing me interested, Ramani paati and Kunjammal paati explained to me the game and asked if I also wanted to play. While we played a few rounds of the game, other grandmothers surrounded us to help me win at least one game. It was literally so much fun that I forgot about all the stress I had in the first week!

One by one, all the grandmothers started telling me where they were from and for how long they have been staying at the home. Nagalakshmi paati talked about Kumabakonam and all the famous temples in and around the place. Kunjammal paati said Mannargudi is a place I must visit at least once for it was her hometown (and also my father's). Ramani paati told me about all the temples and churches nearby and told me to go around and explore however much I can. “That is how you will grow as a person”, she exclaimed.

All the grandmothers helping me win a game

In the recent few decades, there has been a significant change in the family system in particular and the social structure in general. Joint families have disintegrated into smaller nuclear families where the young and economically active generation find hardly any time to look after their old parents. Everyone had a story to tell there, but not about betrayal from their kids, but about how positive and harmonious their lives were in the old age home. All of them had nothing but peace and happiness on their faces. Most of the grandparents in the home are willingly staying there. Ramani paati said, “It is not that our children do not want to keep us with them. They are all working or studying somewhere else. When we can stay in a place we are well adjusted, why should we disturb them unnecessarily!”

It is true that there is no bigger blessing than having your parents and grandparents with you all your life, but we must understand there comes a time in life when the younger generations have to branch out and adapt while the older generations find comfort in their own ways of life. Life should be peaceful and happy, it doesn't matter where or with who you spend it with. It literally was a day spent well with the blissful souls!

Bidding me goodbyes with lots of blessings