Sunday, October 17, 2004
(Project Coordinator: Jahnvi)
I'll let you in on a little secret of mine. One of my fondest dreams is to one day become a jolly, semi-senile, doddering old grandfather of 80, swamped by dozens of teensy little grandhildren clambering all over me, tugging at my snow-white beard and listening excitedly to my quaint old-fashioned anecdotes ... no wonder I'm in a hurry to grow old! :)
But there's a nagging fear behind these rosy dreams. What if ... and even the most optimistic among us may not easily be able to blindly refute this possibility for our own selves ... what if I end up in an Old Age Home?
Have you ever visited an old age home? Based on limited personal experience, they're of two kinds.
Type A is the Old Age Home for the rich. For a substantial annual fee, the inmates are given access to clean bedsheets and washrooms, laundry (they pay extra for this), warm food, a little garden where they can stretch their legs at fixed hours, a 24x7 nurse (usually an ayah) and a doctor who'll look in once a week and during emergencies.
Type B is the Old Age Home for the poor. The inmates (dare we use the word "victims"?) sleep on the cold damp floor irrespective of their rheumatic bones ("Well, at least we're saved from the rain, beta"). They use public toilets, share the responsibilities of cooking and sweeping between themselves, and wash their own clothes. And in most cases they're still required to pay for this existence. If they're lucky, a humanitarian doctor visits them in his or her spare time. If they're luckier, there'll be someone to weep for them when they die.
Irrespective of whether the Old Age Home is Type A or Type B, they suffer from two common diseases. The two diseases which are the "biggest businesses in the US after Christmas". Doctors may use different names for them; but two common words sum them up adequately.
Imagine a typical day in the life of Hari, a “fortunate” Type A inmate.
Hari opens his eyes reluctantly in the morning, not knowing who he's still living for, not knowing what the purpose of his existence is. The thought crosses his mind that, if only he had died in the night, at least his son would not have had to continue paying the exorbitant fees charged by the Home. Well, I guess I’ll remain a burden to my son for a day more, sighs Hari as he struggles up and sits vacantly in his bed throughout the day. He thinks a lot; that's his only occupation, after all. These days, he realizes he's thinking less than usual; his mind has been filled with unusually long durations of blankness. As Babu, the Warden of the Home, brings him his insipid tea and stale arrowroot biscuits which cause indigestion, Hari looks into his eyes and sees an indifference which is scary. Hari talks little to Mohanlal, his old room partner who suffers from piles and has a horrid cackling laugh. They have very little to talk about, after all. They've run through the same topics innumerable times ... about their youth, their wives, how sweet their kids were when they were young, how absolutely adorable their grandhildren, who live in Florida, are ... the conversation invariably breaks down at this time, and so do Hari and Mohanlal. Evening brings a flutter of excitement ... Arun, the South Indian gentleman in Room 11, has passed away. Heart attack. Arun didn’t have any family; he had never married. No one to weep for him. As if there’ll be anyone for me, thinks Hari sardonically. Good for Arun ... freedom to soar at last ... maybe, thinks Hari as he lies in his bed and looks at the stars, maybe tonight I'll get lucky ...
And what does next morning bring? No, not the same loneliness, but two young idealistic people. And ... wonder of wonders ... they want to take Hari and others to a House of God of their choice to worship !! Hari is ecstatic for a few hours … he gets an outing, he gets a rare chance to pray to God in a place of worship of his choice ... and he doesn't need to pay even a penny ... it momentarily feels almost like he’s got his lost children back for a day … and besides, for all you know, this may be Hari's last ever opportunity to visit a Holy Place ...
The very fact that someone, somewhere, cares enough for the unwanted to make that extra effort ... it is so rare, and makes such a difference to the Haris of the world !!
Taking inspiration from this noble venture, the MAD Club introduces it's second Individual Project -- Walk With The Old, or WWTO !!
The modus operandi of Project WWTO is simple:
- Identify an old age home near your home / college / workplace
- Take some time out one day and pay a visit. You can go on a holiday; an old age home is never closed.
- Talk with the manager and find out what the inmates really want or need, and which you as an individual with limited resources can provide (partially or fully).
- Try and satisfy this need at least once, more regularly if possible.
And in case there isn't any Old Age Home you know, why not start Project WWTO at home? Do little things for your grandpa and granny which you know they'll like. Ask any old neighbours or acquaintainces if you can do something for them.
Do remember, we can never do enough for the elderly. After all, they are our grandparents, our parents. And one day, they will be Us.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, ideas, and details of how you helped, so all of us can benefit from each other's accumulated experience.
Come participate in Project WWTO.
And let us Make A Difference.