Archive for April, 2011

She sat by the window. Her wrinkled, shaking hands stitching together lost stories and little gaps in her memories. She is soaking up the sun. It was a while since she saw daylight. They had pushed her into a dark corner saying she didn’t deserve to see light. They had slid a plate with food in it, until it landed near her feet. She found herself in prison for her son’s misdeeds. “What did we do to deserve this?” they ask. Nobody has the answer to that query.

She is not the only one in the old age home with such a heart-breaking story. There are several more like her lying on their beds in the old-age home called Aashraya. Discarded by their kith and kin until some good samaritan found them. That good soul who takes care of these elderly ladies is Mrs. Rani. She runs the Aashraya trust for the elderly in a three storied building that she is renting. She invested 7 lakhs of inherited money straight into this. Her brothers got land and coffee estates. She didn’t complain. She had a mission and she went ahead with it. She has seen many come and a few leave with no one to claim their body. They were treated with dignity until their last breath and that matters to her.

 The beds lie close to each other offering comfort and solace. After all misery loves company and they know they are not alone in their struggle, as they reached the end of their lives. A cancer patient lies in her bed. Her hands and legs are like sticks and she cannot sit up. They have left her here since they don’t know what do with her, I was told. Gowramma, another inmate says she is happier here than at the hands of her daughter-in-law and son, who treated her as a maid servant.

 “They threw me out like a stray dog,” she said straight faced. “Someone called Just Dial and I ended up here. I have friends here and we share everything in peace.” Then there are a couple of voluntary inmates who walked in here saying they didn’t want to be a burden on others and wanted to live with dignity as the evening of their lives approached.

 They are fed, clothed and taken good care by the workers. One TV sitting atop a shelf gets their attention. Vacuous stares steer towards the monitor, as they watch in silence whatever it is they are watching. They lived their life. They watched their offspring’s grow and then they realized they were no longer needed.

As I sat there a cute little kitten bounced in. She is called ‘Bhojana’ by Mrs. Rani. The kitten is their bundle of joy. They talk to it, caress it and feed her crumbs. One furry, loving soul, whose love is unconditional; a small streak of light amidst the misery and pain painted in their eyes. Their precious belongings are tucked under the bed; a rusted iron suitcase, some old books, clothes and sandals. That is all they have as possessions. When their last breath is claimed, the bed is cleaned up and awaits other discarded humans.

 Does love have an expiry date on it?

 http://www.aashrayasevatrust.com

Yes, it is the sunset of my life

crippled with age, I’m down on my knees

in a forest of fear, in a maze of loneliness

I cannot be found, yet no one’s to blame

I’m waiting endlessly for you to call my name

And I search with weakening eyes

for that look of love, for that caring smile

it is twilight yet, don’t say good night

-Anon

Lalitha Das : A Profile

Posted: April 12, 2011 in Non-Fiction
Tags: ,

 

Lalitha Das founder of BCKAIf there is one word to describe 75-yr-old Lalitha Das it would be ‘dynamic’. This  unassuming lady barely sits still. When she is not solving the resident’s problems as the President of the Apartment Association, she is busy organizing events for BCKA or managing Ashwasan activities. Age has not slowed down Mrs. Das physically or mentally. “I live every moment productively. I cannot sit around doing nothing,” she says.

As founder President of Bangalore Club for Kathakali and the Arts (BCKA), for the last two years she has pioneered an organization by bringing together people who are interested in sustaining art and traditional dances in India. “Kathakali is in my blood,” says Mrs. Das who comes from an illustrious family of artists, poets and writers.

 Her father R. Narayana Panicker was the first person who got the Kendriya Sahitya Academy award in 1955, for writing on the history of Malayalam literature (Bhasha Sahitya Charitram). She is also a voracious reader and an excellent Bridge player. Her daughter Meena (Das) Narayan made a documentary on Padmashree Kalamandalam Gopi. (She won the Kerala State Award for her documentary)

 K.C. Keshava Pillay her grandfather was a poet laureate of Travancore royal asthan. He was a composer of Carnatic music and a writer. With all this art and creativity running in the blood it was not surprising she started the BCKA. Vimala Rangachar introduced Vyjayanthimala Bali to Mrs. Das, who performed for free for BCKA. Captain Krishnan Nair of Leela Palace is a patron who donated 2 lakhs Rs during the award night gala in which Padmashree Kalamandalam Gopi and Kottakal Nanda Kumar were felicitated. “The main purpose of our club is to help Kathakali artists and other artists, she said”

 Chenda player Ayamkudi Kuttapamarar is undergoing treatment for cancer and is being helped by BCKA. Late Kottakal Shivraman who was once famous for his lead role as female Kathakali performer and 90 year old make up man Appunni Tharagan have been recipients of BCKA’s contributions. Now a monthly pension is planned for the Kathakali artists.

 BCKA is planning a big event in September hoping to rope in Shankar Mahadevan for a fund raising event that will benefit artists. With 120 members the club is growing with several patrons encouraging their goal.  BCKA has also donated to the students of deaf and dumb school of Trivandrum and to orphanages in Ananthashram in Bangalore. On May 28th BCKA is organizing an all women Kathakali troupe from Triponithara who will perform at the Seva Sadan, Malleshwaram.

 Lalitha Das is also VP of Senior Citizens Club and organization for State and Central Government retirees in Cox Town with 150 members. Their activity includes feeding the poor for Onam and Christmas. Ashwasan a voluntary service organization started 14 years ago has tied with ‘Asha Jeevan’ helping patients with Alzheimers and dementia.  They sponsor five slums with 8 units all over Bangalore. Food is provided to the slums from the ‘Titan’ group of companies.   Every year garage sales are held to benefit the poor. The people in the slum are taught to make paper bags which are sold to pharmacies by them.

 Das is also the Joint Secretary of the Federation of Karnataka Senior Citizens with 120 organizations as members.

Lalitha Das tirelessly dedicates her time, energy and efforts to sustain these organizations and deserves a standing ovation for keeping the traditional arts of Kerala alive, through her organization

 BCKA

www.bcka.net

Tel: 80 23341583

Safely Moored

Posted: April 8, 2011 in Poetry
Tags: ,

 Anchored sturdy upon the sand
Calm and safe that little boat
Quietly lies she in an inlet tonight
In the fading light of the eastern sky
She will catch the tide with morrow 
With no wild sea beyond her shores
We too in life are proved and tried
Some ride out while others fail
Reaching for the harbor walls
Much before darkness falls
Safely moored…

—–

 

 

 (Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gypsycalling/