A trip to old age home

Life can humble us in the most surprising ways
Aged people sitting at dinning table inside an Old Age Home in Jammu on 13 September 2018. [image for representational purpose only]
Aged people sitting at dinning table inside an Old Age Home in Jammu on 13 September 2018. [image for representational purpose only]File: Haseeb Ibn Hameed for Greater Kashmir

A trip to an old age home wasn’t something I would have looked up to until I met its high-spirited inmates, who were the embodiment of ‘optimism’, with more to smile about in life than to complain.

So my friend and I around 1 pm in the afternoon loaded the car with warm winter caps and some namkeen snacks for the elders and saw that life could humble us in the most surprising ways.

A strong sense of love and compassion for your family can explode with greater forces when you see someone craving it. The aura of a Vridh Ashram is oddly unsettling, as you could see people from different families, backgrounds, cultures, and interests being united due to the same reason - their age.

Before lunch time, they all gathered in circles and chanted the Gayatri mantra as a gesture to thank god for another day. A simple meal of dal, rice and roti which they all ate with immense gratitude.

After they had their meal (which was offered to me as well) we distributed the matthi and laddu we had gotten. While some turned down the  laddu because of health problems, they all surely munched on the savoury matthi after the meal and complimented its taste.

When I went over to Devraj ji (name changed), a cheerful 76-year-old who found joy in Rajesh Khanna’s films and Kishore’s songs, was surprised to see how my generation played music through a tiny app called Spotify, which was quite contrary to the nostalgic and bulky DVD players.

And the idea of Netflix was a whole new concept to them in retrospect to the Doordarshan days. Not just the modern trends, they were out of touch with our modern problems too - phone running out of battery, poor internet services etc. They live in harmony, despite their differences, a concept unknown to many in the 21st century.

Even when we distributed the caps - each one of them enthusiastically picked their favourite colours and patterns and wore them for us as a way to show their acknowledgement and regard.

And just how I had received my welcome, so did every new member who joined their family.

A separate room for each one of them exuded with embellishments of pictures of deities, calendars, paintings etc. On talking to a few of the ladies, I learned that we shared the same interest - reading.

However, while I talked about literature, they taught me the sacred verses and excerpts from Bhagavad Gita and explained its complex Sanskrit in simple language. While some spent time knitting, the others participated in laughing exercises.

Although there was a need for facilities such as an activity room, a lawn for afternoon walks or anything else suiting their needs, the people there had found content in whatever that was available.

Initially when I went to the old age home, I expected to witness forgotten elders with fading hope; however, as I spent every passing minute with them, it was as if their cheerful laughter and inviting demeanour shielded their struggles, loneliness and pain.

Or maybe it was their wholesome ability to hide their miseries from me and my friends considering we were young. Many of us think of an old age home to be a depressing and gloomy place where old and sick people rest, or at least that’s how it’s pictured in the films.

However, it is only half truth. Although the people there most definitely have their pieces of hardships, they have formed a whole new community of support and care for and have each others’ backs like real family members.

They shared their stories with such enthusiasm that it encouraged me to reap stories of my own. I was accepted with such warmth that it melted my heart, this feeling of belongingness was not unknown but rather exactly similar to what I would have felt around my grandparents.

Even when you walked through the corridors, each one of the residents graciously invited us into their rooms and offered to make us tea. With all the little they had available, they showed us something that was diminishing very casually in today’s youth - hope.

They had held on to it and their courage passed it on to us too. It was their whole hearted acceptance and warm ambience that touched our hearts.

They lacked a life of leisure, however, never forgot to wear their greatest asset - smile. They wore a smile when we came and even when we left. Goodbyes had never been happier, and this time, they took my promise to return.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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