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A Heavenly abode for the Aged

Like Florence Nightingale she flits through the dormitories chatting and laughing with the inmates, bestowing a smile here and a pat there. In the infirmary, she stops to radiate some sunshine amongst the sick - to find out whether their pain has subsided or whether they enjoyed their midday meal. This gentle and humble lady offering a healing touch to the old and destitute is Savithri Vaithi, the Chairman of Vishranthi, a home away from home – an abode for aged and destitute women who find shelter and loving care here, far away from their own homes.

Started by the Monday Charity Club some 25 years back with just one elderly Christian lady as its inmate and one helper, Vishranthi today houses about 107 elderly women. But why such an unusual name for the club, one might well be tempted to ask? The answer is simple and straightforward! Some housewives met on a Monday to form the club and hence it was named the Monday Charity Club. A charity a month for the needy was to be its general objective.

At that time, no other ladies’ club was running an institution for the aged in the city excepting for a few missionaries, so the idea caught on like wildfire, though initially it did meet with a lot of resistance from the society. The club was accused of breaking the culture of the joint family. But despite stiff opposition, the institution took birth in a one- room rented house in Chromepet in 1978.

Today, Vishranthi is the proud owner of a one-acre plot of land at Palavakkam, the land being donated by AVM Charities. Helpage India working nationwide for the cause of the aged raised the funds for the construction, with the building being inaugurated by the then President of India, Mr. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy.

"The only criteria for admission to the home is that the women should be poor, destitute and 60 plus," says Savithri. "Most of the inmates staying here joined on their own, are over eighty, were widowed at an early age and were working as ayahs, cooks, in the fields, petty shops or as fruit and vegetable vendors with nowhere to go and with not much earnings to sustain them in their old age," she continues. "So when they approached us we offered them a place to stay and more importantly to die in dignity," she adds. Incidentally Vishranthi even has a mortuary and takes care of the last rites of the dead.

All inmates of Vishranthi stay like one big family within the twelve dormitories of the building. Eighteen trained staff members including a matron, three experienced nurses, two cooks and helpers comprise the enlightened team here. Says Savithri, "four of the girl -helpers are from the mental hospital. They were not acceptable to their own families after their treatment so we brought them here." They turned out to be efficient workers and along with the other helpers and inmates take care of the cleaning, laundry (a manually operated washing machine has been donated by the German Consulate), toilet cleaning and other works. In addition, the elders of the home pitch in for cutting vegetables and once a week take turns at helping out with the dishes amidst light-hearted chatter.

For the elderly folks the day starts early - at daybreak. Morning ablutions over, it is time for a steaming cuppa. Everyone contributes in the daily chores in the mornings after which a light breakfast of a nutritious porridge, concocted from six cereals is served. Afterwards, all congregate at the small temple in the campus premises for prayers. At noon, a South Indian lunch comprising sambar, rice and vegetable curry washed down with buttermilk follows. Thereafter it is time for siesta.

Says Savithri, "previously the ladies used to make agarbattis, rice wafers, sandalwood garlands but now most of them are so old and sickly that they can only make paper packets (that are sold to nearby medical shops), though one handicapped lady still undertakes tailoring of the clothes of all the inmates.

Evenings are generally reserved for a visit to the beach. Afterwards everyone enjoys watching Tamil movies on the television. An early supper and it is time for bed at 8 p.m.

This has been the daily routine for Vishranthi for many years and most probably will continue to be so for many more years to come.

Ever heard of an ‘Adopt a Granny Scheme’? Well, it works here. Some inmates of the institution are selected by the Trust (a 11 member Board runs Vishranthi) and their case histories prepared. These are then forwarded to the office of Helpage India, where further scrutiny is undertaken. Thereafter, these are sent to Helpage International in U.K. where the stories of these aged ladies are published in the local magazines attracting sponsors who come forth to adopt them. At present, British residents have adopted about 50 women from Vishranthi. Thrice a year, the Helpage International office forwards 800 Pounds for the upkeep of the ‘grannies’.

Why foreign sponsors alone, even you can adopt a granny if you don’t have one already. In fact, there are various other schemes through which you can donate or contribute to Vishranthi. You can even contribute in kind – foodgrains, clothing, toiletries or medicines for the denizens of Vishranthi.

So, hurry! Put a smile back on an aged face…

And in your life, happiness, will grace.

Contact Address:
Flat No.1 Sapthagiri Apartments
83, T.T.K. Road
Chennai – 600 018.
Tel. # 456634/454806                                                                                                

28 A.V.M.Rajeshwari Gardens
M.G.R Salai, Palavakkam
Chennai – 600 041.
Tel.# 4925792

Shobha Mathur Pandian


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