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
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 dont 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.
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.
Shobha Mathur Pandian