In my village, Olavipe, there is an exclusive club where I am not yet eligible to join - Sneha Sadasse (Forum of Love). Only people of the village who have attained the age of 75 and their spouses can become members.
My younger brother Jacob Tharakan who is the incumbent at Thekkanattu Parayil (see: OLAVIPE: Heritage Home of Thekkanattu Parayil Tharakans.) mooted the idea. He noticed some of the difficulties faced by the old people of Olavipe and decided to do something about it.
A major problem of the senior citizens is loneliness. Most of them in our village are not literate. Therefore reading to pass time is limited to a handful. Even in the few households with TV the choice of programs is decided by the younger generations. Social visits are not part of the local culture. Lack of mobility compounds the problem for the elders.
Jacob started Sneha Sadasse during Vishu (April 14) 2007. The launch and continued operation of the scheme was made possible by the some young men of Olavipe who volunteered to contribute their time and effort. They identified about 90 eligible people in the village, most of them women, and brought them together, cutting across religion, caste and economic status.
The group meets on the last Saturday of every month, usually at a pandal (a large tent) in our compound, for tea and snacks and fellowship. Useful programs like free medical consultation are also linked to the event. There are also common birthday celebrations.
Sneha Sadasse had two special programs last year. One was a picnic to Cochin, which the elders thoroughly enjoyed. Another event was a meeting of the senior citizens and children of the local school (see: Autobiography of a School). The young ones sang songs for the senior citizens, read stories to them and asked them many questions about their childhood.
The old people, in turn rendered popular songs of their youth, taught the children how to make toys from coconut tree fronds and other locally available materials, and so on. One Brahmin lady gave a talk about seeing Mahatma Gandhi when she was a kid.
Recently a scheme for elders to cultivate medicinal herbs for their own use has been initiated. This done under the guidance of qualified Ayurveda physicians.
The members of Sneha Sadasse are all excited about their next picnic, on May 4. Many of them have not seen airplanes take off or land. The excursion includes a visit to the Cochin International Airport. Jacob and his team of volunteers are busy organizing it.
Have a good time, elders of Olavipe.