Tina Ambani on how centres like Harmony can make a difference...
Is Harmony an effort to assuage your guilt towards not spending enough time with your parents?
Despite a demanding acting career, I always had enough time for my parents. Being the youngest of nine children, I was a pampered kid. My parents never denied me anything. Even when I expressed a wish to work in films, which in those days was taboo, my father didn’t try to dissuade me. All he said was that if I went astray, he'd blame himself for not bringing me up well.
But, I have come to realise since, that there are many whose 12-14 hour schedules, leave them with little time for their elders. Ours is not an expressive culture and this coupled with the fact that a crumbling traditional joint family system, has weakened the emotional connect.
Several films have sensitively explored the subject of old age, including Saraansh, Viruddh, Baghban and more recently, Morning Walk.
I haven't seen Morning Walk but I watched Saraansh years ago and it made a lasting impact. Both Anupam Kher and Kasturba (Rohini Hattangadi) impressed with their performances. I remember being overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness as I walked out of the theatre. Why, I wondered, when we are related by the fact that we are all humans, can’t we be a little more humane?
How did the word silvers come about?
For me silver conveys wisdom and it's apt for a generation that has so much in terms of experience and expertise, to share. Sixty per cent of those over 60 in the west are Internet savvy. We have computer classes at the centre too and the enthusiasm for them is there for all to see.
Who is your oldest friend?
(Smiles) Even as a child I was drawn to elderly people. One of my oldest friends is Sarjuben Doshi from the Harmony Art Foundation. If you were to ask me how old she is, I’d say she’s younger than any 16 year old.
How much of an inspiration are Kokilaben and Dhirubhai Ambani?
I’ll think myself as fortunate if I can be even 20 per cent of what my mother-in-law is at her age. There is a Gujarati word that best describes her sensitivity to everyone’s needs-’vahivarik’.
My father-in-law was a pillar of strength and support. I remember him stopping by my floor one morning because mummy had told him I was unwell. And he said, "So you’re sick, get well soon and go back to work or you’ll get fat." He was a wonderful teacher who taught without you realising it.
Was Guru then an authentic portrayal?
(Smiles) Mani Ratnam is a wonderful director.
Do you think old-age homes will dot our cultural landscape one day?
I hope not. I would never be comfortable with the thought of my parents living in a home run by three ward boys. It would be better to have centres like Harmony where they can spend the day interacting with their peers in their own space and then, return home at the end of the day.
We want to extend such centres to other cities too.
Ever thought of writing your biography?
No, some things are best left unsaid and unwritten.