The community hall is buzzing with activity. Noted theatre director, Bharat Dabolkar, is expected soon. Meanwhile, rehearsals are in progress as a dozen 60-plus veterans polish their act for the annual Silvers Awards that are scheduled for October 1, to honour 10 senior citizens.entertainment Updated: Sep 29, 2009 19:43 IST
The community hall is buzzing with activity. Noted theatre director, Bharat Dabolkar, is expected soon. Meanwhile, rehearsals are in progress as a dozen 60-plus veterans polish their act for the annual Silvers Awards that are scheduled for October 1, to honour 10 senior citizens.
An elderly woman is being shunted between two disinterested clerks for an instant telephone connection. After much running around, the lady is advised to go for a ‘Banana’ line. “What’s that?” she asks. “Like Vada-fone and Apple computers, it’s our new service with the catch line, ‘Don’t be a-kela,’” says the matronly clerk.
On cue, in an exaggerated stage whisper, the harassed consumer mutters, “I think I’ll opt for a Reliance phone instead.”
The reference is not coincidental. Harmony for Silvers Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO that works towards enhancing the life of Mumbai’s senior citizens, is Tina Ambani’s brainwave.
In its fifth year, the Harmony Interactive Centre housed in a non-descript building in Girgaum, provides a home away from home to around 500 members who come there between 10 am and 7 pm, everyday, throughout the year.
Equipped with a library, recreation area and canteen, the centre hosts laughter clubs, yoga sessions, computer classes, workshops, outings, festivals, birthday celebrations and health check-ups that keep this animated group of silvers (a term coined by Ambani) in good health and high spirits.
The rehearsal is marred by mixed up lines. “I just blanked out,” lead actress Annie Aranha sheepishly admits.
“As long as you don’t suffer a memory loss on stage, it’s fine,” Aranha’s fellow actors advice. The 64-year-old who was brought up by nuns, showed an early interest in dramatics.
“I first played infant Jesus and after that did a series of starring role,” she says. And now, after a 32-year career with Kothari’s and an innings in motherhood, Aranha has returned to her first love. She dashes down from Mangalore, where her husband manages a coffee estate, several times a year to spend time at the centre. “When I’m here I feel like I’ve returned to those carefree childhood days,” she beams.
Two floors below, over a cup of tea in the canteen, Rohini Damini admits to being “very fond of Bharat Natyam”. This time, however, she won’t be on stage because “my grandson is in the twelfth standard.”
Damini supplies tiffins to offices, a profitable side business that keeps her on her toes till noon. “After that I’m here with my friends,” she says.
Her friends, Suhasini Samant and Vasantiben Parekh, are familiar faces here and say that they are urged by their grandchildren to drop by regularly. “It’s like our ‘maika,’” they grin, and urge me to take a bite of Jeetendrabhai Bhatt’s spongy dhoklas.
Bhatt and his wife cater for private parties and run the canteen here. “These people are like our family,” says Bhatt.
His own brother though, refuses to be a part of the family business and prefers the company of his own friends.
Arvind Rangpriya’s younger brother too doesn’t like him coming to Harmony. “He and his wife are always demanding money from me,” says Rangpriya who still sells chocolate biscuits near a school during lunch break.
But now it’s becoming increasingly difficult for him to lift weights and he would much rather spend quiet hours at Harmony, reading the paper, having conversations with God and watching mythological films or cricket on TV.
He’s usually at the centre by quarter past 10 but leaves a little after noon to sells biscuits after which, he returns home to tend to his 80-year-old mother, who spends all day outside her ‘kholi.’ After giving her tea and ‘nashta’, Rangpriya comes back to the centre at around 5 pm for another couple of hours of quiet before going back home to cook the evening meal.
KN Giri also goes back, not to his house, but to his friend’s three-room office. One of the rooms serves as his bedroom at night. A bachelor, he was persuaded to sell his flat in Bhayander and move into his 40-year-old friend’s work place.
“I have a brother but he and his wife have their own life. Now these people are my ‘ghar parivar,’” says Giri who has been coming to Harmony since it started in 2004 and says that it’s a better option than any garden or temple. “It’s the perfect retreat and prevents our minds from going to sleep,” he says pointing towards two men engaged in a game of chess and four others duelling over a carrom board. For these seniors Harmony is like a silver lining in the dark clouds of advancing age.