International Day of Happiness: Reliving memories, childhood
On International Day of Happiness (March 20), meet these spirited people living in an old age home who spent a day with us unwinding, sharing wisdom and loads of laughter.Updated: Mar 20, 2019 15:57 IST
They have been through life-altering grief and yet they say that life is the most beautiful gift of God. They relish each day by finding joy in small things around them: the laughter of a toddler who lives with them in an old-age shelter, the limping dog who gleefully wags his tail as soon as he sets his eyes on them, that rare basket of home-made treats sent by a good Samaritan.
But sometimes, special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries become a lonely affair. These are the days when they sulk and miss those who they called their own at one point of time…those who ruthlessly threw them out of their lives, forcing them to move to the shelter.
We decided to bring a smile on the faces of these individuals by planning a surprise outing for them. It was a day full of laughter, impromptu pranks and that occasional watery eye.
As they revisited their childhood, these beautiful people reminded us of what American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne said once: “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
Re-living memories, childhood
A traditional aarti-and-tika ritual welcomed the cheerful five at Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity. Their eyes, gleaming with excitement, wandered about the length and breadth of the hotel lobby, as they slowly headed towards a room full of surprises.
These senior citizens that we had the pleasure to share company with had come from their now home, the Earth Saviours Foundation aka Gurukul, founded by social activist Ravi Kalra — a shelter for more than 200 senior citizens, the wrinkles on whose faces, conceal their heart-wrenching past.
The day ahead was all about re-living and making merry. A gesture by the hotel’s general manager Tristan Beau De Lomenie, of honouring the guests with flowers, touched their hearts, as they showered him with blessings. A multi-course round-table lunch, featuring each one’s favourite dishes, was lovingly prepared by chef Ajay Anand, whose banter instantly broke the ice and helped them warm up. They were also gifted customised personal care hampers by Dilip Kundlia, director and skin care expert, Oshea Herbals. The hours that followed had them humming evergreen melodies along with singer Tina Jindal, and chit-chatting over hot cups of coffee, leaving us with beautiful memories that will be cherished forever.
Happy, very happy!
I am very happy, bahut khush... finally,” says Radha, content with her life at Gurukul. It has been a little over a month there, and she is slowly bouncing back to life, but misses her estranged, now 19-year-old grandson. A road accident, just a day before the Christmas of 2018, took Radha’s only son away from her, and her life turned upside down. The pain in the 80-year-old’s eyes pierces through you and doesn’t let a smile slip from her lips. One can tell that she used to laugh out loud once, but the treatment meted out by her daughter-in-law, after Radha’s son died, broke her. She endured the verbal and physical abuse and forced starvation for almost a year, left the house when she could take no more and slept on the road for days before reaching Gurukul with help from a friend. As for the surprise celebration, Radha enjoyed it. Her reluctant clapping soon faded seamlessly into coy laughter, trustful embraces and singing along to her favourite Bollywood actor, Amitabh Bachchan’s songs, and we couldn’t be happier.
One who laughs his heart out
Ashok Kumar, a happy bank employee who was residing in the company quarters in Delhi’s Nehru Place, has been in the shelter for three years now. Not divulging much, the 72-year-old, who hails from Patna (Bihar), says it was ‘something unfortunate’ in his life after which, the bank helped him relocate to the old age home. Kumar’s wife is no more; their son and daughter, both of whom are married now, live in Patna with their families. Why doesn’t he live with them you wonder? “But hum unke saath reh nahi sakte,” he says, pauses, and ends the answer with, “Bas nahi ho sakta (It’s not possible).” Kumar’s words might be restrained, his expressions and laughter aren’t. His innocence exudes warmth. When singer Tina requested him to sing a few lines with her, the shy Kumar tried to hide in the sofa but it was a joyful sight, when he continued to softly hum the lyrics under his breath.
This ‘little girl’ won’t grow up
Joyes is 64 years ‘young’; at heart, she’s not a day older than a teenager who loves to dress-up and wear makeup. She carefully put together her look for the day and the youthful excitement of what this surprise visit had in store for her was evident. Joyce had quite a globe-trotting past, thanks to her job at guest houses and babysitting for couples abroad, tales of which she narrates fondly. But she has suffered grave loss, too, and has no family left. She lost her four brothers, one sister, her husband, her one-and-a-half month son and her eight-month-old daughter to God, and then her beloved boyfriend to another woman, but nothing can make her bitter. Her romance lives on in a tattoo of his name that she has on her arm. In her six years at Gurukul, she has found hundreds of people to call her own. Everyone can take a cue from her positivity and child-like energy that took the celebration a notch higher.
The very suave and confident Ishwar Chand Gupta speaks flawless English, doesn’t easily let you help him with his walking stick or pull out a chair for him. Gupta, 86, an engineer, came to Gurukul three years ago. Gupta’s son, a Noida resident, threw him out of the house along with his luggage after assaulting him. He hasn’t heard from his son ever since. Every morning, Gupta diligently goes through at least three newspapers, and keeps everyone abreast with what’s happening in the world. The most educated individual in the group, he commands respect from one and all. Gupta had a bad coughing bout in the morning and his outing was cancelled. But by afternoon, after his steam therapy, he surprised everyone by dressing up and saying that he was coming along. As Tina sang his favourite song, Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe from Kanyadaan (1968), he joined her spiritedly, and even encouraged others to sing. Before parting, he shared his piece of wisdom with us: “Often, our wounds are self-inflicted. We blame destiny but there’s no such thing like that. I live in a shelter because I didn’t keep any wealth aside for myself. It’s my own doing, so why complain? I have learned to take each day as it comes.”
Life is a cup of fragrant tea
Chirpy and always flashing a toothpaste ad-worthy smile, the happy-go-lucky Lok Nath Sharma grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal. He worked in a tea garden in Assam. A few years ago, he retired and came to the shelter where he looks after individuals with special needs. In his youth, he declared marriage to be a wretched institution and pledged to stay single. He won’t talk about the heartbreak he suffered. The 76-year-old doesn’t feel sad at the thought that he doesn’t have a single blood relative. “Jisko apna maano, woh hi apna,” he reasons. In his free time, he gathers other residents of the shelter and reads out from the Bhagavad Gita. His winning mantra: “Life should be like a cup of fragrant tea. Boil too much and it becomes bitter.”