Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ajjis ajoobas and a wonderful weekend

Today, the name Shantikunj, itself now leads to wonderful memories. It was not so on Saturday morning. This visit was the first time for most of the team and before we reached, there were jitters about spending a day with seniors who are more than two generations elder. The big question of the moment then was "How do you connect to someone so senior, especially where there is hardly thing in common?" And yet we were there to spend the day with them.

To break the initial apprehensions, we had planned to have a bhajan session. It did not take too long to overcome the initial hesitations. As we invited them to the mandir for bhajans, we accompanied them on the way and in no time (even before starting with the bhajans), we were well mixed with the them. Shailaja Pai and her daughter took on the lead for the bhajans and the rest joined in. Everyone was so involved that by the time we realized, it was already lunch time and we were reluctant to stop. We had to hard stop as lunch was to be served at 1:00 PM.
The start was so positive that from then on, we never felt like visitors nor were the residents feeling that we were any outsiders. It was just one extended family with everyone enjoying with each other. While some played carrom, some worked on the candy stick stands (we had planned to gift them) the rest picked up their regular nap. We were all waiting for the evening and the entertainment show that was planned for. It included a skit that was written just 2 days prior and being rehearsed in that afternoon. The residents were excited and we were nervous.

The evening proved to be much better than our dreams. Dr. Dilip Nadkarni had come down for a 20-minute performance and in those 20 mins, he sang, danced and set-up the tone for the evening. Starting with "Kehna hai...", Dr. Dilip raked up melodious tracks from the Golden Era...their younger days. He built up the energy with jokes and boosted the already positive environment. It was wonderful to see one of the ajji's shake a leg. Eventually, even we could not resist and joined in to dance. He was accompanied by deititian Darshana Lathigra, who provided easy tips to maintain health. This continued with a magic show by Jadugar Sunil Kamat. He built-up on the stage that was now set for a rocking evening and ensure that fun element kept going. To pep the mood, we served chatpata sev puris. They were just the snacks needed to to keep up the energy for the evening. Our satisfaction was in the fact that all our ajjis and ajoobas enjoyed the sev-puris. The satisfaction was doubled when Dr Dilip and dietitian Darshana gave us a 5-star rating.
The mood was now that the evening should not end. We added to the evening with a short skit (praticised in the afternoon) and a last minute dance. Our energy bomb, Sowmya was the spirit booster. She is 11 years old but more energetic than most of us. While she only performed a mono act, she was all over the show, be it dancing or motivating the audience or just being super excited.

If you are wondering where did all of us get so much energy, it was thanks to the food that we have had. A visit to Shantikunj cannot be complete without the mention of food served and Hegde maam who prepares the delicacies with his family. He is the caretaker and has been serving there tirelessly. The food is so delicious that even with a full stomach, we are tempted to have yet another morsel. For Hegde maam, it was our satisfaction that mattered. Seeing a content face, his face sparkles joy.

Next day morning, as we were arranging the candy stands (which we had managed to prepare over night), one of the ajji's appreciated the art and checked with us on when those were made, and what would you do with them...much like my own grandmother would ask me. When told that these were for all of them and we would be meeting each of them in their room to give these, there was a gleam in her eyes. She did not say much then, but for a moment, my eyes went moist. Without a word being uttered, there was a lot communicated. She mentioned that another group had come a few years back and gifted them mementos which she has preserved till date. My heart was filled...she did not remember the group, but she still carries the memories. Later in the day, as we gifted them the mementos in their rooms, they were truly overjoyed. The mementos were a gift of memories that they had given us and would stay with them for a long time. When we were to leave, it really was a tough task saying good-bye. As Sanket puts it "We came with lots of questions, started with a smile and ended up with tears".

So how many are needed to organize such an event? How much does it cost? We were 14 and we funded the whole event including mementos and sev puri. All that was needed ws to join the gang, the group of some crazy GSBs known as the Maha GSB. Then every GSB becomes a friend and every event is a memory to live with.

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