Deepavali (another name for Diwali) is an important gift giving season in India. We were told by Dhakshinamoorthy of the Quality of Life Trust, which supports several ‘abandoned elders’ in their village, that during this cold season, the elders needed blankets to keep warm at night, and none of them had one. When Carol found out that the cost would be just a few hundred Rupees for each blanket, she decided to provide them. Dhakshinamoorthy told us that the best time to give them out would be the day before Deepavali, since this is the traditional gifting day. This posting shows the purchase and gifting of these blankets. It also shows the desperate need of these elderly people.
To buy the blankets, Carol and I met Dhakshinamoorthy at Sathya’s Cafe, which he runs, on Perumbakken Road, not too far from Sri Ramanasramam in Tiruvannamalai. Below, Carol, Dhakshinamoorthy, and his wife, Lakshmi, stand at the entrance to Sathya’s Cafe.
We got on our motor scooter and headed into town. First we had to stop at an ATM to get money.
Dhakshinamoorthy and Ramesh, who also helps with the Quantity of Life Trust, met us at the ATM.
We headed into town. The streets are still torn up from a sewer construction project, so the drive is a bit daunting in parts.
Some roads are OK, though, paved after the work was finished.
We parked in front of a small shop near the vegetable market.
As she entered, Carol sees all the sarees and other cloth items.
They look through the selection of blankets, selecting the number needed. Carol was wondering if they were soft enough. She was told that they were.
She also bought warm shawls for the two men. They need warm clothes, too.
The next day, we met again at Sathya’s cafe. Some of the elders were gathered here.
Here, Sarada and Poongoli talk. Sarada is wearing dark glasses to protect her eyes. She recently had cataract surgery (paid for by Quality of Life Trust). She was nearly blind, and she can see fine now. What an important change!
Here is Nataraji. None of these seniors has a family, and in India, the family is the primary support system for old people. No family usually means that there are no means of support, no home, no one feeding them and looking after them.
Carol gives a blanket to Nataraji.
Carol gives a blanket to Sarada.
And to Poongoli.
Then we all hop on our motor bikes and scooters, and drive a couple of kilometres down the road to an open stone and cement structure.
Sitting in it is Thiruvenketam, who is blind and nearly deaf. If he had been able to get cataract surgery in time, he would still be able to see. He has no family. He was a slave to a farmer when he was younger, and so never had the chance to marry. Without marriage, he is alone in his senior years. Without the support of Quality of life Trust, he would have no support at all. Dakshinamoorthy drives his bike to him now three times each day to bring him food to eat.
Dhakshinamoorthy and Carol approach him. Dhakshinamoorthy is careful to talk to him as he approaches. Thiruvenketam is incontinent now, so the area smells of urine and the floor is wet.
He is given the blanket. You can see around him how little he has; nothing beyond the clothes he wears.
He reaches out to Dhakshinamoorthy, trying to make some human contact. He gets so little of this now.
He holds his precious blanket. Tonight he will be warm (unless someone steals it from him).
Living in India, you get ‘used to’ the poverty that surrounds you. Sometimes, though, the plight of the people gets through any defenses you might have and touches you. For me, this contact with Thiruvenketam was such a moment. Here Thiruvenketam is, no family, no one to care for him, homeless, blind, deaf, ageing. Without the care the Dhakshinamoorthy and Quality of Life provide, he would probably starve to death.
We go to one more house, met by the wife of Arumugan, who is also helped by the Trust. She is happy to see us.
Carol gave Arumugan’s wife the blanket meant for him. We were told that he is no longer mentally capable. Carol was invited into the hut where he was being kept. He was lying on the floor, naked, in a fetal position. (Nudity is most unusual in India and avoided if at all possible). He did have the mental competence to sit up when asked. At least he has a wife, but how does she survive?
Carol resisted taking the photo of him, since the intrusion was a huge insult to his dignity. But she felt that it was important to depict the reality of this situation. The room where he lay was actually quite dark, but the camera flash lit it up.
Dhakshinamoorthy is a poor man. Even with this, somehow he thinks that he needs to help those in his village. The work with abandoned elders is, I think, the most important work. In India, there are resources (though not enough, never enough) to help orphans and children, but there are few resources to help elders in need.
Quality of Life Trust barely survives financially. They do not have ongoing donations that are enough to pay the bills each month to feed the old people, and give the the critical medical care needed. When there is not enough, Dhakshinamoorthy somehow makes it up out his own pocket. Also there are more people who need help, and who are on a waiting list. With no more money, they have to wait for one of the seniors to die before they can get help.
Quality of Life Trust needs more funding. This is needed for the ongoing work with elders. Also, if there were money available, the Trust wants to create a home where these people could live together and be cared for. Now, you can see from the photos, the conditions in which they live. One-time donations help. What is most helpful, though, are ongoing donations; this is what really sustains the Abandoned Elders Program. More about Quality of Life Trust can be found at their web site. The Trust is now approved for donations within India. Here is a donation page. If you are outside India and can help (or in India and want help donating or more information), contact me at email@example.com and I can work with you to see that the donations get to the trust.
This is vital work. Can you imagine living like you see in this post? If this touches your heart, please find a way to help. You help is needed today, and each month in the future.