Amidst the hustle and bustle in the heart of the city, stands an establishment where you can hear the chirping of birds, drink in fresh breeze and enjoy green lung spaces.
This space now holds an orphanage called Good Shepherd Home and ‘Chaithanya,’ a shelter for street children established in 1996 and a very silent, quirky Nirmala Seva Kendra (NSK), a home for the aged. “Nirmala Seva Kendra for old ladies at its commencement had 250 inmates,” says Sr. Sebastian (Seby), the caretaker of the aged.
Though abandoned, the old have now made this place their home. “When I was young, I studied in a school run by the Sisters and the inmates were working at the poultry, bakery, laundry, canteen, and tailoring units,” says a volunteer Suji. She further affirmed that this in a way augmented their income.
As we chat, a family drops in to celebrate their daughter’s birthday with the old ladies. “Where else can we find so much joy in a simple celebration?’’says a member of the family.
The home is full of joie-de-vivre and we meet Jonneudes, a 95-year-old lady who once helped by sweeping the dormitory, washing the vessels, cleaning the windows etc.
Emmanu, a 92-year-old lady, keeps humming nursery songs endlessly.
The inmates, despite their difficult lives, make efforts to help each other and always welcome visitors with a smile.
The campus is also the result of a lot of hard work. “The trees around the campus were planted by these inmates and we are enjoying the fruits of their labour now,”says Suji.
Suji reminds us that there was a reason why the inmates were so passionate about planting the trees. It was possibly because they no longer had any roots and the trees were their only friends, the only beings they felt were theirs, says Suji and adds, “The old ladies feel lonely and need someone to talk to them. We entertain them with our stories,” says Suji.
These are destitute women who subsist without any pension on what the Home provides.
The Sisters of the Good Shepherd do their level best to take care of the needs of the old ladies. In the same campus there is also a space for young girls, who study, do part-time jobs and contribute a sum to the every day workings of the Nirmala Seva Kendra.
The journey of the Home began in a small hut and a simple shed and now there is proper infrastructure to care for the disadvantaged poor though their needs are many and donations are always needed.
It is also to be noted that what the old need in the last phase of their life is not just comfort but emotional solace and the inmates always look forward to families and individuals who want to spend some time with them and listen to their memories. The fact that the spirit of the old is still sprightly is demonstrated by an inmate who goes to the kitchen just to share a treat with the guests who have arrived.
She returns hiding something behind her back and when cajoled, offers everyone a slice of cake with a big smile.