In a quiet by-lane in one of the suburbs of Bangalore, a beautifully manicured garden provides the setting to a home for senior citizens. Called Augustine Nivas, it’s ably run by Sister Leena who has taken under her wing, over 150 residents to care for and look after.
It was a warm Saturday afternoon that we first went to this home and experienced a joy, love and warmth that even today, after eighteen months, still hasn’t diminished.
We are a motley bunch – some school and college children, some young working professionals, some couples and some on the other side of fifty. But despite our differences, it’s our love for singing and our love for these senior citizens that bind us together.
We sing from a compilation of songs that we’ve put together with the help of the senior citizens, comprising largely of songs from the fifty’s, sixty’s and seventies ( yes, we had to learn many of them), some worship songs, some Christian hymns and a few songs in Hindi.
Looking back we have learnt a lot through our afternoons there. We’ve learnt from Uncle Chandy, to not judge a book by its cover. The first time this frail old man walked feebly up to the mic to sing, we were taken aback by the powerful rendition of ” somewhere over the rainbow ” while his rich baritone voice filled the building. We learnt that he used to conduct one of the leading choirs in Bangalore. Since then, he regaled us with a song everytime we went there. He continued to conduct the choir in his home church till he passed on to glory a few months ago. His death marked a void in our hearts that will take a while to heal.
From Leena, a sprightly cheerful lady who always sported a big red dot on her forehead, we learnt love. She never hesitated to show how much she loved her oft embarrassed husband by choosing to sing ” you are my sunshine ” at every opportunity she got.
From others there we learnt graciousness as they diligently attended every session we had there, even though the language we sang in was foreign to them.
We learnt commitment and accountability as we now had people who waited for us to go there, and who we did not want to disappoint.
But above all we learnt to love. We learnt to love people who we didn’t know before. People who were not related to us. People in the winter of their lives who gave so much more to us than we have to them.
It was interesting to see how the youth bonded with them and the exchange of love and understanding was uplifting to say the least. It is in this exchange that hope resides. That there is still a joy in giving of ones time and talent and in bringing laughter, love and song to a community that is oft neglected and sidelined. And that together we lift the spirits of others and in so doing realize that we are blessed ourselves.
As singer and song writer, Dale Evans one wrote ” who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song and bring in the sunny weather ”
We aim in the future to start a choir here. One which we hope will give them a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement and a sense of self worth.