Savithri Vaithi: Service as a way of life
(Based on an interview with Ms. Vaithi, April 8, 2010)
On meeting NGOs for our college project on old age homes in Chennai, we learnt that information shared by the NGOs and homes was minimal in terms of the content we needed. We called the Vishranthi Charitable Trust and expected the same.
However, a 78-year old busy social worker apologizing for being late for a few minutes forced the three of us visiting her to smile. The lady with a smile on her face was attended to by two other people whom she introduced to us as the trust’s lawyers. She requested them to talk to us for some time, and then began the humble talk of a lady who claims service to be a way of life.
We talked straight about our project, and she says, ”Throw the questions, I will answer them” We geared up to ask about the trust; eventually her enthusiasm made us enquire about other old age homes that refused to disclose their ‘secret’ information about its functioning or to allow us to meet residents.
“Why are they not sharing? They should. What is so secret about it? In fact you students should be given all the information,” Savithri Vaithi said.
She gave us a brief introduction to Vishranthi Charitable Trust that was started in 1977 by a few ‘homemakers’ under the Monday Charity Club, which was started in 1970.
We got comfortable and asked further questions. We revealed some horrid conditions in a previous home we visited. Savithri Vaithi, a woman with immense power in her sparkling eyes, said that at least they have provided a roof for them at this age. We looked surprised; she refrained from speaking ill of those homes. She explained that these homes at least give senior citizens a funeral when they die. They have provided a shelter for those who otherwise would have been on the streets without a meal a day. So such old age homes are doing what they can.
“It is indeed true that today’s generation is too busy to look after their old parents and they too have a life of their own. They cannot take their old parents along with them in their busy traveling schedules, so they need a face to talk to which we can provide here. We allow them to work a little too, to keep them busy and not think about their families all the time.”