Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sunshine during the sunset years


Members of the Senior Christians Association refuse to wallow in self-pity and reminiscence. Instead, they are busy trying to help the poor and the weak

Photo: Chief Guest Dr. K.S. Radhakrishnan, former Vice-Chancellor of Sanskrit University cutting the cake during the Christmas and New Year Celebrations of the Senior Christians Association. Others include (from left) retired bureaucrat P.C. Cyriac, educationalist M.V. Pylee, SCA President Xavier Sebastian and literary critic M. Thomas Mathew

By Shevlin Sebastian

“Senior citizens constitute about 20 per cent of the population in the country,” says M.V. Pylee, former Vice Chancellor of Cochin University of Science and Technology. “But only a small number are engaged in useful activities. As a result, their talent and long years of experience are unutilised and lost to society.”

Bearing this in mind, in Kochi, a few years ago, a group of eminent citizens, under the leadership of Retd.. Justice Varghese Kalliath, started the Senior Christians Association (SCA).

“Since there is a Young Men Christian Association, we felt that we should have an organisation for the senior Christians who have attained 55 year of age,” says SCA President Xavier Sebastian.

At present the SCA has over 500 members, which includes spouses. “They are drawn from all walks of life,” says Sebastian. They include retired high court judges, vice chancellors, educationists, writers, members of the defence forces, doctors, lawyers, engineers, bureaucrats, and senior management heads.

Says Pylee: “Though the SCA is managed by members of the Christian community, we have extended facilities to members of other communities without any discrimination or reserve. We also want to help the lonely, the aged and the poor.”

At its Christmas and New Year celebrations on January 9, the SCA presented cash donations to five needy people. It was also the day that they honoured four of their eminent members: Dr. Pylee, retired senior bureaucrat P.C. Cyriac, literary critic M. Thomas Mathew and ophthalmologist Dr. Tony Fernandes.

Chief Guest Dr. K.S. Radhakrishnan, former Vice-Chencellor of Sanskrit University at Kalady extolled the notable contributions of the four to society. He also said that everybody should follow Christ’s teaching of sharing one’s wealth with the poor.

Apart from an absorbing variety entertainment programme, one of the highlights was a talk by overseas member and a former gynaecologist, Sebastian P. Jacob, based in Chicago.

He spoke about how he migrated as a young man from Kerala to the USA, the settling down in a new country, starting a family and making his way in the world. It was an inspiring tale. Now in retirement, Jacob spends a few months every year in Kerala.

The meeting was held at the SCA Centre, a three storey building, which was built last year. Located beside the Cochin Special Export Zone, at Kakkanad, the Centre has an area of 12,000 sq. ft.

“Apart from a health club, a library, an indoor games section and a large hall, there is a room where ladies can hold meetings,” says secretary George Varghese.

However, because of old age and infirmity, the members meet only once in three months at the Centre. But to make it convenient, the people have been divided into six zones: Thrikkakara, Edapally, Padivattom, Kaloor, Ernakulam and Vytilla.

“Those who are in the zones meet once in a month,” says Sebastian. “There is a secret collection and the money, collected over a period of time, is given to charity.”

The SCA has given Rs 30,000 to Lourdes Hospital to defray the expenses of needy patients. Sebastian says they will continue with this scheme. The SCA also has plans to hold classes in spoken English, counselling sessions, medical camps, as well as tutorials for IAS aspirants.

To get a regular income, the basement where about 20 cars can be parked, will now be converted into an office or a godown and given out for rent.

All in all, at the sunset of their lives, instead of wallowing in self-pity and passivity, this group of old people want to contribute to society in every way they can.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)





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