Pursuing a busy path

Pursuing a busy path

There is a perception that while many older men see themselves as being self-reliant, they may lack skills in self-care, such as cooking, shopping and doing laundry if they lose their partners and live alone. When some older men find themselves in this role, they are often unprepared for the demands and stress it brings in its wake, while other find different ways to cope, taking on new hobbies and interests to keep going.

He may be pushing 90, but Sampath Kumaran hasn't lost the spring in his step, the twinkle in his eye or his zest for life. With a string of citations and awards under his belt, this former aviation engineer, now a nonagenarian, says that he has ten good years left to enjoy his hobbies that range from Carnatic music to painting and keep him busy, healthy and active.

“I painted these two pictures just last week,” he says proudly. “My hand is still steady when I hold a paintbrush and my imagination is still vivid.” Sampath enjoys imparting his love for art to children and housewives who have a little extra time on their hands. Nursing his wife through her last days, he took over the cooking and household chores and began to excel at them.

“I am able to make zero-hardness idlis which I share with my neighbours. From rasam to laddoos, I can cook anything. My children are all successful doctors in America and I miss them but I have plenty to keep me occupied,” he says.

What is the secret of his sunny personality and good health? “I walk at least a couple of kilometres a day, never overeat or starve, never deprive myself of the good things in life and count my blessings frequently looking forward to what the next day brings,” he laughs.

“Although my wife was also a management professional, she was full of life and an efficient homemaker who kept an immaculate house and excellent table. After she died at the age of 56, she left a void that was very difficult to fill,” says Desmond Pinto, whose dreams of taking long leisurely holidays to exotic destinations with his wife, once he retired from a demanding business, never materialised.

Today Desmond, who shares his large home with his two sons and a daughter-in-law, has taken up the business of keeping an immaculate house and handling all the domestic chores including minting a large garden without any help. “My day starts at 4.30 am and I am busy with a hectic routine that ranges from brisk early morning exercise, prayer, cooking, cleaning and gardening, ending at 10 pm each night. Never put off things that you want to do as destiny plays a hand you may never expect,” he says.

 Having lost his wife after 50 years of marriage, and with his children successfully relocated overseas, Venkataraghavachari Mani has a large extended family that keeps him busy and productive with no time left to wallow in self pity and loneliness.
His life pretty much revolves around the 136 children of convicts to whom he is a surrogate father running a trust called Socare, that he started along with his wife over 10 years ago on his retirement from the RBI as AGM.

“On my way to work each day, I used to pass the Central Jail and observe the long queues of women with their children in tow waiting to visit their husbands who were obviously serving time. I often used to wonder about the future of the children and whether they would ever become productive members of society. If they were ostracised and shunned as offspring of criminals, we would be ignoring a whole segment of society that needs our help not our condemnation,” he says.

Moved to do something productive, Mani convinced his wife Saroji, who was initially a tad sceptical that they could do something proactive to help and the couple opened their home in 1999.

“We started with just two small boys whose father had killed their mother and today, we have children from all over India whose parents are in jail, many of them having witnessed the most horrifying acts of violence,” he adds.

Mani misses his wife dearly and often wonders how she would have reacted to a particular situation but nonetheless his surrogate children keep him so busy that his day is more hectic than most parents.

“From paperwork to involvement in their daily activities, from arranging visits to their parents to interacting with the jail authorities, there is never any time left over to brood or feel useless. Most of the kids study in mainstream English medium schools so the academics are quite challenging and we try to give them as many extra-curricular activities as possible,” he explains.

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