Thursday, December 27, 2007

Three years on, tsunami memories linger

Three years on, tsunami memories linger - Hindustan Times
GC Shekhar, Hindustan Times
Cuddalore, December 26, 2007

Vadivelu and Kullammal cannot stop showing their new home to friends. They can’t believe that this airy two-bedroom dwelling with a verandah would be theirs for the rest of their lives.

Vadivelu, a 71-year-old farmer from Uppalandi village near Cuddalore, lost his little plot in the December 26 tsunami three years ago. The seawater made his land uncultivable.

But assistance came in the form of Help Age India for the farming couple who stayed in a shanty till then. “We never even dreamt of such a place even while we lived in our leaking shanty back in our village. With no children to take care of us, this is God’s gift,” said Vadivelu.

Vadivelu and Kullammal were two lucky ones chosen by Help Age India as part of its post-tsunami rehabilitation plan for 7,800 elders. The couple was chosen by a village elders’ committee for the Thamaraikulam Elders Village, a model residential home for elders.

Just 5 km from Cuddalore on the East Coast Road, the village will be the home to 100 senior citizens, all chosen by their respective village committees.

Built in clusters, each unit would house four elders with a common kitchen and dining hall as well as an activity-cum-training room so the elders are never short of company.

Small details about their needs have been taken care of. Like the toilet bowl with a railing on either side as well as the non-skid flooring. At their service would be a visiting doctor plus an ambulance and 10 full-time nursing assistants.

“We have even provided a walking track around the lotus pond — from which the village gets its name Thamaraikulam — and a two-acre vegetable and herbal patch where they can continue their farming on a minor scale. The whole idea is to let them age actively and with dignity,” said Rajeswhar Devarakonda, project head of Help Age India.

News channel NDTV’s viewers contributed Rs 1.25 crore for the project’s cost of Rs 2.48 crore.

It will become fully operational in two months. “At present, we have ten elders living here to check out the system and will gradually bring all 100 beneficiaries,” Rajeswar said.

One of them is Venugopal, who has no teeth, but loved the food served in the 10 days he stayed there. His right eye recovering from a cataract surgery, the 64-year-old said: “I could not enjoy the chicken though.”

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