Sam’s first Birthday in Anandam

Making friends in the Kindergarten playground….easy.
Making friends in a Retirement Community….not so easy.
Or so I thought.
When we moved to the Anandam Retirement Community I never thought I would make any new friends. I thought we were going to fossilize in misty corners waiting for the call.
I was so wrong.

Sam had his first birthday in Anandam and it is a birthday we will never forget.

It started with a trip to the Margheretha Memorial Trust in Nilakkottai run by Susila Rabindranath and her husband Rabin . It is a Model that is crying out to be copied for its efficacy and success, built on hard work and dedication. When Rabin was the GM at IAP, a Gherkin factory in Nilakkottai, they started a pre-school for the underprivileged kids in the area. The modest numbers have now grown to 100 with a waiting list of 100.

We took 2 cars for the trip. The first car driven by Rabin had Susila ,Madhu Roy, Yolanda & Robin Healy and Shakun Doundiyakhed. The second car driven by Surajit Roy, had the birthday boy Mathew N Samuel and his wife, riding as VIPs cosseted and cherished, treatment we are so alien to.

When we arrived at the rented premises of the Preschool Day Care Centre of the MMT, The Margaretha Memorial Trust, what had me spellbound , was a simple act of orderliness. Multicolored little sandals, ranging from sizes of ages 3 to 6 were placed in neat little rows on a shoe rack. If you have an OCD like mine , which my family claims I have , it is a sight for sore eyes. I stood clicking multiple pictures till I was nudged to move on as the party was inside .

The children were dressed in their Sunday best in dresses with frills and flounce. Some of the little boys had readymade dhoti sets stitched in place. What we did not know , was that they had been told that a Birthday Thatha was coming to cut a cake and they had to sing Happy Birthday  and get his blessings.

Sam, who is convinced that only other people grow old , looked around to look for the Thatha they were singing Happy Birthday to. He was nudged forward to stand in front of the cutest cake I have ever seen in my life.

The cake was made of yellow kesari molded into the shape of a 8 “ round cake , trimmed with tutti-frutti with a floral candle in the centre , that opened out with panache, into an open flower of candles, much to the delight of the kids who clapped their hands and squealed.

The kids then went off to their routine in their classrooms. We were allowed to mingle and watch them at play and work. They sat in rows engrossed in what they were doing, distracted only when they knew they were being photographed when they photobombed in style .

I was amazed at how clean the place was . It was so clean you could eat off the floors, with an Akka cleaning up any spillage, at regular intervals. The food is cooked on site, by three ladies who follow a daily menu that gives the kids breakfast on arrival , milk mid morning , lunch and a high tea. The high tea is deliberately heavy, with a soup and tiffin, in case the kids do not get a meal at night.

The supervised meals are served in steel plates, with the kids sitting cross legged on the floor in neat rows . After the meal, they file back to stack their used plates and wash their hands.

They are taught manners , to wash their hands and even brush their teeth with tooth brushes and paste provided, speaking volumes for the dedication the care givers, headed by Sathya, the Earth Mother, as Susila calls her.

We were served the same food. It was homely, clean, tasty and obviously good , from the way the kids ate up everything on their plates . Each child is given a potted plant to water and nurture as a personal responsibility, to encourage environmental awareness.

Admittedly the numbers are small, but we left feeling encouraged that if it can be done for 100, it can be done for multiples of 100, if there is a core of dedicated caring staff and if there is a will. It is not a freebie or a handout, the kids pay 2 rupees a day for the care they receive , including transport, to and from school, all of which is subsidized by the MMT.

On the way back, we stopped for yellow tender coconuts and to admire the lakes that had filled again, with the recent rains enticing the white herons that had flown away. Sam and Surajit stopped at the Batlagundu market and came back with 2 kgs of cleaned prawns .

Dinner had us all, at night under a starry sky on the lit Lawn outside the cafeteria, singing and swaying to lovely Oldie Goldies. Dinner started with canapés , mini sandwiches, Nasi Lemak cooked with home grown Pandan leaves, Cucumber Salad, Sambal Udang and a Chicken Perattal.

The icing on the chocolate cake ordered from the Hilltop Nursery in Kodaikanal, brought a memorable day to a close .

Sam and I walked back home to our little doll house,
Immensely grateful
For all God”s mercies
Past and Present
Far and near.
For His Divine Grace
That never stops to surprise us,
From our first real home in Karigiri,
To the Zillion and one homes since
In all the countries lived
Faces and Voices from the Past
Parents Grandparents Uncles Aunts
Teachers Mentors
Kids Grandkids
Cousins Inlaws and Out
Family Biological Acquired Adopted
Pets and K9s
Who loved us unconditionally
Neighbours Patients Staff Bosses
Maids, Gardeners, Drivers
Relationships that lasted
And those that didn’t
To the Blessings of friends,
Old and New

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