Barring me, my four siblings (75 to 85 years of age) have paid advance to an Elders Home in Coimbatore, to begin a new life from mid-January 2022 when the auspicious Tamil month, Thai, starts.

To the uninitiated, if Bangalore is the retirees’ paradise, and Chennai the cultural centre of South, Coimbatore, hailed otherwise as the Manchester of Tamil Nadu for its extensive textile industry, is now the epitome for seniors living. Yes, to spend one’s sunset days with all conceivable amenities provided. Simply put, there is pressure on me to join them.

The ladies’ argument? Once in, we get readymade morning coffee, breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner. Menfolk have retired decades ago and have installed themselves at home 24×7. But the ladies never got any respite in the bargain. Instead, their work increased – demand for an occasional extra cup of coffee, pakodas when the weather is cloudy, or a voice from the far-end computer room to the kitchen suggesting, How about a fruit session of banana, guava, apple with a gentle sprinkle of MDH fruit masala? and so on. Thus, for the ladies of the house, it was, has been, and will be, kitchen, Kitchen and KITCHEN all the way. It’s time they got a break and joined the menfolk in having equal free time, they argued, in the two recent family reunions in Coimbatore, which I missed because of my knee pain. However, points well taken.

Against this backdrop, last week Hari & Geeta, our neighbours, knocked at our door and announced, “Mama, we are driving to Coimbatore for 4 or 5 days on some work. We would be delighted if you could join us. We would drop you first at your elder brother’s house, then go to our place.”

Knowing me a little too well to find an escape route, Hari continued, “Normally we would stop twice in the six-hour drive, but because of your knee problem we shall stop any number of times you suggest. Also, since we will start early morning, Geeta will prepare both breakfast and lunch. Mami need not bother.” If you decline this, you will accept none in your lifetime, came an inner voice.

Added to that, I was myself looking for an opportunity to visit my brother, 85 years. So, as the Malayalam saying goes, Acchan ichichatum paalu, Vaidyan kalpichatum paalu. Roughly translated, the patient piously wished for milk to be prescribed, and the doctor also happened to prescribe milk.

The hallmark of the trip was Hari’s impeccable driving, only a shade short of professional, and Geeta’s display of culinary capabilities, justifying her staying glued to the Food channel at home. Yes, the super-soft Idli, gun-powder, and coconut chutney for breakfast and coconut rice and cooling curd rice for lunch were matchless. Aunty served Shoppy Mart and Maria Mart snacks bought at short notice.

Brother and Bhabhi were more than delighted to receive us. Though we told them we would have lunch on way, they prepared some snacks and coffee, and had Hari and Geeta join us.

The visit next day to the Elders home was a real experience. The small, but beautiful apartments for seniors’ living were built to meet all their requirements. And the fittings, nothing short of the best in the market. The internal fixtures for the TV area, shelves, everything had a touch of quality. We had arranged with the organizers that we would have lunch in the seniors home, on payment, along with the residents, just to have a taste. It was very homely which you are seldom likely to get tired of. The only snag was that, as in a marriage or other function, you might have to wait outside the dining hall for your turn. On the brighter side, that is the occasion when you get to know of people and connect with others.

The organizers showed me a few unsold apartments. Whereas all the other four apartments had balcony facing the coconut grove or the open paddy fields, the ones showed to us opened out to the opposite apartment balcony, or to the series of solar cylinders installed on the terrace of the opposite block, or to the junior girl’s school where chorus voice will be the highlight, to deny you some well deserved afternoon nap. In short, everything has a price including a late wake up call for booking. Thus we could not get one of our choice.

But we are incurable optimists. Thanks to Aunty, I am trained to look at the brighter side of life. The arguments in favour? Nothing to beat Bangalore weather. Excellent ambience in our present residential complex. If one sister and one sister in law of mine leave Bangalore for Coimbatore from Jan next, all of Aunty’s sisters and brother are here. “I am the monarch of all I survey, My rights there is none to dispute,” I remembered Alexander Selkirk’s line that I read for my Matric exam.

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Sundaram Venkatesh

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