Another kind of home in the hills

Another kind of home in the hills

Submitted by alvin on Mon, 2016-06-20 16:35 Leh (Jammu and Kashmir): "There is no greater religion service then serving the aged, physically challenged, mentally challenged and destitute people," says Venerable (Ven). Sangasena, the founder and president ofMahabodhi International Meditation Centre (MIMC) Choglamsar near Leh city. Situated within the Devachan campus and spread over an area of more than 200 acres, MIMC is nestled amongst trees, just off the highway, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Ven Sangasena, a leading figure in the community, has presided over the affairs of a number of establishments at the MIMC, including a girls hostel, residential school, meditation centre, charitable hospitable and a mobile clinic. However, the only think that the centre lacked was that it did not cater to the aged. Ladakh has two old age homes for the Tibetan refugees, one in Choglamsar and the other in Nyoma. However, none existed for the local population. The impetus for creating an Old Age Home came when Ven Sangasena heard about the story of Padma Lhaskit, hailing from Skyurbuchan village. She had been brought for treatment at the district hospital. She stayed at the hospital for some length of time. At the day of discharge, she got worried because she had no place to go. She faked being sick and was admitted a second time. This happened for a couple of time and the hospital authorities continued to feed and provide her shelter. The 'Rganstoskhang' came into being with three elderly women or abhileys in Ladakhi (literally meaning grandmother), as the first inmates. Although the name implies 'Old Age Home', it is a place for not just the elderly, but those with epileptic disorder and paralysis. Most of the people at the campus are single, but have got sponsors. Stanzin Lhamo from Nubra, who works as the warden at the MIMC, has been working there since she was 17 and now has a grown up daughter. With a lean staff of three people, the 'Rganstoskhang' takes care of everything from cooking, doing the dishes, making beds plus helping the elderly to their washing and changing clothes. "Like all those things one does for a baby" said Stanzin with a smile. In the summer season with the influx of tourists coming from across the country and globe, they get a lot of volunteers. Many foreigners come with intent to serve which is admirable. But sadly, the same spirit is missing amongst locals. "We need volunteers here, but nobody is interested in nursing old people. It is rare for locals to come as volunteers but foreigners - they do everything and even seekwork that is considered filthy. I have seen it," says Stanzin. With Ladakh taking strides on the path of development, urbanisation is inevitable. Earlier social norms ensured that old people lived with their families, but in a way that allowed space and independence to the younger generations. The elderly would live in Khang-bu, or 'small house' that was near Khang-pa or the 'main house'. This unique arrangement lent itself to an easy interaction between different generations. They would be together for special occasions without intruding into each other's space. However, things are changing with the passage of time. The Charkha Development Communication Network says the patterns on which traditional Ladakhi society had stood for-generations, is now under pressure. The interdependence, the intricate system of relationships that defined society, is gradually giving way. However, 'Rganstoskhang' is many things to many people - a home, a family apart from the one based on blood ties, a common space and time shared by so many previously unconnected people, now travelling this leg of their life journey together. Tashi Tsetan, 85, feels secure in the place. A nun from Yulchung village came to Leh after the death of her sister, who was also a nun. Her brother, himself a monk, took this step in her best interest. Although she was entitled to a pension, she became too feeble to even go to collect it. Tsetan is at peace as she spins her prayer wheel, sitting inside with the strong sun rays lighting up her serene face. She of course looks forward to visits by her relatives, who bring her gifts like 'ngamphey' the roasted barley flour and 'khag-la' the local butter. There are others for whom the Old Age Home has been nothing short of a boon. Tsering Dolkar was a labourer in Sapi village in Zanskar. One day, she was struck with a paralytic stroke and her world turned upside down. Her two brothers, being unemployed, were unable to support her medical expenses. A cousin applied at the Home that was then endorsed by the Goba, the village headman. She was given admission at the Home and has been here for the last nine years. During her stay at the Home, Stanzin's mother passed away. With moist eyes turning, she recalls her painful experience of attending her mother's funeral. Gradually she rallied around, thanks to the care and support of others at the Home. Most the inmates do odd little chore at the Home and spend a chunk of time doing prayers. "We chant prayer such as 'Dolma' and 'Gingstein gonbo'. It is our good fortune that we can live here on the support of our donors. The very least we can do in return is to pray for all living beings" she says with a sense of deep gratitude. (ANI)