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She had the same vicariousness as Kaya. Actually the more I observed Juhi the more I felt that I have known her since a life time.
Her very presence made my home come alive. It was not just me but everyone who spent some time with her felt a kind of positive energy transcendent into them.
I often wondered what brought her here. Compassion, a need to do a good deed or just a pure zest for life. She never talked about her life , about family or anything remotely related to herself. All we knew about her was that she loved spending her weekends and holidays with us.
“Oh! Come on Uncle John, there is more to life than the mundane. Life is a passing circus we got to enjoy it while it’s there.” And she would give me her warmest of smiles and a warm hug.
I would nod my bald head in agreement and hug her back muttering my heartfelt blessings for the child.
We all made guesses about her age. Some thought she was past thirty but Kanta amma was sure that Juhi was still in her twenties and treated her like that. Kanta amma was eighty-two herself and the second oldest among the mates of Utsav. The oldest being Lakshamna who was eighty-nine.
A rough man who did not interact with anyone but a bright smile appeared beneath his huge mustaches the moment he heard Juhi singing voice , “ Uncle Lakshmanna, care for a game of corrom” ?
He would become a child for that one hour and Juhi let him won all the games.
He would pat her back and say, “ One day you will win and I will happily die that day. You still have to learn a lot my girl”. Juhi would just smile and hold his soft wrinkled hands in hers.
At Utsav we knew how to celebrate old age and in a way Life. All 20 of us , six women and 14 men lived a much fuller life than those who had abandoned us.
We lived with dignity, freedom and happiness. Although some of us were fighting with various old age ailments , we never let that come in our way of celebrating life.
We went for picnics, played cards, carrom, read books from the ones donated by Juhi and her friends, held musical evenings and shared stories from our life. Mary Francis had again started to write short stories for children and Juhi often read them out to us making us laugh like little boys and girls. She promised to get her work published when the collection was ready. Everyone obeyed her like a good child and she made it a point to look after our needs.
She even instructed Chef Rajam ( we all lovingly called him Chef) about the dietary needs of each one of us. We had a beautiful loving family.
Many a times when someone felt the pang of separation from family( which seldom happened), we gathered in the Blue Room and sat near the picture of Budhdha tried to bring the calmness back.
Blue Room was Rahim Khan‘s initiative and Juhi furnished it with a soft lights, a carpet and a large picture of Lord Budhdha where a lamp burned all the time. There was no other puja room. Who ever wanted to connect with God or self went there.
In my sixty-five years of life I had not seen a bunch of elder people so much in love with life as this one .
Death lurked around the corner for many of the residents they were in no hurry to meet her.
Juhi had filled our lives with fragrance.True to her name. She taught us to combat pain and suffering , emotional as well as physical.
I noticed how in last three years all of us had become a little younger in our mindset even if our bodies showed the signs of aging.
I often said a little prayer for this loving soul who brought back life into the world of sad and lonely senior citizens of Utsav.
One day Juhi brought some young children with her and we all celebrated the festival of light together. “They are children from an orphanage “, she told us. The lady who ran the orphanage also came with them. A tall Parsi woman who then made it a point to drop in now and then and spend time with us.
The children would sometimes come during festivals and then there would be dance, drama, music and lots of fun. These times filled my heart and with moist eyes I would watch Life celebrating in all its glory. Their innocent smiles would linger on the wrinkled faces for a long time. Their days and nights filled with joy of togetherness.
A newly painted board in the living area made by the children reads:
“To be alive, is a miracle and a cause for celebration.”
Last week Juhi left for further studies but the ‘celebration of being alive’ continues at
Hey, did I tell you who was Kaya ? Well, she was my beloved wife. She passed away during the birth of our first child.
In fact both mother and child decided that the world was too much for them and continued their journey across the universe.