Christmas means different things to different people. To some it is an occasion to revive old friendships, dosage bring back memories of another day, malady make contact with family, pharmacy relatives and friends. To others, it’s an occasion to express love. To still others it’s a time for a sumptuous brunches or candlelight dinners or dancing a waltz or perhaps trance beat.
For some it’s just waiting.
In the midst of all the lights, glitter and pomp, there are some who spend Christmas in quiet isolation. Old, lonely and infirm, these folks are the denizens of old aged homes across Goa.
Many thoughts rushed through my mind as I visited a handful of these homes a few days before Christmas. As I approached each of the greying men and women with questions like what do they expect of Christmas or how they planned to spend it, I got the usual nods and recounts of memories of their earlier years, but rarely any enthusiasm to celebrate the Christmas ahead.
It didn’t take much effort to decipher from the expressions on their faces that they longed for company and that all they wanted for Christmas is a concerned ear from those who visit them.
One elderly woman spoke of her three children now living abroad from whom she never hears. Another nostalgically recalled an earlier time when her entire neighbourhood broke into song and dance to celebrate Christmas. One man spoke about how his wife lived with him at an old age home in the village of Aldona up until four months ago, when she died of cancer. His two sons live abroad and were out of contact for years.
Fortunately, there are people in Goa who spare a thought for these lonely seniors at Chrismas time. Members of carol singing groups, small Christian communities, lay organisations of the Church such as Parish Youth Associations and Cathecatical Associations, do take time off from all the merry-making to give these souls some solace.
At one such home run by the Mother Teresa-founded Missionaries of Charity in Panjim, the nearly dozen ageing residents have had at least three groups visit, singing Christmas carols for them. Some share traditional sweets, shoot the breeze a little and give them a few moments of joy.
Caregivers told me that in the days leading up to Christmas and beyond, several more groups will come calling to cheer them up, if only briefly.
At Majorda, the parish’s youth association and cathecatical association join hands and dedicate an evening in the festive season to the elderly at a nearby home run by the Provedoria, the Goa government’s social welfare organisation.
“We go to this old age home and make it a point to chat with each of them. We then sing carols and they join in. We also perform dances for them, have games and provide them some eats, fruits and personal toiletries, towels, etcectra,” Fiona Fernandes, president of the Majorda Cathecatical Association until last year, told Streets.
The elderly at another Provedoria-funded home managed by nuns in Loutolim, a village famous for its heritage homes in rural South Goa, will also be visited like their Majorda counterparts.
The Loutolim Parish Youth has plan to bring smiles on the faces of these old folks, some of whom haven’t been visited or cared for by their loved ones, who’ve mostly migrated abroad in search of greener pastures.
Sometimes the true meaning of Christmas isn’t found in revelry and feasting, but in these homes whose inhabitants cry out for a little love.