If age is but a number, the number of memories you create, highlight a life well lived. Your enthusiasm and zest for life determines how much of a difference you have made in your life and in the lives of others.
Manju Ramanan meets Bubbles Kandhari who refuses to take solo credit for Young Hearts, a platform she has helped create for the elderly in the UAE
How did Young Hearts come about?
We were attending a small event at the Indian Consulate in Dubai and among the attendees was a lady from Delhi called Kiran Chopra who had brought in 100 senior citizens from India who were on a tour to Dubai. We had an emotional time watching them take part in various activities totally undeterred and full of enthusiasm. It was encouraging to see them perform with abandon. They were so involved in singing, dancing, acting et al that
I happened to mention to Kiran saying that why don’t we have a forum like this in Dubai. She mentioned it to the Counsel General, HE Anurag Bhushan and he announced it. And I was more than happy to take it ahead. There were many lovely people who supported me. The whole initiative is voluntary and is led by those who genuinely want to work with and for the elderly.
How did you spread the word?
It has largely been publicised by word of mouth. A whole lot of my friends and well -wishers joined in and showed solidarity. Many of them helped me in getting people together. We met at the Gurudwara in Jebel Ali first and then started planning out monthly activities. Today we have about 20 volunteers and 35 members and some 15 temporary members. It is a small group and we don’t to make it too big at the moment. We will grow organically.
How was the interaction like?
It was emotional. We never expected that kind of response. They bonded pretty well. First they introduced themselves to each other and started talking about themselves. One of the elderly members started talking about his life and the time he had lost his wife and broke down. Another younger volunteer reached out to him because she had never met her grandparents. So the synergy is to be seen to be believed. When we had our Lodhi function this January, we had song and dance and one elderly gentleman asked us to take a video of him dancing so that he could post it to his daughter in the USA. What was heartening was, a whole lot of communities got together and interacted with each other. It was beautiful. We also took them to watch Jungle Book in Ibn Batuta, a trip to Miracle Garden and a picnic thrown in.
What are your plans for the future?
We are planning a gala in December and people are all excited and preparing for the show. The highlight is a fashion show. We are very happy to receive calls from the families saying that my mother in law is practicing her act at home or sashaying in a saree. It is cute and it is fulfilling to know that all of the members are so excited. Their children have been supportive too. We even had a dietician speak to the group recently and hand them dos and donts about diet and lifestyle. We are planning to take them all to a jewellery making unit and show themhow it is all made. That is the plan for next month.
How about involving children?
We have plans to involve children to interact with the elderly. In fact they might be there during the fashion show
ushering in our models. Wait and watch!
How do you feel about the whole initiative?
It is very fulfilling. Money cannot buy you happiness. Serving people does. It is payback time. The elderly have
raised us, given so much of themselves to us. We are just trying to give them back a few moments of happiness and peace. If our children are our future, the elderly people are our backbone.