Their philosophy may sound archaic in today’s world of wealth management. It is an organisation which pooh-poohs the philosophy of investments, returns, savings etc., and rests its edifice on unshakeable faith in God and service to mankind.
They are the Little Sisters of the Poor the term ‘Little’ seems to be a misnomer when one gets to know the task on their hands. The 16 sisters have the huge responsibility of taking care of the aged poor with whom they live, take care of and break bread. A service aimed to make them live the rest of their life in dignity and with a smile.
The eligibility criteria for an inmate is should be 65 years or more and should belong to economically weaker section. Today, this organization at Gandhinagar in Mysuru, renders its services to 120 senior citizens, including the physically challenged, the bedridden ones and those who have been incapacitated due to old age.
The organisation traces its roots to France and to its founder Jeanne Jugan who has been canonized. The Indian government has released a postal stamp in recognition of her services. The Mysore Chapter of this congregation was set up in 1971. It was first established in India in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1882. Today, there are 13 branches in India with its head office in Bangalore.
The Mysore Chapter is being looked after by Sister Superior, Sr. Gemma and the sisters come from different parts of India and the world. Keeping in tune with the original philosophy of its founder, the sisters collect donations to run the home.
Though many good Samaritans have come forward to donate huge sums, interest from which could have been used for the daily administration of the home, it has been refused as it is against the basic principles of the congregation.
People of Mysore are very generous says Sr. Gemma with a smile. “We have not gone hungry. There are people who sponsor our meals and days when there is no sponsor, we make our own meals. The more able inmates help in the chores like chopping vegetables, cleaning utensils, laundering, ironing etc,” she says.
“The nuns responsible for getting the provisions and vegetables get them from vendors for free. We go to Nanjangud wholesale market and we are generously given vegetables,” she says with a smile.
“People give us money or send the food she says. The only request we make to them is to keep in mind that there are 170 people in all and the rice should be well cooked as most of the inmates prefer it that way,” she says.
The home’s medical needs are to some extent taken care of by some medical shops. “We have a team of 4 doctors visiting the home every week. A city-based doctor visits us on his off days and spends time treating and talking to the inmates,” she says.
The interns of the physiotherapy centre of JSS Hospital come here as it has been made a part of their curriculum. Besides, the nuns are themselves trained in basic nursing to assist during emergencies.
The chapel in the premises offers solace and a sense of comfort. The inmates belong to different faiths and there is no compulsion to participate in prayers. In the dorm, each inmate is provided with a bed and a cupboard for their personal belongings. Many inmates have pictures of the Gods of their choice.
The home sports two recreation rooms. Besides a TV, it has a carom board and a reading corner. Sister Gemma shows around the spotless dorms and the inmates’ faces light up on seeing a visitor and they love to share their thoughts.
A few moments with them make them think about their loved ones. But they come back to the present and are all praises to the way they are being looked after. Sr. Gemma confides that the home encourages the families of the inmates to come as often as possible and some of them do she says.
The Mayor of Mysore visited the home on his birthday last year and had sponsored a meal and had arranged for a picnic to Dornahalli. The inmates visited Dornahalli this year too and had the best time. It is indeed a pleasure to hear them excitedly recollect their trip like children. The smile on their faces is what the Sisters’ efforts is all about!