Fellowship and Feasts

Sometime in early 2018, I received a phone call from Prof. K. M. Varghese, a senior member of the Senior Citizens Forum, Kottayam. He said that I should wait for an important phone call. I told my wife that this sounded like a Nobel Prize announcement. A little later, Dr Mathew Parakkal, a physician of great repute and a founder member of the Forum called me and said that he would like to convey a request and a command. The command was to accept the Presidentship of the Senior Citizens’ Forum and I had no option but to accede. Thus, I became the President of the Senior Citizen’s Forum.

I had joined the Forum in 2013 on Minnu’s cousin Dr George Kurian’s persuasion after our return from Ahmedabad. The Senior Citizens’ Forum is the oldest association of Senior Citizens in Kottayam, established in 1987. With over 700 meetings held with exceptional regularity, the Senior Citizen’s Forum of Kottayam has established a remarkable record of longevity. SCF activities include periodic meetings, discussions, charitable activities, visits, picnics etc. primarily meant to engage the Senior Citizens in intellectual and social activities and to provide them with some form of fellowship. It brings out a monthly newsletter “Elder’s Voice” and maintains a website scfktm.wixsite.com/mysite/links. It spearheaded the formation of the Federation of Senior Citizens’ Associations Kerala, at the state level and is affiliated with it. The number of units affiliated with the federation has also been going up as a result of the untiring efforts of its office bearers.

We found the fortnightly meetings enjoyable, and the Forum provided fellowship with eminent senior citizens of Kottayam. I volunteered to host a website for the Forum, which we did by May 2018 using an agency to do the coding. I also volunteered to create a new layout for the monthly newsletter, Elders’ Voice and to bring out the copies by Xeroxing. The Forum very graciously recognized these contributions by presenting a merit award.

The new team was sworn in during the Installation Ceremony held on 13th April 2019 at the Hotel Aida, made possible by the goodwill of our member Dr C. Radhakrishnan! Prof. Sabu Thomas, the Vice-Chancellor of the Mahatma Gandhi University and the Founder Director of the International and Inter-University Centre for Nanotechnology and an old friend was the Chief Guest.

We continued the tradition of uninterrupted meetings, which presented talks and discussions on interesting subjects, community events and other activities. These, to a large extent, contributed to fulfilling the objectives of the Forum, namely, to engage the Senior Citizens in intellectual and social activities and provide them with some form of fellowship. 

The subjects of the talks were eclectic, ranging over environmental concerns, health, family life, cultural diversity, farming, the future of humanity and social service. Among visitors we honoured, I especially remember Mr P. U. Thomas of the Navajeevan Trust, whom I believe is altruism incarnate. A long time in the past, while being confined to a hospital bed for many days, he had an epiphany of doing good to others. This journey ultimately ended with the establishment of Navajeevan Trust, a home for the homeless, which has become an institution of note in Kottayam. The Senior Citizens Forum felicitated him and celebrated his 70th birthday. 

I realized that many of the members did not exploit the full potential and benefits of Internet Technology.Tutorials with the intent of updating the computer and Internet skills of the Forum members began on the 18th of July 2018 at my apartment. The full course covered Hardware, Operating systems, Windows 7 basics, Computer networks and the Internet, Backing up data, Email, Cloud storage, Net shopping and Net banking etc. This was a very satisfying experience as I found even our senior-most member past 90 diligently taking down notes during the course.

Eminent personalities who were invited to address the Forum included Lok Aayukta Justice Cyriac Joseph, and Shri Hormis Tharakan, formerly of the Research and Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, among others. They were impressed by the activities of the Forum and commented on the pro-active interaction of the members. 

Among the events celebrated, I recall the Onam celebrations held at the Johnny Moose Backwater Farm at Aymanam. It was a great opportunity for the members of our Forum to showcase their talents and entertain us in a very exotic setting. The Onam Sadya which followed was delectable. 

Christmas was celebrated with great enthusiasm. The Christmas Message was given by Fr. Joshua. While delivering his message the father explained that ‘Esu’, means a saviour and that the words of Christ were relevant even today. Christ believed in happiness for all. He advised all members of the SCF to face 2020 with a new determination.

As President, one of my concerns was to raise the level of intellectual discourse and discussions in the forum. It was with this purpose that I chose to speak about topical issues of the times. These included the idea of the Universal Basic Income, startups and their evolution, concept of a circular economy, existential threats to humanity, early Indians, Carbon recycling for mitigating global warming, mega-science projects and Black holes. I hope the members enjoyed these forays into esotery.

The Elder’s Voice, the newsletter of the Forum was published regularly, with a new computerized layout and interesting content. The website, http://www.seniorcitizensktm.net hosted by WordPress ran into problems due to hacking. I redesigned the website with fresh content and hosted it under WIX patronage. The content includes the monthly newsletters, reflecting the multi-faceted activities of the Forum.

In early 2020, we elected a new team with Dr Joseph Cherian, an eminent member of the medical profession as the President. However, they could not take charge because of the COVID situation. We started ZOOM meetings with all the members enthusiastically joining in. We have interesting sessions, sometimes gossip and chitchat, and occasionally a short talk. But we do miss both the fellowship and the fortnightly feasts.

A sense of what we were missing in the fellowship returned on my 80th birthday. A group of Forum members descended at our apartment with gifts and birthday greetings. We reminisced on the good old days we had in the Friday meetings at the SEERI auditorium and swore that we would get together as soon the pandemic receded.


Leave a Reply