It Was Meant To Be/મારી રાહ જુએ… My experience

Posted in સ્વાનુભવ by saryu on July 9th, 2008

It Was Meant To Be…..

It was February 5, 2005. I was attending my seventh annual “Appreciation Lunch” for volunteers, organized by the Literacy Council of Fort Bend in Texas. We had a guest speaker, Mr. Michael Biasini. He was relating his life story, “Overcoming Obstacles,”
which could be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul – 6th Edition. At the end of his emotional presentation, he announced, “I want to give this book to the person whose birthday is closest to today.” My birthday happened to be on the 6th, and in my birth-place India, it was already the 6th. So Mr. Biasini presented to me an autographed copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul. I read a few stories and put it away on the bookshelf.

In the next few months, I thought several times about stopping by my neighborhood nursing home. My natural helping aptitude was urging me to do some volunteer work with the elderly residents. Finally, one day in April I went in and inquired. The receptionist was busy doing several things and made me wait for a while. When I expressed an interest in reading to the seniors, she seemed a bit uncertain, but she gave me a contact name and number. After a few attempts over the next few days, I did get hold of that person. Very quickly she told me to “come at 2pm on Monday.”

When I arrived at the home the following Monday, I was received by a young man who led me to a room full of elderly people, most of whom were stricken with Alzheimer’s. He was setting up a movie to show the residents that they had already seen.He said most of the patients did not watch the movie the first time, and those who did forgot it quickly. I was there for about half an hour, but I could not connect with anybody. “What am I doing here?” I asked myself. I decided to leave, but on my way out I ran into the lady in charge. Somehow I heard myself telling her, “I will come back on Friday.” Friday came and I was struggling with myself as to whether I should go back or just forget the whole thing! In the early morning I decided that I would go one more time, and if someone is waiting for me I would find that person.

I entered the home and saw an elderly resident sat there enjoying, “The Price is Right” on television. I proceeded to walk to the same room that had been filled with residents on Monday so that I might find that same young man. I waited around for what seemed like a long time, observing all those patients being helped by the employees, lost in their own worlds. I thought, “That’s it, I tried. I cannot be of any use here.” Coming back to the reception area, I noticed that same elderly lady still sitting near the television with her walker in front of her. I sat next to her and introduced myself to her. She said her name was Helen. She turned out to be very alert and talkative. She knew all about current news events and seemed very smart. She said she enjoyed listening to the television since her eyesight had deteriorated. I told her I would love to come and read to her if she would like! She was totally delighted to hear that. When she found out that I am from India, she excitedly said, “Oh, I know some good Indian people. I like Indian food, especially the “ naan-bread.” She said her friend Nell would also want to join us. I promised her that I will come back to read to them twice a week. I walked out of that nursing home with a smile on my face. I realized in my heart that Helen was waiting for me to come. It was meant to be.

I started planning – what should I read to these ladies! Maybe some magazine? All of a sudden I remembered THAT book. I was sure that these ladies would like to listen to real-life stories. So our first reading session started with “Overcoming Obstacles” from the book Chicken Soup for the Soul.I decided to read to the ladies on Monday and Friday mornings for one hour. That first Friday I went looking for Ms. Helen in her room. She was rushing to meet me. She said she was a little late but next time she would be ready and waiting in the front dining room. From then on she kept her word. Most of the time she would be accompanied by her friend, Ms. Nell. She was a delicate, quiet lady. She loved to read books. She had a little difficulty with her hearing, but she was happy that I was going to read to them. She was eighty-nine years young, one year older than Ms. Helen and forty years senior to me. They both made me feel young, saying, “Oh, you have many years ahead of you.” Ms. Nell was raised on a farm and had worked very hard all her life. Even now in the nursing home she had signed up to help other residents. Ms, Helen would say about her, “Isn’t she a pretty thing! She used to be a model in her younger days.” Upon my inquiries she told me that she used to model clothes for some stores. She was delighted to talk about her lovely daughter, grandchildren and her newborn great-grandchild.

Ms. Helen had worked in a bank. She had lived all her life in upstate New York and recently moved to Houston to be near her children. She would say, “Wherever you live, you have to like it. I like it here.” She was sharp. Whenever I stumbled upon any word, she would promptly give me the meaning of it. She always carried a Bingo game board with her, and as soon they sat at the table, the game would start. Lately she had had a hard time differentiating the dots, so Ms. Nell would help. When I used to bring the naan – the Indian bread – very lovingly she would thank me and share it with whoever was bold enough to try it. Ms. Helen and Ms. Nell valued their friendship dearly.

One day we talked about cremation and burial customs. I told them about our Hindu customs. Ms. Helen said, “A long time ago I had decided to be cremated and have my ashes buried next to my husband in New York State. I don’t want to trouble my mchildren with having to send my body all the way over there.” I was surprised at her clear thinking and her unorthodox attitude. She was so curious to discuss and know about other religions. I would many times read from TIME about the current events and world peace, with enthusiastic participation by the ladies.

One day, Ms. Nell seemed very nervous. She very quietly listened to a story for a while, and then said, “I won’t be here next Monday. The doctor examined my ears and told me to go to his office for some procedure to clean them. He said it will be simple, but I am afraid,” I told her, “Give me your hands.” She put her delicate hands on the table. I held them gently and looking into her eyes told her, ” You will be all right.”  With teary eyes she nodded her head.
The following Friday, when I walked into the dining room, Ms.Nell was all smiles! Excitedly, she told me, “Oh, the procedure did not hurt me and now I can hear so much better.” Our reading sessions continued twice a week.

Ms. Ever started joining us on a regular basis, but there were times she had to leave to help her younger invalid sister. Once, when I was reading a story about a cancer patient, she told us about losing a son to cancer. Accepting this God-given situation was one way for her to achieve peace of mind. Once in a while, some other residents would come and park their wheelchairs next to our table and share their life stories. Often, some of the ladies would be getting manicures by one of the employees during my readings.

One day, I was invited to join a cake party. I came upon one Alzheimer’s patient who was from my country, speaking only in my mother tongue, Gujarati. I sat there holding her hand while she continuously recited a nursery rhyme. It made me feel so humble to realize that the mightiest organ in my body is my brain, and it is so fragile. One day, these people were productive members of the society. Today, they cannot even remember their own names. One lady in another wheelchair was not able to wipe her own mouth, and she was grumbling, “I have to find an apartment – will you help me?”

It was the month of July, and Ms. Helen was looking forward to a trip to attend her granddaughter’s wedding. She returned, very happy from that family reunion. As I listened to her stories, I could see that a positive attitude prevailed in her everyday life. She said, “Everything was so nice, I enjoyed myself.” I never heard any complaints from her.

Months passed by. I also started to read other novels to the residents. But I think that I had received the gift of Chicken Soup for the Soul for the purpose of reading it to these ladies. And I feel their love when very affectionately they ask me, “Now which story are you going to read to us today?”

Saryu Parikh
Note: July 2008. I continued to visit Ms.Nell since Dear Ms.Helen had passed away to cheer another world a few months ago.


મારી રાહ જુએ…                  લે.સરયૂ પરીખ

હ્યુસ્ટનમાં, લીટરસી કાઉન્સીલ તરફથી, બધા સેવા આપનાર માટે  સન્માન કાર્યક્રમ હતો. હું સાત વર્ષથી અંગ્રેજી શીખવવાની સેવા આપતી હતી. છેલ્લા પાંચ વર્ષથી એક મુંગીબહેરી મલેશીયાથી આવેલી કિશોરીને ઈંગ્લીશ શીખવતી હતી. મને “Chicken Soup for Soul” સત્ય કથાઓનુ પુસ્તક ભેટ મળ્યુ. પહેલી વખત આ પુસ્તકનો પરિચય થયો. ‘સમય મળશે ત્યારે વાંચીશ’ એમ વિચારી એક બાજુ મુકી દીધું.

અમારા ઘરથી નજીકમાં એક ઘરડા ઘર હતુ. હું જ્યારે પણ ત્યાંથી પસાર થતી ત્યારે મને મનમાં વિચાર આવે કે મારે કાંઈક સેવા આપવી જોઈએ. એક દિવસ અંદર જવાના વિચારને અમલમાં મુક્યો. ફોન પર વાતોમાં અટવાયેલ બહેને મને પ્રોગ્રામ ડીરેક્ટર ‘કેથી’ પાસે મોકલી.
મેં એમને કહ્યું, “મદદરૂપ થવા સમય આપીશ, પણ શું કરી શકુ એ ખબર નથી! કદાચ પુસ્તક વાંચુ કે એવુ કાંઈક.” એ મને યાદદાસ્ત ખોયેલા વૃધ્ધોના રૂમમાં લઈ ગયા. મુવી ચાલતી હતી. મને કહેવામાં આવ્યુ કે એક જ  મુવી ચાલે રાખે તો પણ એ જોતા રહે છે. એક વખતના હોશિયાર, ચપળ વ્યક્તિઓની દયનિય દશા!
એક માજી જે પોતાનુ મોં પણ નહોતા લુછી શકતા, એ મારો હાથ પકડી કહે, ‘મારે એપાર્ટમેન્ટ્માં રહેવુ છે. મને શોધી આપને.’ હું પંદર મીનીટ પ્રયત્ન કરતી ફરી પણ મને લાગણીની દોર ન બંધાઈ.

મને કેથીએ પુછ્યું કે ફરી ક્યારે આવીશ? તો અનાયાસ, ‘સોમવારે આવીશ’ એમ કહેવાઈ ગયું.
મને વિચારો સતાવે, ‘હું ત્યાં જઈને શું કરીશ!’ એ પરિસ્થિતિમાં ઘરડાં લોકોને જોવા એ પણ એક કસોટી છે.
અંતે એક ભાવ સ્ફુર્યો. ‘હું ફરી એક વખત જઈશ અને જો કોઈ મારી રાહ જોતુ હશે તો મને મળશે.’
સોમવારે હું ઘરડાં ઘરમાં દાખલ થઈ ત્યારે એક વૃધ્ધા વ્હીલ ચેરમાં બેઠાં હતા. ટીવી પર સમાચાર ચાલુ હતાં. મને એ જ મોટા રૂમમાં લઈ ગયા. મે થોડી મદદ કરવા પ્રયત્ન કર્યો પણ મારી ત્યાં હાજરી નકામી લાગી.
મે મનમાં ગાંઠ વાળી, ‘બસ, પ્રયત્ન કરી છૂટી.’

પાછી આગલા ખંડમાં આવી તો એ વૃધ્ધાની ખુરશી બીજી તરફ હતી અને ટીવી પ્રોગ્રામ રસથી સાંભળતા હતા.
મે એમની નજીકના સોફા પર બેસી વાતચીત ચાલુ કરી, ” મારુ નામ સરયૂ, આપનુ નામ?”
મજાનુ હસીને કહે, “હેલન.” મે જરા શો વિષે વાતો કરી અને તેઓ કેમ જોવાને બદલે સાંભળે છે એમ પુછતા એમણે કહ્યુ કે એમને લગભગ અંધાપો આવી ગયો છે. જ્યારે મારી પાસેથી જાણ્યુ કે હું ભારતિય છું તો ઉત્સાહથી બોલ્યા, “અરે વાહ! હું થોડા ભારતિયને ઓળખું છું. અમે મારી દીકરીના પડોશીને ત્યાં જમવા ગયેલા. મને ખાસ કરીને નાન બહુ ભાવેલી.” મે પુછ્યુ, ” હું અઠવાડીયામાં એકાદ બે દિવસ આવી કાંઈક વાંચન કરૂ તો ગમશે?” એ સાંભળતા એમનો ચહેરો ખીલી ઉઠ્યો, “મારાથી હવે વંચાતુ નથી તેથી એ શોખને વિસારે મુક્યો. જો તમે આવીને વાંચશો તો ખુબ ગમશે. મારા બેનપણી, નેલ પણ આવશે.”

બીજે દિવસે સવારનો સમય નક્કી કરી મે વિદાય લીધી. મનનો ભાવ પુલકિત થઈ કહેતો હતો, ‘હાં, હેલન મારી રાહ જોતી હતી!’
મને મુંઝવણ થઈ કે શું વાંચુ જેથી લગભગ નેવુ વર્ષના બહેનોને રસ પડે. એ વખતે સમજાયું કે પેલુ ભેટ મળેલ પુસ્તક, મને જ કેમ મળ્યુ! મેં નક્કી કરી લીધું કે  “Chicken Soup for Soul”માંથી સત્ય કથાઓ યોગ્ય રહેશે.
અમે જમવાના રૂમમાં મળવાનું નક્કી કરેલ પણ હેલન ત્યાં નહોતા. હું એના રૂમમાં ગઈ તો એ નર્સને જલ્દી કરવાનુ કહી રહ્યા હતાં. મને કહે કે હવે પછી મને રાહ નહીં જોવડાવે અને ત્યાર પછી લગભગ દરેક વખતે રૂમમાં મારા જતા પહેલા હાજર થઈ જતા.

હેલન ૮૮ વર્ષના, ઉત્સાહી અને હોશિયાર હતા. વાંચતા મને કોઈ શબ્દ ખબર ન હોય તો તરત અર્થ કહેતા.
એમના બેનપણી નેલ પણ આવ્યા જે હેલન કરતા એક વર્ષ મોટા હતા. પાતળા, ટટ્ટાર અને નાજુક બહેનને જોતા ખ્યાલ આવે કે એક સમયે બહુ દેખાવડા હશે. એમને એક કાને જરા ઓછું સંભળાતુ હતુ. પછી તો બીજી બહેનો પણ આવીને બેસતી અને અઠવાડીયામાં બે દિવસ સવારે મે વાંચવાનુ ચાલુ કર્યુ અને પાનાઓ દિવસો, મહિનાઓ અને વર્ષોમાં ફેરવાયા. ઘણા પ્રસંગો આવ્યા જ્યારે એમની આંખોના અશ્રુઓ લુછ્યા અને એમની ખુશીમાં હસ્યા.

હેલનના પરિચયથી મને ઘણુ શીખવા મળ્યુ. એ અહીંથી દૂરના સ્ટેઇટમાં આખુ જીવન રહેલા, પણ એની દીકરી અને દીકરાનુ કુટુંબ ટેક્સાસમાં હોવાથી થોડા વર્ષોથી અહીં રહેતા. એ કહેતા, “મને તો અહીં ગમે છે. હું નસીબદાર છું કે મારા પ્રેમાળ બાળકો મારી સંભાળ લે છે. એમને અગવડ ન પડે એની મારે પણ કાળજી રાખવી જોઈએ. હું મરી જાઊં ત્યારે મને અગ્નિદાહ આપવાનો આદેશ છે તેથી મારા ગામે લઈ જઈ દાટવાના ક્રિયાકર્મ ન કરવા પડે.”
મારા જીવનમાં અને પ્રવૃત્તિઓમાં બન્ને બહેનો ખુબ રસ લેતા. તેઓ મારા આવવાની ઉત્સાહથી રાહ જોતા અને  મને મારા સ્વજનોને મળવા જતી હોઉં એવો ભાવ થતો. હેલન જ્યારે હસતી આંખો સાથે પુછતી, “તો આજે તું શું વાંચવાની છો?” ત્યારે હું લાગણીના દોરે બંધાઈને ત્યાં બેઠી છું એની પ્રતિતી થતી.



  1. Vijay Shah said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

    “But I think that I had received the gift of Chicken Soup for the Soul for the purpose of reading it to these ladies. And I feel their love when very affectionately they ask me, “Now which story are you going to read to us today”

    બહુ જ સરસ વાત્!

  2. Pancham Shukla said,

    January 9, 2011 @ 10:22 pm


  3. kalyani vyas said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 7:30 am

    ખુબ સરસ કાર્ય.

  4. hemapatel said,

    January 19, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

    સરયૂબેન ,
    બહુજ સરસ સેવાનુ કામ તમે કર્યુ છે . આખો લેખ દિલને સ્પર્શી જાય છે .

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