A Visit to the Pakalveedu at Thalikulam

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It was on New Year’s day of January 1, 2013 that the Manappuram Foundation started “Pakalveedu” (Day Centre) at Thalikulam in association with a local NGO, Thalikkulam Vikas Trust. What the Pakalveedu offers is daylong fellowship to the elderly people living in and around Thalikkulam. The beneficiaries are senior citizens over 65 years of age. The centre works from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Their day is well spent with activities aimed at their social and intellectual nourishment, as also taking care of their physical health.

There are memory games, physiotherapy sessions, songs and activities to promote camaraderie, and regular medical check-ups. The centre provides breakfast, lunch and snacks in the evening free of cost to beneficiaries.

At present the Centre has 38 members. The remarkable change that the Pakalveedu has brought about in the last two years is the sight of old people coming out of their loneliness and depression, to lead richer and more fulfilling lives.

Yoga instructor Mr. Jamal Conducting Yoga class

Yoga instructor Mr. Jamal Conducting Yoga class
Tour to Peechi Dam commemorating International Day for Older Persons

Tour to Peechi Dam commemorating International Day for Older Persons


The Pakalveedu is located in the Thalikkulam Rural Apparel Park, at a distance of 2 to 3 kms away from the main highway. I visited the place as part of my study on how beneficiaries perceived this initiative of the Manappuram Foundation. The Foundation provides transport to the beneficiaries picking them up in the morning from nearby locations and dropping them off in the evening. I used the same facility to reach the Centre in the morning. It was a very unusual experience for me to see all these elderly people patiently waiting for the bus at the stops on the way, just like school kids waiting for their school bus. Some of them are seen sitting unable remain standing for long. When the bus arrives, they get up and eagerly clamber on board with the help of the hardworking nurses of the Pakalveedu. In this way, having picked up all the members from all the locations nearby, the bus reaches Pakalveedu. The elders get down slowly from the bus one by one and move towards the Centre.

Today, they are excited to see me all of a sudden, more so, when they came to know about the purpose of my visit from the staff. As usual the activities at Pakalveedu commence at 10 o’clock with a prayer. Soon after, one of the female members reads out the newspaper so that everyone can listen and discuss the news, both national and international. During this session everybody express their opinion and concerns. Around 10.30 a.m., all of them head to the dining room for breakfast and then they go back to their respective seats to relax. This is the moment I begin to approach them, one by one, to get a sense of their backgrounds and their perceptions about the Pakalveedu.

With great enthusiasm they began to share information about themselves and their experiences at the Pakalveedu. They became talkative and, as someone put it to me, it was like an opportunity to talk to their grandkid. They opened up to me about the sorrows and bitter realities of life. I came across an old father who was a fisherman. I could make out all the infirmities of old age from his face. He shared his life’s experiences like fishing in deep sea channels but now he was unable to go back to sea. His children are not well settled and for that reason he did not feel good about approaching them for his needs. As for what the Pakalveedu experience meant to him, he had no doubt it was a blessing. He was able to get food and essential medical treatment free of cost. He was extremely grateful to the Manappuram Foundation for its efforts.

​ A 75 year old mother was eager to tell me her heart-breaking story. She has 3 children but now she has no home to live in. She spends her daytime at the Pakalveedu and her nights at the Guruvayoor temple. Her gratitude towards the Manappuram Foundation was beyond words.

Of all the members, the most cheerful was a farmer. I could see he was happy from his words. Every day, he sees off his farm work by about 9 o’clock in the morning and starts preparing for the Pakalveedu visit along with his wife. For him, the most important reason to visit Pakalveedu is to kill boredom, and he treasures the friends he has made and the medical benefits provided here. Occasionally, he brings fresh produce from his farm and has it cooked for the lunch served here. People like him contribute a lot to the friendly and sharing atmosphere of the place.

I could not believe my ears when I met this person who started talking to me in English. It turned out, he had passed Senior Cambridge from Colombo. He looked to be a kindly person who did not even wear slippers but his way of talking in English made me wonder. As a young boy of 15 years, he went to Colombo for higher studies. His father was a harbour employee there. He studied at Zahira College, the first Muslim college in Sri Lanka started in 1892. Due to regulations on immigration suddenly imposed during the Second World War, he could not continue in Colombo and was forced to come back to his native place. He started a textile business in Mumbai and employed 8 workers at one time. But now, he is hard-pressed and survives on the earnings of his wife who works in a nearby temple. His three daughters are married and settled in different places. He treasures the facilities provided at the Pakalveedu.

Another woman wanted to talk about her daughter-in law’s harsh behavior due to which she was forced to stay separately with her husband. She suffers from several serious ailments and has already gone through a number of surgeries. One day she fainted at home and it was her neighbors who brought her to hospital. After that, as advised by the neighbor, she started coming to Pakalveedu. She had a good impression about the staff working at Pakalveedu.

Onam celebration at the Pakalveedu
​​​​​Onam celebration at the Pakalveedu

Onam celebration at the Pakalveedu

A common attraction of the Pakalveedu was that the members get care and attention, medical treatment, food, friendship etc. which they don’t find in their own homes. However, for most, it is not really the free food or medicines that matter the most. Instead, it is the relationships, freedom of expression and the feeling of security they treasure the most. The top most priority of the staff is to give care and an opportunity to them to express their views. This is what makes the time they spend at the Pakalveedu the most comforting time of the day. The wellbeing of our senior citizens is the responsibility of society. Manappuram Foundation has shouldered this responsibility through its Pakalveedu project in a most meaningful manner.

Subin Joseph
May, 2015


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