Last week, B.M. Singh – the initiator and Neel Mehra – the backbone of this project; visited Mrs Coralie
DeMello deMellow. A couple of their photographs are shown below, with Mrs DeMello deMellow (she is called Jane by those who know her), Mr I.L. Bhatia and Mrs Breda Dayal.
Neel Mehra with Mrs Coralie
DeMello deMellow flanked by Mr. Bhatia and Mrs Breda Dayal ~ BM Singh with Mrs Coralie DeMello deMellow flanked by Mr. Bhatia and Mrs Breda Dayal. Click for larger picture.
Much of what we know about Mrs
DeMello deMellow has come to us from Breda who regularly visits the lady. Mr I L Bhatia was a secretary to Mr Melville DeMello deMellow. A hard working and devoted friend he joined government service and retired after a successful career. He now lives in the same complex as Mrs DeMello deMellow and is a person she trusts. He is there to support her in any manner that he can. Mrs DeMello deMellow has confidence in both these persons and that is a statement in itself when people at that age, 95 years, begin to develop fears and insecurities of their own.
DeMello deMellow, the nonagenarian, exhibits all the signs of physical ageing but is remarkably free from social ageing. Her intelligence and her cognitive processes have not declined. Thin and emaciated, she has her wits about her. Her hand writing is remarkably stable and steady. She writes her own cheques and is aware of the balance in the account, which is now in a precariously depleted state. What is impaired is her hearing. She has a high sense of insecurity (“What do I do when I am alone and frightened? !!” ) She is terribly lonely, alone but concerned at the cost of a presence. “If someone comes to work and stay with me during the day, do I have to make her tea? Who is to feed this person? ” are the kind of questions that draw her attention. She has no near relative around her. A sister, older than her lives in Bangalore in a home for the aged and an even older brother in New Zealand. There is no contact with any of them except that the same genes are healthy and operative in all three cases!
It is fear, the dread that comes with being all by yourself, that afflicts her most. It haunts her constantly inspite of the assurances of those who have made an effort to help her. She feels helpless and that apprehension is a constant theme. Accompanied by penury, it takes on a hue all very dark and with uncomfortable tones. The saving grace is her frequent return to balance when she is assured that she is not isolated and unwanted. To alleviate that sense of dismay is not easy and the care givers make a constant effort. It is loneliness of the night that she dreads the most.
DeMello deMellow eats twice a day, the breakfast and the lunch are her only meals and they are understandably frugal. She has declined to move into an old age home and is keen to retain her dignity and her independence. Understandable. She has lived an active live and this is apparent when you learn that she was teacher of Russian until 2002.
She remembered Melville telling her about his wonderful years at BCS. He was there from 1925-9. She recalls he would go up to The Ridge to practice his speech with the use of raw eggs. I wonder how he did that!! Well whatever technique he used was superb because his commentary of Gandhiji funeral, the Republic Day parade or a India hockey final are still remembered for the vividness of their description of the event. It left you spell bound for its detailed narration in a voice and language that painted a picture that was animated and eloquent.
DeMello deMellow passed away in 1989. He was not a permanent employee of All India Radio and was therefore paid on an assignment basis. His last employment was with the Sports Authority of India who hired his services for the Asian Games in 1979. After that stint they kept him on until 1989 and he passed away. Out of compassion, an ex-gratia payment was made to him of Rs 1,500 every month until last year when it was discontinued. The absence of this source and the continual dipping into their savings has resulted in Mrs DeMello deMellow facing a financial closure of sorts. She has no savings and no source of income. She is without funds of any kind. What little gold she had was sold. That is hard for any woman but the compulsions of the situation were such with little option available.
To offer Mrs
DeMello deMellow immediate relief, B M Singh and Neel Mehra have disbursed an amount of Rs 10,000. Further action is contemplated to ensure that the lady is well settled and offered complete care. Her insecurity and the surrounding uncertainty must be eliminated so that she can pass the rest of her days with a degree of equanimity and comfort. This is what we aim to do.
The contributions are still coming in and more will be welcome. We aim to develop a fund where we can support Mrs
DeMello deMellow with a month payout. Currently we estimate this to be approximately Rs 10,000 per month. Given our initiative, it is possible that other organisations may want to assist in taking care of Mrs DeMello deMellow. We will need to assess the need and act suitably.
The time and effort of B M Singh and Neel Mehra must be appreciated. They are patient, dedicated and compassionate individuals whose efforts must be lauded. Their efforts reflect on the rest of us OCs and describe just the kind of people we are and want to be!!