SS Samithi Abhayakendram

It is a special day today, Asha’s grandchild’s Birthday. Amma and Asha have been sponsoring meals at the SS Samithi Abhayakendram in Myyanad for a while. They do it for special occasions. Today’s meal was for Parvathy’s special day. I’ve never been to this place, although I have heard Amma talk about it.

Syam comes to pick us up and we get there for eight. It is time for the morning prayers and it is broadcast through the loudspeakers. We wait for the prayers to finish and go to the office where my mother does the necessary paperwork. We are then taken to the dining hall. The men are served first in the morning and the women in the evening. The men are all sitting and waiting patiently for us. Some get up as we walk in and thank us. It is a humbling experience. Another lady comes and says a prayer for Asha and her family. After this Amma is asked to start the process of serving the food. The men then take over the job. They usher us to another table and serve the veeshappam (flat version of iddiyappam) and muttacurry with a cup of sweet tea. Some of the residents have a second helping, others finish their breakfast, wash their plates and leave. A guy is clearing the tables and tidying up to make way for the second group. There are a total of 460 inhabitants including a few children.

The girl who serves us takes us back to the office. We ask if they could show us around as I’ve never been here before. Aneesha gives us a brief run down of the place and take us around the buildings. We start in the recreational part where some of the residents are already waiting. More than 90% are mentally unwell. They have people from all over the country in the centre. Some are brought in by the police, others by the general public, abandoned and homeless. They are fed, looked after, treated and rehabilitated. Some of those who have been able to look after themselves and fend for themselves have been able to return home. Others stay at the centre. They also have another land where they cultivate and keep farm animals. Those who are well and can help, help with the chores and the fields. There are children who grew up here who are now at college and studying for degrees.

Those who cannot come to the dining room are served in their rooms. The staff are caring and patient even when the residents give them a hard time. Although they all don’t look happy, they are not distressed and everyone seems calm, which for an institution with this many people, all with varying degrees of psychological problems is a huge achievement. Aneesha takes us to the kitchen. The rice and sambar are made in huge vat like containers and steamed using a steamer, the likes of which I have never seen before. I later go through the Samithi’s website and find out that the founding Trustee Mr Francis Xavier is a retired engineer and now I know where he gets these ideas from.

I only have admiration for the wonderful work that Mr Xavier and his team does. Getting destitute people off the streets and making them feel human again. I wish them all the success in the world.

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