Children in the Sonrisa Orphanage in Nepal have all found a loving home and shelter under the care of Bishnu Rai and the Sonrisa didis and bhais. While the orphanage has been the welcome recipient of generous donations from many friends in Nepal and abroad, Bishnu wants the children to understand the importance of giving to others less fortunate then themselves. It was to this end that all 15 children arrived at the Social Welfare Centre Briddhashram, an Elders Hostel adjacent to Pashpatinath, the Hindu Cremation Site.
For older Nepali’s without family support, this is where they spend their last years, supported by the charity of others. While we were there a supply of curd and Biten Rice was delivered as a donation by Indian businessmen.
The hostel was arranged as a single story of rooms that framed an inner courtyard, the centre of which was a stone platform graced by a centuries old Hindu shrine. Residents of the hostel were clustered around the stone stairs of the shrine or in corners of the courtyard under whatever shade the trees had to offer.
Many of the didis’ were absorbed with the task of spinning bits of cotton into wicks that would be lit for morning pujas. Old wrinkled hands crafting each wick with the efficiency that can only come with a lifetime of practice.
Most of the people we saw could get around on their own steam or with wooden canes. The reality was that many of these men and women were only 10 years older then me but the harshness of their existence led to deep lines in their faces and stiffness in their bodies, some bent at the waist from a lifetime of carrying heavy loads.
The Sonrisa children arranged themselves and their instruments (violins, drums, flutes) in front of the assembled gathering of elders.
The music started and almost immediately the crowd was rapt with attention. Bodies started swaying and hands clapping.
Music has incredible power to evoke memories of earlier days when bodies were limber and graceful. Soon the didis and dais were dancing with abandon, ignoring the piercing mid-day heat.
In those fleeting moments you could see their younger flirtatious spirits. With age comes a release from inhibitions and permission to express unbridled joy.
There is so much to be learned from our elders.