Tamaraikulam Elders Village


Matthew "Gus" Gusul (friend) recently travelled to the Tamaraikulam Elder's Village to work with the community. Below is an exert from one of his journal entries.

After the break we all met in another room where there is a recently installed entertainment system. The donor who is now visiting paid to have high quality projector and sound system installed in TEV’s multipurpose room. Between Babu, the tech guy, and me we figured out how to play the “Am I Invisible” scene. As we figured this out a much larger crowd gathered to watch the video. In the theatre session we had eight seniors and to watch the video there were about twenty-five people including the donor from Singapore. To watch the video I would play about 90 seconds and then pause it so Babu could translate what was happening. Once we finished the video is when something very special happened. I told the elders that the final song on this video was the song I wanted to teach them in English. Then the donor from Singapore started to translate what the words meant and in doing so he started to sing them. Babu took his lead and better developed the song to add actions. The two of them with the help of a number of the elders spontaneously wrote their own Tamil version of “We’re Here Because We’re Here”. They sang it a few times in the multipurpose hall and then I asked Babu if we could take it outside to sing it in the Open Air Theatre. When we went outside many of the other elders and workers gathered to see what all the fuss was about. The crowd amounted to about fifty people. Then the group of actors along with a few of the other elders started singing the new Tamil song. They sang the song over and over for ten minutes. Babu led them trying to perfect the presentation of the song and the atmosphere was very energetic, fun, playful, and filled with laughter. At one point, one of the elders was laughing so hard she fell over. It was so much fun to watch. I wish all of you could have seen. Liz and I enjoyed ourselves so much. I could not ask for anything more out a first session with the TEV elders.

There is beautiful scene that I could write about their childhood train memories and the reality for the elders who ride the train now. But better yet was the transformation of the elders watching the video of the Canadian seniors singing, taking that song, and spontaneously creating their own Tamil version. There was a community of 50 rural, poverty stricken Indian elders singing a loud chorus proclaiming that they were here and that they were not invisible. It was a great moment of activism and community. The entire community came together in this moment. Many of the elders here have spent the better part of their life in low income, low education, and detrimental conditions while being told, either explicitly or implicitly, that they were worthless. Now, in this community they are being given the opportunity to stand up and sing in an act of supreme protest that the rest of the Indian community had better take notice to them and their conditions.

- Matthew Gusul (University of Victoria)

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