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Vol. XXXIII No. 21, February 16-29, 2024

A floral delight for Senior Citizens

-- by Vinita Sidhartha

I read with interest an article about the live flower show being organised at Chennai’s Semmozhi Poonga, a 20-acre botanical garden established in 2010. The flower show, the article said, would transform this botanical garden into a splash of colour with 12 lakh plants.

The event, hosted by the Horticulture Department is open to visitors until February 20, 2024.

Although the article sounded interesting, I dismissed it until someone suggested I take my parents and that they would love it. This was emotional pressure at the highest level.

Taking aged parents out is very hard. No wonder most senior citizens end up sitting at home or taking, at most, an occasional trip to a family wedding or a temple. Floors are uneven in most facilities; access is difficult, and help is limited. In my case it was further complicated by the fact that my father is in a wheelchair and my mother struggles to walk long distances and most public places are not wheelchair friendly.

Mr. and Mrs. N.S. Parthasarathy, Vinita’s parents, at the Flower Show. Readers will recall he was a frequent contributor of articles to the magazine and a close associate of S. Muthiah.

However, the emotional pressure was on me, so I made an initial visit to check if there was any scope for wheelchair access and was pleasantly surprised. The guards assured me that the car could be taken in to facilitate easy access for seniors and they even had wheelchairs available at the venue.

The next question was time. The show was from 10.00 am to 7.00 pm but evening traffic snarls could play havoc with senior citizen routines. I decided to take my chances with a 10.00 am visit secretly dreading the heat and humidity.

Valentine’s day dawned bright and sunny, and my parents prepared for the expedition. When we reached the venue, the guards allowed the car in, and even helped with unloading my father and his wheelchair. My mother had earlier been determined to walk, but a smiling guard told her she would enjoy it more in a wheelchair and coaxed her to take one available at the premises – something I have never been able to do.

I was still unsure if it was worth the effort. Once we entered the gate, the sheer explosion of colour, the interesting and slightly whimsical floral sculptures, the smooth convenient paths overhung by branches from old stately trees truly made it a feast for the eyes.

We had visited the flower show in Ooty when I was a child, and my mother was reminded of this. My father on the other hand seemed to remember happy memories of the old drive-in restaurant that stood on the premises for years. They looked around in an expression of wonder mixed with nostalgia.

While the show was delightful, the staff were cheerful and helpful, offering assistance to negotiate a couple of difficult ramps and taking photographs commemorating family moments. Perhaps it was the delightful surroundings where they worked, the pride in a job well done or the appreciation of the visitors – all the staff had happy smiles when we encountered them.

The icing on the cake was the sheer delight on my parents’ faces as they gazed at the surroundings and enjoyed the lovely weather under the shade of the trees – perhaps the final vestiges of Chennai winter. My father was so delighted he struck a dance pose mimicking one of the floral sculptures of a dancer with a skirt of colourful flowers. It was truly a memorable morning.

We take a lot of time to criticise when things go wrong, but rarely stop to appreciate things that are wonderful. I think we must salute the organisers for putting together something vibrant, colourful, and more importantly inclusive to senior citizens and the differently abled. If you haven’t yet been there, don’t miss it, the arrangements are excellent.

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