Avani Avittam

Date: 1 August 2020

After I shed my uniform, which I wore for nearly 30 years, my second innings commenced on 4 July 1995 at Coimbatore. My journey of the past 26 years from Paripoorana Estates, Kovaipudur to Covai to CovaiCare has left me with a number of memorable events. Some are historical and others are hilarious. Some are brick and mortar and others are reinforced concrete.

I was 46 years old in 1995. I am now 71 years young in 2020! I continue to work and also get my army pension! This journey has been one of joy and sorrow, ups and downs, success and failures, laughter and tears, friends and enemies! And it continues, filled mostly with memorable memories and some forgettable. Let me share some of these stories – real ones!

When I see some of the old projects that we conceptualized, conceived, created and continue to nurture, there is so much that I was fortunate to witness, experience and learn. There are memories of dreams becoming reality, ideas crystallizing into concepts and, of people who are part of the events – some no more but many still around. I am not going to write about them in any sequence, but randomly as my brain chooses.

As I write this article on 1 August 2020, in two days, we will have Avani Avittam – the annual ritual, when Brahmins change their sacred thread. This is normally a group activity conducted by a Brahmin priest known as Vadhyar- not the teacher, who also we call as Vadhyar in Tamil. While a preacher can also teach, a teacher may not be able to preach!

Soundaryam Comfort and Retirement Homes for seniors was conceived as an army cantonment in 2004 and completed in 2006.That chapter I will write another day. On Avani Avittam Day in 2006, I was walking from our site office (a converted cow shed) towards project Santhosham. In front of The Retreat, I saw about half a dozen gentlemen in Veshti, towel covering their upper body and holding a Sombu filled with water. They looked worried. I asked them if they had any problem.

Mr Varadarajan replied, “today is Avani Avittam and we are looking for a place to perform the rituals with the help of a priest who is about to arrive.” I looked a bit lost. Mr Varadarajan asked me, “why you are not dressed like us and ready for the ritual?” I told him that my father never gave me the Brahma Upadesam but lots of other Upadesams concerning life! I requested them to use the lounge of The Retreat for the ritual and promised to create a place for such rituals by next year.

Thus, was born the Activity Centre on the first floor of The Retreat, which had only the Library. We constructed a ramp to the Activity Centre so that senior citizens can walk up to it as well as be pushed on a wheelchair! Of course, we now have a lift to reach the Activity Centre that has seen many activities, chanting, religious events, lecture etc. Year after year, the residents helped by Team CovaiCare, celebrate Navaratri with traditional Kolu with a particular theme. And, not to forget Bhagavathi Seva conducted by priests from Kerala. Unfortunately, this year, the prayer was cancelled due to this pandemic.

So, the birth of the Activity Centre at The Retreat has a history and reason. Avani Avittam!

By Colonel Achal Sridharan, VSM

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