This 93-year-old is 'auctioning' off her time, and strangers are queuing up for a 60-minute date
Supriya Cherian at 93 just became Chennai's most popular paati. Ever since a Facebook post put up by Rohini Rau - her doctor granddaughter for a social experiment - it turns out her social life has been buzzing - with requests from potential new friends that span ages 11 to 50. "I'm used to it," she tells us over the phone, ever so modestly. The post that has racked up a steady queue of 40 and growing, of folks who want to meet with her (some from out of town) suggests the curious concept of 'auctioning off' her time. The time frame stands at 60 minutes a day for the next three weeks - during which the suggested conversation starters include romance pre-Independence, an introduction to Smile therapy or even a Malayalam lesson!
Ironically, Rohini, a known face on stage with her mother Aysha Rau being the founder of Little Theatre confides, "I put up the post without telling my grandmother!" She wanted to get an idea of how the concept would be received and the traction it would get online before she could present it to her beloved Didu (as she fondly calls her grandmother). But once the messages started pouring in, "with people actually giving me concrete dates and time frames" she says, "I realised it was being taken seriously". The next step, of course, was getting Didu on board - which seemed foreign at first, but we're told she quickly warmed up to it in a day.
The idea began brewing when 31-year-old Rohini who is also a medical clown at Kauvery Hospital in Alwarpet began spending more time with senior patients who she realised 'just wanted to be heard'."What an amazing resource they (the elderly) are of knowledge too - Didu spent 18 years in various parts of Africa because my grandfather worked in the United Nations, so she has so many stories to tell." Did we mention she can also switch between English, Malayalam, Bengali and Swahili - all in the same conversation?
Though our orientation to Didu's personality has already covered that she chats with strangers with ease, having brought home newly made compadres from the neighbourhood Pazhumudir or the line at the bank - we have to wonder whether she is nervous. Her first date via Facebook is slated for this week. "Not at all!" she responds, without hesitation. Not that she needs the nerves, we've heard that she has quite an effect on strangers, quickly turning them to admirers - one lady that she met at Nalli's in Anna Nagar apparently wanted to buy her a sari because Didu was a reminder of her own mother.
If you thought, these sessions are going to be closely monitored by hovering family, this won't be the case. The thought behind this experiment was in fact catalysed because the family will be travelling out of the country for a month. Since Cherian loves meeting new people, "I thought this is something she (Didu) would enjoy and also help her miss us less," Rohini says affectionately.
With a 'Take Care of Didu' WhatsApp group in place and Rohini's in-laws checking in to facilitate the experience, Rohini tells us that if all goes well, she plans to create group to organise similar experiences for other grandparents in the city. As for Didu's thoughts on the subject, she says with a soft enthusiasm that we've grown to rather look forward to over the course of this interaction, "I think this is a good thing because when young people interact with older people - they feel happy, and get to remember their youth."
In an age, where people seem to be greying in their 20s - we feel compelled to ask her the secret to reaching 93, before we say goodbye. "Forgiveness," she catches us by surprise, "it's the best anti-ageing tonic you can find."
To get 60 minutes with Supriya Cherian, email firstname.lastname@example.org or send her a message on Facebook.
60 minutes with Didu
- Chat about Smile Therapy
- Learn a Bengali recipe
- Pick up some Malayalam
- Get a gardening lesson
- Talk acting stints after 90
email@example.com | @brightasunshine