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Bhajans, prayers to calm nerves, Sandy

November 06, 2012 21:01 IST

The 50-odd residents at the Alameda Center for Rehabilitation and Long Term Care, in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, go to bed every night at 8 pm. October 29, the day Superstorm Sandy hit, they were awake well past midnight.

The rehabilitation and care center, popularly called the Indian nursing home, was established in 2005 by Dr Mukund Thakar. The center is home to mostly hospice patients whose children find it hard to take care of their parents.

The patients were worried not about Sandy, but what it could do to their families.

"We couldn't call out of the facility and they were all worried about their children and family members," explains Alpa Thakar, Dr Thakar's daughter and program director at the center, who drove to the center that stormy night leaving behind her 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter at home with her mother-in-law.

"On the other side the children were worried about their parents. All the phone lines were down. When the power came back, the first thing we did was called their families and let them talk to each other."

"The only thing that worried us was we lost power and they (the patients) were scared," Alpa adds. "Thanks to our staff -- they all came in -- we made tea for them and even after the storm we fed them fresh food every day. There was no change in their routine. Except on Monday night."

The facility has a generator, but it could only run for so long.

"We have the Raritan river nearby (so there was some concern), but we were safe," Alpa adds.

"Sandy started about 8 pm, so we pulled down all the curtains. We started prayers, reading the Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita and singing bhajans. And it was fine after that. It went on until 12:30 am. They were tired and went to sleep. We also got people from another facility (the center has seven facilities in New Jersey and New York), but we had only 10 extra beds, so we couldn't accommodate more. On the storm night my parents went to the other facilities and I was looking after the Perth Amboy facility. Thank god, all our facilities have generators. It's a big responsibility; I have been home just for a few hours since October 29. My children are missing me."

Ritu Jha