Have an old TV from the late eighties/ early nineties at your home? What value do you place on it and its utility? Wouldn’t getting rid of it give you a feeling of good riddance? That’s precisely how seasoned seniors’ in this country are treated, with worthlessness and dishonor.
Our parents showed us the world and in return, we showed them the old age home!
It’s a subject that often gets a mention and highpoint in my life-changing workshops that I have been conducting for over two decades now. Be it a session on Relationship Mastery or a seminar on Values & Ethics; I find it difficult to overlook this plaguing issue. Out of the many issues our country is braving today, this one often gets the most notoriety.
India’s Old Age Homes and Geriatric centers have a gloomy tale to tell. Welcome to the unforgiving reality behind the smokescreen of India’s great family tradition, respect for seniors, and duty towards one’s parents! Welcome to a country where old age homes and counseling centers for geriatrics are mushrooming in all cities in an attempt to cater to the isolation within.
India’s much-publicized family values and honors are being quietly swept away under the carpet in favor of materialism and indifference. Where once elders were considered the pillar of strength representing our descent and legacy, today, we are led to the news of an old couple in their eighties, who end up committing suicide at Chennai. What is more alarming is the couple has four well to do sons who have shunned them for over two decades. In every Indian city today, there are disturbing signs of older people belonging to all classes of the society, who are being unceremoniously dumped in old age homes by their children who neither have the time nor the penchant to look after them.
“To belittle, you have to be little.”
– Khalil Gibran
The attitude of a young software engineer in Bengaluru is a typical example of how even occasional visits by in-laws become an embarrassing sensitive point. She had the father in law, thrown out of the house, just because she could not entertain her friends at home, and for the simple reason being, the sick father- in- law used to often sit in the living room
The irony of the situation is that this lady has two sons of her own, who will grow up, get married, and things may probably come full circle.
Or take the example of this Builder at Delhi, who drives his wife and kids everywhere in his new Mercedes, but his 80-year-old mother has to catch a public transport to go to a temple situated 10 km away from home, once a week. This gentleman has two teenage sons of his own.
Another sad but true fact is that elder abuse mostly goes undetected and under prosecuted in India as not all cases are reported immediately!. Neighbors, friends, aides, or anyone who suspect abuse also sometimes turn a blind eye in a nation busy in clicking pictures & selfies!
There are such numerous sob stories to tell, but all have the same moral, nobody takes care of the aged parents anymore.
Physical and Mental Distress.
India’s rich cultural heritage seems to exist only in print between the pages of the school textbooks.
For most of us who grew up in the 1970s in large joint families, our grandparents always enjoyed center-stage; they were mostly cared for by their adult children, adored and respected by their grandchildren. In less than five decades, however, much of this respect for elders has withered away. Today, as the number of elderly in India touches 140 million, this figure, nonetheless impressive, sadly, gives us no reason to celebrate.
Many families where there are more than one son or sometimes daughters, the parents face the additional humiliation of their children arguing about ‘who is to keep’ the old parents. Parents, who kept the home fires burning for several decades, are now being ferried back and forth in a cruel game of “ I had them for so long, now it’s your turn.”
If you would want to believe, in a more cruel twist, old parents are also separated in the twilight years of their lives by their sons and daughters, who, to share the liability, offer to take care of only one parent at a time.
The plight of aged parents who are sick is even worse; most are denied adequate medical and nursing care and are considered as a burden, both financially and otherwise.
Today, we are concerned about harnessing the energies of millions of young Indians to ensure that our nation’s signs of progress like a rocket taking off to the moon. But equally, we must worry about India’s elders who may not have the energy or the voice to make themselves heard. But they need to be heard too. In a young nation, the old are often invisible. The energy, appeal, and glamour of youth often overshadow the listless, frail-bodied lives of older people.
Don’t use the sharpness of your speech on the parent who taught you how to speak!
My question to the aspiring young and middle-aged Indians is – Do we abandon the old because they have outlived their utility? Or has it become fashionable to do so? Are we ashamed of our aged parents and relatives? Questions are many, but the answers are few.
“Is there any glimmer of hope for the old parent, the loving parent, the caring parent.”
The parent who brought us into this world. The parent who laughed in our joy and cried in our pain. The parent who always gave, selflessly, generously, wanting nothing in return, except perhaps, Love.
To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.
– Tia Walker