Parents who give you birth, bring you up and help you stand on your own two feet, physically, emotionally and financially, face wickedness of their children who baulk at giving them crutches of love and support in their old age…
And it’s also happening in our smart city!
I was distressed, though not shocked, to read a news report last week, about an elderly couple of Pune, in their 80s, having lodged a complaint with the Pune Police, against their sons for depriving them of food and medicines for several years.
Despite having filed a court case 2006, wherein the court ordered the two sons to pay a regular monthly amount for their needs, the progenies defied the court order. Recently, the couple took recourse to police complaint, after which, the sons were asked to mend their ways and look after their parents – a result of daylong counselling held at the Bharosa Cell of the Pune Police Commissionerate, opened recently for such family grievances.
Pune, the erstwhile city known as a paradise for pensioners due to its cool clime and peaceful environment, has metamorphosed into a nightmarish city for them, both at the personal and social front.
Much ink has flown on the traffic and poor public transport that makes mobility for the elderly, inaccessible, compelling them to stay cooped up in their homes. Getting the elderly out of their homes and make the people who are recluse feel acknowledged can improve their mental health and independence dramatically. Much has also been written on crimes against the elderly through chain-snatching; robbing of their houses and even murders, but over the years, they face hostility in their own homes or their children’s homes too.
While loneliness is one of the common problems for senior citizens as most of the next generation is abroad, compensated by a NRI parents organisation and innumerable senior citizen clubs which are very active, but there’s a burning issue which is far more heart wrenching.
Hostility towards them in the form of physical and mental harassment by sons, daughters-in-law and sometimes daughters, has become common, in this IT era, when, nuclear family is a general trend.
As long as the aged parents are fit enough to play the role of nannies to their grandchildren, they are welcome to stay in the house.
Otherwise, they are considered as burdens, to be abused and if possible, thrown out. When I raised this issue with one of the IT managers, a team leader in a notable company, she said, ” largely our generation believes in give and take philosophy. As long as parents can give a helping hand, its fine to have them around.’’ Indeed, candid and categorical and no prizes for guessing what her unsaid words are!
As per the home ministry statistics, in 2016, 40% of the country’s crime against senior citizens occurred in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Unfortunately, Pune is a city with such a dubious distinction.
If you want to get the best insight into harassment of the elderly, all you need to do is talk to the ayahs and nurses who look after them on a 12 hour or 24 hour basis. One of them, who was looking after my mother-in-law, told me, how in her earlier job, the old lady who she looked after, in a upper crust locality, used to be confined in the room and a plate of stale food used to be pushed into her room which comprised a piece of bhakri and some stale vegetable. She said, in more than 50% of the homes, the aged people, are treated with disdain and anger of their burden is manifested in denial of food or/and hesitation in providing medicines.
I remember once, an elderly woman, in her 70s, used to reside in our housing society. After her son suddenly passed away due to a heart attack, she continued to stay with her daughter-in-law. Sometimes she used to ring our doorbell asking for two chapatis as she was hungry. I used to be agonised and devastated, and still do, when I recall it.
The greed for snatching away parents’ property is another reason why the elderly are harassed sometimes even thrown out of the houses. I recall an incident when, after the father passed away in Pune, the son, living in Delhi, came after a month or two, evicted his sister and mother and forcefully occupied the flat. The mother now lives with her daughter in Delhi. This, in an upper middle housing society! More of such harsh and horrific stories are tucked in several of the old age homes in Pune; which were revealed when I did an in-depth story on them.
One of the matrons of one old age home told me how, a retired, senior government officer resides here because his son, told him to temporarily shift here until he buys a bigger apartment.
While he convinced his father to sell of their two-bedroom flat so that he can put in more money to buy a bigger flat, the matron said that several years have passed by and the old man continues to languish here. In another case, at another old age home, the son and his family have not turned up even once, since the five years that his mother has been sent to the home.
Finally, after she died heart-broken, the son refused take the body to cremate her; it had to be done by the old age home authorities.
A bank officer once told me how, in many cases, the greed for money overpowers the precious value of a parent/parents who have, metaphorically speaking, given their lives, to look after their children. In their old age, all eyes are on their wealth, leading to sibling rivalry that takes the form of sworn enemies. She said, “money ends brother-sister relationships, and hence the elderly must plan the will in advance, with great application of mind.
It is better to keep the carrot dangling in front of their children till they leave this earth, rather than get emotional and give property and other wealth in their hands.’’
Now wonder, some years back, a Law has been passed, which considers ill treatment or not taking responsibility of aged parents as crime. Sad that a legal intervention is the need of the hour rather than it being a natural process of responsibility to look after those, who have brought you into this world!
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,
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