I felt pain and anguish when I read the annual study by HelpAge India, a charity that deals with the needs of the elderly. According to the report, 56 per cent elders face disrespect at home, 49 per cent face verbal abuse and 12 per cent faced physical abuse. The parent-child relationship is sacred. How can this umbilical-cord relationship turn so bitter?
My parents came to India penniless after the bloody partition of the country in 1947. They had no money, clothes, food or a house. They escaped the holocaust of partition, surviving with their lives. They spent the first few nights in India, sleeping on the streets in Amritsar. That is how their journey commenced.
My brother and I were born in India. My earliest memory of my parents goes back to the year of 1952, when I was about three years old. We lived in a rented one room, part of a large home in Delhi. There was no kitchen. My mother cooked the meals on the steps in the veranda, in the biting cold.
Now when I look back on those days, six decades later, I perceive the sacrifices of our parents. My father never smoked a cigarette nor consumed alcohol. My mother wore no fancy chiffon sarees. Gradually, my father was able to buy an apartment. A refrigerator and a small car. These are celebrated memories.
My parents also fostered the right values in us. They showed us in practice that honesty is the best policy in life, though it meant short term deprivations. At the age of 90, our father became our best friend and mentor. We consulted him on all the important personal and professional issues. His advice was always mature. He never missed any news bulletin on the radio. He even enrolled for a computer class.
So when he passed away at 96, my life collapsed, too. A lot of me also died, when my parents passed away. The world became shallow and hollow. Much later, I began to put the fragmented pieces of my life together. Even now, when I am confronted with a dilemma, I chat with my parents, wondering how they would want me to manage the conflict on the compass of their values. Across the world, if we ever think of the contributions our elders make to our lives, our hearts will overflow with gratitude.
- The writer is a resident of India