Matru devobhava Pitru devobhava

first_imgAs all the countries were marking the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the report of HelpAge India released on its eve mirrored our tangential deviation from the past. Gone are those days of our lofty thoughts equating them with God; even the basic responsibility of taking care of them in their old age is often felt like a millstone. In our culture, certain tenets, mythology, etc., were used in the past to instil values and discipline in our society. Thus, in order that parents were respected and taken care of, the tenet ‘Matru devobhava; Pitru devobhava’, and the mythological story of Shravan Kumar in Ramayana, were oft repeated. Also Read – A special kind of bondShouldering a yoke with a basket hanging from each end, Shravan physically carried his blind and frail parents, to fulfil their wish of a pilgrimage. Amidst a forest en route, when he stopped to fetch water from a river to quench their thirst, the arrow of Dasharath, the king of Ayodhya, who was a good hunter and expert in hitting the target just on hearing sounds, shot him in his chest. Mistaking the sound of filling of the urn with water as an animal drinking it, he had released his arrow. Withering in pain, the devoted son spoke his touching last words to his distraught parents, ‘I am going to Heaven. I will wait for you there so that I can serve you there too.’ Before dipping themselves to death in the river, the couple cursed the king with the same fate of dying with the pain of parting of his dearest son. This poignant story conveys us the ideals of devotion and dutifulness of a son, and also the despair and suffering of parents. It is all past. Also Read – Insider threat managementNow, fortunate are those whose children sincerely take care for them, like one senior doctor, for whom his illiterate parents are like gods since it is they who had spent everything they had; sold even their meagre possessions of land, to make him a doctor. He closes his busy clinic to attend to them when they are hospitalised; steals time to make them happy by taking them to their village to spend time with their old mates. Although he keeps nurses round-the-clock for their care, he personally spends quality time with them to provide the much-needed emotional support, Of course, he is an exception, since we keep hearing about several pathetic episodes of people who are forced to live alone or are exposed to problems like lack of physical, social, emotional and financial support. Yet, most of them are proudly reconciled that their children are comfortably placed somewhere away from them, and silently suffer and depend on neighbours for help. Courtesy to such people, a famous 82-year-old writer was admitted in the ICU when he slipped and fainted in the house. His anxious wife of 75 years, waited outside all the time until their elder son reached from the US; the other son was busy elsewhere. The doctor informed the son that the patient would not survive for more than four days. Impatiently he waited, and then asked the doctor, ‘You said four days…What you have to say now?’ Everyone around was shocked. When he died after a couple of days, mechanically the son completed rituals and rushed back, caring little for his grieving mother. He was a busy man in the US! People seek greener pastures abroad for big money, and a comfortable life, free from hassles of corruption, pollution etc. In their busy lives, they have no time even to think of their parents back at home. A well-known Indian was attending a lunch hosted in his honour by a rich Indian in the US. During their casual talk, the host said, ‘I don’t know how things are in India. I came almost 10 years ago’. The guest asked him about his relatives. He said, ‘I have my mother and sister living there. I do have some relatives.’ When enquired about his father, the rich man said, ‘He died a couple of years ago.’ The puzzled guest questioned, ‘Do you mean to say that you could not visit even when your father died?’ The reply was nonchalant. ‘True. I was very busy at that time.’ Speechless, the visitor quit the party. Not everyone would think about the state of mind of their parents. Having spent all their lives and resources – time, energy, material, on their children, and having also worked even as unpaid nannies for their grandchildren, they are now decrepit. With passing years, there is a decline in the number of visitors, engagements and activities; increase in visits to doctors, and lay-offs on beds. Physically they feel, they are of no avail to their families; and their worldly wisdom, acquired over the years, is of no service to anyone in this computer age. Loneliness sets in; feeling of abandonment overwhelms them. On top of everything, they have to swallow their pride and self-esteem; they face snide, insult and abuse from their loved ones – the biggest disincentive to live on. Physical pains and mental agony join together to create a sense of helplessness – an experience of a nightmare when they are fully awake. Yet, in their obsession of love, and pride of the achievements of their children, chewing the pleasant memories of the past, they silently suffer; and kill the vacant time, which is in plenty. At the ripe age, like small children, they only long for care, love, and affection. When a woman visited an acquaintance in an old-age home and enquired about her welfare, the eighty-plus woman felt very happy, and said, ‘Great. People here are warm. We spend our time together.’ However, there was a streak of sadness visible in her countenance. ‘What about your children?’ asked the visitor. Tears rolling instantly, the old woman answered, ‘Oh. Both my sons are in Canada. Since the time my husband passed away, I have not heard from them. It is almost six years.’ Instantly holding her hand reassuringly, the fluttered visitor simply said, ‘Anyway, you are happy here. Good, I will keep visiting you.’ Then, as she rose to leave, she asked what she could do for her. ‘Can you pray for me?’ ”Sure,’ the visitor nodded. The elderly woman added in a pleading voice, ‘Then, please prays to God to change the minds of my children so that they will see me at least once before I die’. Giving a warm hug in silence, the visitor left. There are people who even do not have compunctions to exploit the frailty of elders to neglect or abuse them. It could be physical, psychological, sexual, and financial. They deny access to funds; grab their properties through theft, forgery etc., and some even eject them from homes. Sometimes there could be unintentional neglect. Yet, talking about them is a taboo, not only in India but also in most of the countries. According to the UN, 1 in 6 older people experience some form of abuse, which is a gross underestimation, because only 1 in 24 cases is reported, in part because the victims are dependents, or afraid to report, or because of cognitive and other impairments. Thus, it remains one of the least investigated types of violence and one of the least addressed in national action plans. Further, with the increase in longevity, the population of elders would be over 2 billion by 2050; double of what it is today; and the number of victims would also go up to more than 320 million. Since this social problem affects their health and human rights, it is to voice collective opposition that the UN General Assembly designated June 15 as the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. In our country, as HelpAge India reports that elders face disrespect, neglect and even verbal abuse at the hands of their children. Yet, they choose to remain within the family ambit, seeking only a sensitisation of their children; almost 70 per cent of them primarily seek emotional support. It is only when things are totally unbearable that they move out. One inmate of a government-run old-age home says, ‘I have three daughters and one son, but none of them cares for me, which is why I am forced to stay at this place.’ The study finds, while 29 per cent of caregivers feel it is a burden to look after their elders at home, 35 per cent are not happy looking after them, and 25.7 per cent who are fatigued and frustrated even behave aggressively with them. It is significant that about 40 per cent of elders have no escape since they have no income of their own. We already have a central law, ‘Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007’, which makes it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to parents and senior citizens; food, clothing, residence, healthcare, and other amenities need to be taken care of. Failure to do so is a punishable criminal offence. Even properties grabbed with the false assurance of looking after them can be restored. Tribunals have been set up to tackle non-compliance and provide relief within a specified time. Yet, nothing has changed. Most of the victims and perpetrators are not even aware of the provisions. Unless there are sustained efforts and campaigns involving government agencies and civil society, things would remain the same, since it is a social problem. But, their human rights cannot be ignored. Growing in age is mandatory while growing up is optional. The country should grow up not to permit old age to become a curse. (Dr. N Dilip Kumar is a retired IPS officer and a former member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img