By Thakur Ranjit Singh,
[With excerpts from Hindi movie, “Baghban” – the Gardener]
Commercialisation of Fathers' Day has reached very high levels where we sing glories of fathers this day. Our Eastern religions and movements (Hindu, Islam, Sikh, Sai, Hare Rama etc) also sing high glories of our elderly parents and aged people. Our scriptures are abound with good things we need to do to and for our aged, to find salvation -the ultimate "mokcha'.
Yet, we seem to be the biggest hypocrites when we cannot walk our talk on treatment of our elders, our parents and close relatives. There are many cases of abuse within our communities such as financial exploitation, where migrants use elders as baby sitters and discard them when not needed. Or using up their pensions to pay off their mortgage or for their expensive lifestyle. Exception are where for their own safety or changed circumstances, the elderly are placed in well-organized elderly care facilities. This is something we need to accept as reality in the West and some parents themselves opt to move out to ease the burden on their children. But today, I am talking about many other forms of abuse.
The abuse take various forms. They are: physical abuse, psychological and emotional, financial, scam by strangers, sexual, neglect and abandonment.
Elder abuse (also called "elder mistreatment," "senior abuse," is a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person."
|In Indian culture, parents will suffer in silence, will swallow their tears of despair, but will not say anything that will hurt their children.. Do they deserve to be abused and ignored by us?|
The core element to the harm of elder abuse is the "expectation of trust" of the older person toward their abuser. Thus, it includes harms by people the older person knows, or have a relationship with, such as children, a spouse, partner or family member, a friend or neighbor, or people that the older person relies on for services. In my case, I priorities abuse of parents by their children.
Despite the fact that many Indians would wish to sweep it under the carpet, I have first hand knowledge of how some of our people have been abusing their elders wherever they have settled. I know of silent –sufferers within our elderly community because of our culture stops them from talking, and they remain silent and shed tears alone. Their love for their children prevent them from revealing their vice. And many such abusive children have high profile in politics, community organisation and religious bodies. Put the hat on if it fits you, I do not give two hoots about pricking conscience of some ungrateful children, wearing suits and ties and giving big speeches.
I personally know of an Indian elder couple who went back to his home country because his daughter-in-law was abusive of his elderly wife. And the last time I visited their home before their departure, that daughter-in-law (patohia, bahu) was reciting Satya Narayan Pooja to the family. Hypocrisy comes in many forms. When asked why this was not brought to the attention of the son, the father replied that he did not wish to cause discord in his son’s family. Hence, many swallow their tears, as we say in Hindi.
|Two older Bollywood movies that depicts forms of elder abuse - Ghar Basake Dekho (Try to set up a Home) and Aap Ki Parchahiyan (Your Shadows-the children)|
Indian Cinema and Bollywood has made many exceptional movies to depict this some older ones include ‘Ghar Basake Dekho” (Try to raise a family), and“Aap Ki Parchaaiyan (your shadows). But the latest one, Amitabh- Hema’s Baghban (The gardener) seems to have greater effect on our community.
“Baghban”, the Amitabh Bachchan movie on old age depicted obligations of children to their ageing parents. This movie was reported to have uplifted and pricked the conscience of some children who have ignored their obligations to their ageing parents who sacrificed their happiness and worldly pleasures for a better future of their children. Below I present a rough translation of a father’s lament at the treatment his children had given him, and some lessons of the old and new. This is memorable Amitabh Bachchan dialogue from that movie.
|The famous and memorable Amitabh Bachchan speech from "Baghban" which is translated here|
Times have changed. Life has changed. If people of my generation will recall we were always caught up in ties and in relations that yielded nothing.
Our father was God. At our mothers’ feet lay heaven. And now, now people have become very sensible. The new generation is very clever and practical.
For them, every relation is like a ladder on which they will step to rise further in life. But when they have no use for the ladder anymore, with the rest of broken furniture in the house, old vessels, old clothes and newspapers, (kachra) they are dumped in the attic.
However, life does not take you up like a ladder. Life grows like a tree. Parents are not the steps on a ladder. Parents are the soul of ones life – they are roots of life.
However big the tree is, however green and filled it is, it can’t stand on its own once its roots are hacked.
With all humility and respect, I ask today, the children for whose happiness a father spends every penny of his hard – earned money with a smile, those very children when the father’s eye-sight weakens, why they hesitate in giving them light?
If a father can help his son to take the first step in his life, why cannot the son give his father support when he is taking the last few steps of his life?
What crime is it of the parents who have devoted all their lives to their children that they are given tears and loneliness? If they cannot give us any love, who gives them the right to snatch love from us?
What do these children think? The parents God has united in love, can they separate and force them to lead a life of misery and despair? Is it for a day like this that a man seeks children?
Children perhaps forget what is our present today will be their present tomorrow. If we are old today they will also grow old someday.
The question we ask today, they will ask tomorrow.”
Indeed, an eye - opener for the children who have been abusing their elderly parents in one way or the other. God does not reside in dead statues in temples or other religious institutions, or dancing to music of keertan or bhajans, or running Ramayan mandalis. God resides at the feet of your ageing parents. Please some people, stop acting like first class hypocrites, dhongees.
Please, make a start. You will grow older, and the questions we elderly ask today, you will ask tomorrow… jab tak hai ke akash pe chand sitaare, bhagwaan salamat rahe, maa paap hamaare…. (till we have sun and moon in the skies, we pray to Lord to give good life to our parents….song from ‘Aap Ki Parchaiyan)
Even if one son learns from this, my objective would have been achieved. Hail our elders and parents.