Mrs. Jadhav is my neighbour living on the third floor. She is an old widow and has a maid who takes care of her household chores. She is a quiet and nondescript old woman who can be seen walking in and out of the society only when buying groceries or going to church. She has a married daughter who lives rather far from her and I have never seen her visit except for her grandson whom I have seen on Christmas Eve.
Why am I talking about her? She is an independent old lady. The only times she asks for help from my husband or sons is when she has a big bag of grocery and the load is too much for her to carry. At such times she is so grateful to us that she profusely thanks us and sends sweets home, to our embarrassment. This act of kindness does not need any returns – we have explained this to her, but she is stubborn and continues to show her gratitude.
My friend lives with her family that includes an 80- year- old aunt having Alzheimer’s, a 75- year- old mother-in-law having Parkinson’s and a 70 year old mother who is struggling to stay mentally fit. My friend left her job as she would be often stressed having sleepless nights which affected her teaching. She could not cope with it. However, she was financially well settled to stay home and care for her old relatives.
A relative of mine cannot keep her old in-laws with her as her house cannot accommodate them. They live two societies apart. She is able to visit them only on weekends as her work does not permit on other days. Sometimes she sends food or some essentials over. Grandchildren stayover for the weekends to keep them happy and bring in laughter. But is that enough? What if there is an emergency? Who can come to their aid in the middle of the night? Should one depend on neighbours during such events?
I sometimes wonder how many such old or rather senior citizens are left unattended? India has no facilities to help the old. There are no old age homes that can accommodate middleclass or lower middleclass senior citizens. Rates for old age homes are exorbitant and moreover Indian culture does not easily accept keeping elders in old age homes. It is taboo!
If we think pragmatically, today both husband and wife need to work. Each one has to reach his/her goals which are becoming more and more difficult to achieve. Making both ends meet is getting far stretched each time. No one is at home to care for the child who is often in the creche or left with the maid. And what about the old mother or father who may be ailing and needing much help both physically and mentally? Maids are reluctant to take care of the ailing old but often agree to babysit a child. Such is the scenario at most homes, whether rich or poor. Don’t you think a good old age home with essential facilities, close at hand will help ? We have so many creches around but not even one old age home to talk about.
The Indian Government cannot really do much as our bulging population is a big deterrent for such welfare issues. But cannot we as citizens do something to change this?
I have lived my dawn and noon
Now I am watching the twilight moon
So dull and dusky
There was a time when I was happy and frisky
I lived carelessly badgering and wagering
Life was just fun and frolicking
With all admonishes and bantering
I cared less for all the warnings
Then noon came with the sun so striking
Sometimes I enjoyed the heat and sometimes the brilliant shining
Life was not always neat, so I needed tidying
But alas, wisdom showed its face only when I started greying !
Now here I sit under the moon, balding..
Reminiscing the good old mistakes- smiling.
For all I need is a word, encouraging
And not just a hand but also a heart so helping…