About the rising phenomenon of old parents living in old age homes and in extreme cases being totally abandoned by their children.
There are hundreds of pious and preachy posts on Facebook and WhatsApp every once in a while about the great sacrifices of parents and how a son or daughter should look after them in their old age. Nothing wrong per se. Every society has its own cultural norms and precedents about this issue. But the problem arises when everybody sees the abandonment of parents only from the parents perspective. The son is labelled as the culprit and whatever explanations he would want to give are dissed.
Whenever these things happen, they happen due to a mixture of number of issues and problems. Some in lesser and others in bigger proportion. Human relations are very dynamic. They fluctuate on a minute to minute basis depending on the emotional state of the two individuals, their intelligence, and the mixture of circumstances around them. And these are different for different individuals.
Few important points:
1. Educationally and professionally well qualified parents are very obsessive and possessive about their children from the moment they are born. They will take every decision regarding them right from college, marriage, friends they are allowed to mix with, the clothes to wear, choice of movies…..etc., I have seen young adults in restaurant looking at their parents to place an order. And no it is not out of respect but inability to take a decision. They are shackled and loose their spontaneity.
Even after marriage this thing continues. The highly earning kids every decision (sometimes even like buying furniture, curtains, bedsheets etc.,) is interfered with and highly criticised. The interference applies to even the newly married couples day to day interactions.
2. Highly successful parents always feel that their children are not doing well in their life and will look down on a lot of his/her actions, decision and choices. What they compare is their own wisdom at the age of 60 -70 and their kids who might be 20-40 years.
They conveniently forget that they also committed the same or sometimes graver mistakes. And their continuous criticism can get on the nerves.
3. The idea of possession. Meaning I have given birth and looked after my child and that gives me an automatic right to expect something in return from him.
4. The misconception most of the Indians have is that once you cross 60 years it’s time now to sit back and enjoy. Read news paper , watch TV sit and sleep a lot. Due to this they get ample time to interfere in their children’s day to day life. Urban Indians need to be productive as long as they can. Their productivity may be reduced but it can be in social area or helping the underprivileged, or handicap.
5. In rural India the situation is different. Old parents are not usually discarded and in fact, well-looked after. There is a reason for that. Farmers never retire. I have seen farmers working on daily basis till the age of 90 years. They work , they eat well and sleep well. And have no time to interfere in petty issues. Also as they are productive and contribute to the household they are regarded as an asset.
6 . Giving birth children and raising them is not the greatest achievement of life. The greatest achievement what I would define as fulfilment is:
- Life well lived productively as long as possible
- With a continuous process of self improvement ,
- Simultaneously giving back to society,
- Exploring the world. The near and far, as it is and not through prejudiced eyes. For that visiting different places to see the culture and life style and broaden your own horizons as much as possible.
- Dabbling in some form of recreation. It can be from music, reading writing, travel, etc.
- Keeping oneself alert to the changes in the world and adapting to them. If one doesn’t adapt then their talks will always start with “ 40 years back it was different and not like this….” Because they are living in the past whereas the world has moved on.
- By doing all or some of these things one can become relevant and a source of support to their kids.
Lastly I have seen kids who love their parents but have to take the painful decision to leave them because staying with them means an even more painful and torturous day to day existence.
There has to be a median between the two conflicting generations. But compromising doesn’t solve the problem. It gives rise to more future problems. As the younger generation is questioned about its responsibility towards their parents, similarly the older generation need to introspect about their extreme involvement in their grown up kids day to day life. They should take a step back and think about enriching their own life by productive activities, social service or leisure activities.
This is the other side of the coin.