„She was living in the midst of a chute surrounded by garbage. We took her home, however, we can´t let her stay with us anymore as she has turned into a living nightmare for my wife and kids.“
„You may think these are words of a stranger, but that´s how my son, my own flesh and blood described me while discarding me here for the rest of my life. I can’t even dare to feel and recreate that pain, because I feel ashamed to be a mother.“ These are the words of seventy-year-old Suman Datta who lives now in an old age home in India. Her story is the story of thousands of aged mothers and fathers abandoned by young Indian people.„I gave birth to 3 sons and see what they did?“, says another woman. „they would beat me every now and then and gradually forced me out of the home. One of them is an officer in the Parliament secretariat, the second one is a pilot and the third one runs his own business. They are all well-settled financially. They have got everythin for themselves, but nothing for me.“
Some 200 people in the age group of 60 to 85 are spending their last days in an ashram (old age home) in India.
Sociologist Aradhana Agrawal claims the definition of family is transforming from all-inclusive to “me, my wife and my kids”, hence the new generation is turning a blind eye to their parents. “Young India sees parents more as an obligation and not a part of the family serving of love and care”, she says.
A generation brought up by parents facing all the odds and hardships to give them a good education now believes their lives are complicated if their parents continue to live with them. Is the higher education system then to blame for dreating this divide? Is the altering socio-cultural environment responsible for the degrading moral values?
A woman was rescued from her husband´s pyre where she was reportedly placed by her own children. Anita Singh was living with her husband in Delhi. Both their children were fairly well-settled in life, working in the field of information technology. When her husband died, the children came to attend his funeral and left their mother on the father´s pyre. „By the time we were informed and rushed to the venue to rescue her, she had sustained serious burns. She succumbed to her injuries“, says Ravi Kalra, head of the ashram.
Recent data of Help Age India discovered there is a steep rise in the number of cases involving violence against senior citizens. The numbers also show that aged women constitute 52 percent of the total victims of domestic violence.
There were several victims of domestic violence among the residents of the ashram who were beaten for months, locked in their room and kept in absolute inhuman conditions before finally being dumped to rot for the rest of their lives. One such victim is Sanjay Kapoor, who was found on a footpath in Delhi in a miserable state: Shabby clothes, unattended hair and beard and almost claws for nails. Sanjay is a graduate from the London School of Economics and a retired judge. It is been three years since Sanjay was brought to the ashram but he still wouldn’t open up about his sons.What could explain this barbaric tendency of the new young India? Financial reasons? Most of these dumped and discarded old men and women hail from middle-class or well-to-do families. Cases where families abandonded their elderly because they couldn’t afford the steep medical expenses are minuscule in the number.
It is said that wine grows in value with age but parents become bitter. One hopes this is not the voice of a new India. For what is young today will be old tomorrow.
All names are changed.
Excerpts from the article „Forgotten parents of a young India“ by Ashish Kaul.