Silences :Poem


swaying in the breeze a swing

a bicycle leaning against the lamp-post

cigarette stubs  in the ash tray

worn out boots and an old man’s hat

Coat stuffed in the closet

with a poem folded in the pocket

Spectacles on the writing-table

dust under the bed

the kitten curled up in a corner

remains of a  favorite coffee mug

the pipe now not in use

chessmen waiting

the first streak of light

that slides from under the door

and crawls to my feet

the fixed stare that  follows me

from your  portrait

slumbering spiders in the book shelf

snowfall

A dull ache that seems to live

with emptiness

in my old bones

the swirling darwish dance of shadows

the cemetery at dusk

the neighbor’s tree that keeps watch

the bitter tears shed on your grave

for words left unsaid

and deeds left undone

and lastly

these long hours of waiting

First prize in contest  for the love of poetry.

Celebrations


This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 16; the sixteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

She had the same vicariousness as Kaya. Actually the more I observed Juhi the more I felt that I have known her since a life time.

Her very presence made my home come alive. It was not just me but everyone who spent some time with her felt a kind of positive energy transcendent into them.

I often wondered what brought her here. Compassion, a need to do a good deed or just a pure zest for life. She never talked about her life , about family or anything remotely related to herself. All we knew about her was that she loved spending her weekends and holidays with us.

“Oh! Come on Uncle John, there is more to life than the mundane. Life is a passing circus we got to enjoy it while it’s there.” And she would give me her warmest of smiles and a warm hug.

I would nod my bald head in agreement and hug her back muttering my heartfelt blessings for the child.

We all made guesses about her age. Some thought she was past thirty but Kanta amma was sure that Juhi was still in her twenties and treated her like that. Kanta amma was eighty-two herself and the second oldest among the mates of Utsav. The oldest being Lakshamna who was eighty-nine.

A rough man who did not interact with anyone but a bright smile appeared beneath his huge mustaches the moment he heard Juhi singing voice , “ Uncle Lakshmanna, care for a game of corrom” ?

He would become a child for that one hour and Juhi let him won all the games.

He would pat her back and say, “ One day you will win and I will happily die that day. You still have to learn a lot my girl”. Juhi would just smile and hold his soft wrinkled hands in hers.

At Utsav we knew how to celebrate old age and in a way Life. All 20 of us , six women and 14 men lived a much fuller life than those who had abandoned us.

We lived with dignity, freedom and happiness. Although some of us were fighting with various old age ailments , we never let that come in our way of celebrating life.

We went for picnics, played cards, carrom, read books from the ones donated by Juhi and her friends, held musical evenings and shared stories from our life. Mary Francis had again started to write short stories for children and Juhi often read them out to us making us laugh like little boys and girls. She promised to get her work published when the collection was ready. Everyone obeyed her like a good child and she made it a point to look after our needs.

She even instructed Chef Rajam ( we all lovingly called him Chef) about the dietary needs of each one of us. We had a beautiful loving family.

Many a times when someone felt the pang of separation from family( which seldom happened), we gathered in the Blue Room and sat near the picture of Budhdha tried to bring the calmness back.

Blue Room was Rahim Khan‘s initiative and Juhi furnished it with a soft lights, a carpet and a large picture of Lord Budhdha where a lamp burned all the time. There was no other puja room. Who ever wanted to connect with God or self went there.

In my sixty-five years of life I had not seen a bunch of elder people so much in love with life as this one .

Death lurked around the corner for many of the residents they were in no hurry to meet her.

Juhi had filled our lives with fragrance.True to her name. She taught us to combat pain and suffering , emotional as well as physical.

I noticed how in last three years all of us had become a little younger in our mindset even if our bodies showed the signs of aging.

I often said a little prayer for this loving soul who brought back life into the world of sad and lonely senior citizens of Utsav.

One day Juhi brought some young children with her and we all celebrated the festival of light together. “They are children from an orphanage “, she told us. The lady who ran the orphanage also came with them. A tall Parsi woman who then made it a point to drop in now and then and spend time with us.

The children would sometimes come during festivals and then there would be dance, drama, music and lots of fun. These times filled my heart and with moist eyes I would watch Life celebrating in all its glory. Their innocent smiles would linger on the wrinkled faces for a long time. Their days and nights filled with joy of togetherness.

A newly painted board in the living area made by the children reads:

“To be alive, is a miracle and a cause for celebration.”

Last week Juhi left for further studies but the ‘celebration of being alive’ continues at

Utsav.

Hey, did I tell you who was Kaya ? Well, she was my beloved wife. She passed away during the birth of our first child.

In fact both mother and child decided that the world was too much for them and continued their journey across the universe.

 

 

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

 

 

The Tragic Tale of Elderly In Our Society


My mother turned 79 on 31st March. The family gathered for simple dinner and for sometime she forgot her dizzy spells, her weak heart and all that the old age brings with it. After my father’s death 5 years back my brother decided to brings ma back to Delhi and since then they stay together ( He does not like to say she stays with him).

There is a person to take care of her and she is free to live her life as she desires. Ma travels, attends events, goes for movies, exhibitions and does all that her health permits. Even after all this sometimes she looses it and the feeling of dependency and loneliness creeps in, making us feel helpless.

She is well-connected to us through phone and we do visit her often. She is internet savvy so connects with old friends too. My brother, in spite of heavy work schedule in TOI, does his best to see her comfortable, healthy and most of all happy but how many old people living in the cities with their children get this?

I have already done a post on Being a daughter, old age and empty nest

Someone told me yesterday,  ” hey you have a long life, you will live a hundred years. I was just thinking about you.”

I wondered ” how many would like to live a hundred year in a society where old people are made to feel redundant ??”

A recent story which my therapist narrated made me write this post.

Mr. Jaganath ( name changed) is a professor (retd) from University of Delhi . He is 97 years old. His wife is 88 years old and both of them are in frail health with old age complications . The couple stays in a posh flat in an upmarket colony and has five children. Four boys, three of them are in U.S.A. teaching in major universities and the fourth son in Delhi itself working on a high position in some company. The old couple stays with their widowed daughter(58 years) and grand-daughter. None of the sons were willing to keep the aging parents and rarely visit them.

The daughter who herself has sever health problems grudgingly looks after them and leaves no opportunity to humiliate and scold them. The only reason she is bearing with them , as per her, is the property in her father’s name. Every day is a struggle to survive for them. My therapist goes daily to help them and the stories she narrates are horrifying. Many a times she intervenes but is told to stay away from family matters.

Things turned worse a month back when the mother fell sick. Since then the old parents are not fed properly, mother complains of being beaten up at night for disturbing sleep. They have lost weight. Hardly any nutrition goes into their frail bodies and the diseases which were brought under control have started to take their grip on them once again.They stay in their room all the time and are never ever taken out to any functions or even to any park etc so they too can breath in fresh air.

On being questioned the daughter says, ” its time for them to leave the earth. isn’t it?”. ” I am stressed too, am unwell myself, it’s too much “, she complained. I am doing all I can, a maid is there for them 24 hours, I am paying for doctors and everything, giving them khan peena but  they are not satisfied” ,  she retorted in anger.

Caregiver Stress was breaking her she said. Amazingly she wants her father to sign the papers for the flat and put it in her name. All the money, jewellery as already been given to her. She managed to get things done her way by forcing them.

” I am feeding them so it is my right. ” she defends.” I am growing old too. don’t have more strength than this to look after them”.

” Is it not her duty to look after them  or if she can’t at least find a decent care home for them ? ”

“What care home? What will people say? They have little life to live why waste money ? was her reply.

The parents stared blankly at her and then looked at the therapist with eyes that told the story of their pain in bold letters.

The son when contacted refused to take charge due to the pressure from his wife who had earlier thrown the father in law out because he wetted his pajama accidently on way to the loo in the night. He was called a dog who pisses anywhere,

The vacant  hurt on their weathered faces, the fear of unknown in their eyes and the tears that well up all the time tell a sad and tragic tale of neglect .

The daughter was advised to put them in some care home but the social image is the most important thing for her. No one knows what goes on behind the four walls but sending them away in this condition will open many debates, also the property and , money etc will not be passed on to her.

The old couple quietly waits for death to knock on their doors to get rid of every day humiliation, pain, sickness and trauma.

I always wonder what exactly can be done in this situation. Even thought of the role of welfare associations of the colonies which can mark the houses where elderly people stay and check their state of well-being but then the other members make sure that they keep their mouth shut and speak only good of the family otherwise face the consequences.

These old people who once lived a life of content and raised their children, educated them and gave them wings now sit huddled in dark , smelly rooms, deprived of even a decent meal and basic health care.

I told my therapist to take some action against the daughter or do something to help the poor parents and she did try but failed. Even a police report would worsen the matters in their case she said with  such pain in her voice. It troubled me. We are still thinking how to change the situation. The woman is well to do so the monitory condition is not the reason.

In a country where familial ties are held in high regards more and more cases of extremely closeted and complex phenomenon of Elder Abuse are coming into notice.

In a country where we preserve our heritage properties, cherish the old relics and heirlooms, the living heritage is being so severely neglected and abused. Economic insecurity, loss of physical ability to work and care for one’s self, falling  health, physical and psychological isolation , often the social and religious taboos play havoc on these elderly people. Sometimes there is a fear of losing the spouse and low self-esteem also makes them vulnerable.

Sensitization of the younger generation in this regard is of utmost importance and it works too but what about educated people like the one above who knowingly neglect and push their ailing parents towards death?

Many a times these elderly people also suffer from self neglect due to many reasons like malnutrition, dementia, depression, over medication and illnesses but those who do not fall in this category are often pushed towards it by the care givers.

The question is why?

Why taking care of the parents who can’t look after themselves, who once took care of you,  become this generation’s latest major agonizing life crises ?

Are we under the  duel pressure of being” sandwich generation” raising young children and caring for old parents?

Two decades ago, caring for the elderly was hardly an issue. The joint family was a harmonious secure haven for both the young and the old so the question arises

Was the system of joint family better than this new age nuclear family system?

Or have we just become more stressed and less tolerant?

Many NGO’s working for the elderly like the Help Age India claim that the reports of abuses and neglect have gone up in recent times. Most of them say that children turn abusive once the family property has been signed over. Then the ” use” of aging parents is over and hence the anger, abuse and neglect.

They have to wait endlessly for the meals, medication and such basic needs. A complaint creates disharmony and that is one reason many old people prefer to stay quite.

There is a parent maintenance act but how many are aware of it or avail its benefits. The fact that we should need a maintenance act for our own parents is such a shame but it does help those who are neglected and abused.

While the youth enjoys the benefits of the economic boom the elder generation is completely out of picture.

Sometimes I feel that Ichcha mrityu or

euthanasia should be allowed.

At least it will end the trauma of ” To be or not to ” in the elder generation.


There are estimated 90 million old people in India.


Their grief remains unresolved and life… it goes on .

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Being a daughter, old age and the empty nest


This is a Blogadda Spicy Saturday Pick

Best Spicy Saturday of 2010. Top 25 .Yay

“Mother wait a little longer,
Till my little wings are stronger,
Then I will fly away.”

When my first-born Adi started school he was barely three. I remember how happy he was on the first day of the pre school on that fine winter morning. All dressed in a new set of clothes, carrying a small colorful school bag and a million dollar smile in his eyes which travelled to his lips the moment we reached the school gate.

He just ran inside and suddenly realising that he had forgotten me, turned and waved. I gave him a flying kiss and just as I turned to go back I felt the first pang of loneliness. My child had taken first step away from me in a new direction which led to his own world where I will be just a spectator.

I held back the tears and smiled. I had given him the wings now it was his turn to soar.

I don’t think I really felt that I had taken that first step towards ” empty nest syndrome”. It was all about Adi discovering, exploring and learning. That is what we were taught as little kids. To blossom.

After four years Shubhang came into my life and again the same process of preparing him to expand his horizons began and soon he too started his play school. Both the boys were very fond of their school and never missed a single day. Life was opening it’s gates for them one by one and each one of them was taking a new step every day just a little further from me.

It was at that time I remembered my parents  and how they  had given their unconditional support and love  for me to spread my wings and fly.

Now at the age of 78 she is alone. My father passed away four years back and since then I have seen struggle between the independence she is used to and the love and support she needs due to frail health and old age. My parents always believed in living independently and while my dad was alive they stayed on their own inspite of raised eyebrows and wagging tongues. Everyone thought it was my brother’s moral duty to look after the aging parents and he never shrugged from it but  dad believed in “not being dependent” till they can manage.

They left for Pune and stayed in Athashree , a unique housing complex only for elderly. The decision made the relatives gossip. Although it was their own decision and I think a right one then also everyone made us feel guilty. The place was well-connected, and had all the facilities but because Old Age Homes are such a taboo in our society that both of us kids had to listen to hundreds of accusations.I don’t know why sending old parents to old age homes has such a negative connotation in India. Sometimes we are left with no option.

Putting children on guilt trips is not right in my opinion. Some children do leave opportunities, like my hubby did , to stay with their parents  but ultimately how right it is , is the question.

With my father gone , my mom wanted to live independently and pursue whatever she had dreamed of. Travel, attend concerts, plays, meet friends, and much more but the idea of her staying alone in a big city scared us.

I felt for the first time the disadvantage of being born as a daughter. Why is it that once a girl is married her role in her parent’s life finishes and it is the always the male child who is suppossed to look after and care for the old parents. I realised that for every visit, for calling them to stay over when dada was busy or touring, for going out with mom , I had to seek permission and face lot of questioning and hear continuous saga about why I should bother about them when my brother and his wife  are  there, once married I was supposessed to only look after my parents in-law. Daughters are ” paraya Dhan” once married off they belong mind ,body and soul to the their husbands and in-laws that’s the norm and I question it very strongly. Why should a girl leave per parents who gave her birth, taught her the basics of life and made her what she is today ?Twice when one of my parents was ill and brother needed help, I was forcefully, accusingly denied to go and care for them by my in-laws. Things changed a bit when my ma in law herslef fell ill and I came to her rescue. Still she very grudgingly “allows” me to go see ma when I am needed by her. As if she is doing me a favor by allowing me to visit my old mom. How disgusting that is.

That really irritated me. Why do we expect the girl to look after the guy’s parents only and leave her own to their own destiny? How many times is it that a guys takes interest in caring for his in laws?

When I got married into a traditional orthodox family ( mine was a supposed love marriage , I knew the guy but not the family), on every step I discovered how further I was getting away from my own parents. It was a transition I had to make from a daughter to a daughter in law and trust me it is not easy at all.

Many parents expect the kids to sacrifice their happiness for the sake of the their ego and that leave me speechless, because I always think that Parenthood teaches selflessness, to love and respect your kids unconditionally.

There are always two extremes , of children throwing parents out in their fight for property or any other issue and the parents accusing children of  leaving them behind ”  to pursue their dreams. Both the situations are sad. Why can’t their be a solution. There the role of housing societies for elderly comes.

Coming from a liberated, modern background of free thinkers, it hit me hard to accept and mould myself  most of the times unwillingly to age-old customs, rituals and doctrines. The battle continues. Having no financial independence has limited my say.

Job opportunities  take children away leaving old parents to themselves and in such cases if there is not much choice why not opt for such a society where elderly people stay and enjoy life with all facilities, safety and medical care.

Here in our society people are too rigid to go to counsellors, to live in homes for the elderly, to pursue interests and plan their own lives after retirement and once kids start living their lives, whether living with them or  far away. Parents thing they own their kids and treat them like puppets. one statement that I often hear in my in law’s home is ” we have given them birth, educated them , spent so much on them, now its time to pay back. “.. I often think how cruel this mentality is and what effect it will have on children and their future.

I feel parents should give their children their identity and wings to fly and children. In our society it’s a sad situation for both girls and boys. The goal of the parents is to get the daughter married and here I talk of the majority of parents and for boys they have a set pattern of educating them to get them on some job depending on their ability and then demand the payback of all their years of raising them up. They are slaves who have to follow every thing parents tell them from job to marriage to their choice of girl and then how to lead their lives without becoming Joru ka Gulam ( thanks IHM for the phrase). They never let go , clinging on to them, judging each decision kids take especially the mothers for they have little else to involve them in later years.

Erma Brombeck says.

It is those mothers who cannot accept the loss of the supervisor’s role who turn themselves into controlling mothers/mothers in law in later years. Adults should not only teach their children to be independent and rejoice in it, they themselves should learn to be independent and rejoice in a job well done too.

I always wonder who eventually becomes their Budhaape ka sahara , the DIL or the son? While he continues to enjoy life as before , she leaves her job and sits at home to care for them and listen to their taunts. The fact that feel unwanted is nothing to do with old age , I know friends who keep complaining about their school going children esp sons and how they make the parents feel unwanted so the question of old age loneliness is nothing to do with feeling of being unwanted.

There is always a comparison to joint families of their times but now a days where there are 1-2 kids and nuclear families  the old-fashioned thing can’t work out and that becomes beyond their closed understanding.

There are parents who have progressed and moved ahead with changing times but what’s the percentage ?

We are all conditioned to the thought of ” not to let go” and that creates the problem and old people have difficulty in filling the void.

I feel blessed that my parents gave me an upbringing where I can detach myself from my kids and let them be. When Adi turned 18 this year I posted a post for him. I gave him roots and wings as a present.

Life is a bitter-sweet symphony and one loves to be wanted but not really at the cost of the happiness of our children. I hope the mind-set would change and kids will be treated as people and not just a part of the parents.

As Gibran says ,

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

I love my mom, go and meet her at times, care about her and so does my brother in his own way but from parents to children we are all independent beings above all relationships. The teachings I got from my parents I have instilled in my children inspite of all the pressures from my orthodox in-laws and I hope the kids too will never hold their children captive, physically or emotionally.

Blogging , writing , music, travel I have a lot of things I would love to pursue when my boys go away . What is your plan ?