By Vijay Phanshikar :
The old man stands in the hospital ward tentatively, leaning heavily on his walking stick. His wife has been ailing -- but is to be given discharge from the hospital. The man has money -- but in the bank. The tremor in his hand does not allow him to sign a cheque. It requires huge effort for him to somehow go to his bank and withdraw money physically, get it back to the hospital and pay the bill before taking the sick wife home. A relative offers him money in cash, and old man’s problem is at least temporarily solved. Of course, he has his own family with sons and daughters. But all of them are in different foreign locations -- all -- without exception! Later in the week, one of his sons is to come to India. But that would be only after the immediate impact of the crisis is over. SUCH incidents come to fore in countless numbers every now and then.
There is one family that lost the father -- a man beyond 80 years of age to corona virus -- leaving the mother alone at home with all kids, again, in different locations abroad. Some day, somebody will come and take the old lady to some foreign country to look after her. Hello, we are looking at an ever-growing social problem to which we have not been able to find any solution over time. Some among us do state that this is how modern life is going to be. But such an argument is utter nonsense -- though we tolerate it for god-knows-why. Very proudly, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi announces from world platforms that the Indian diaspora is expanding. That is, of course, true. But that expanding diaspora leaves behind a very large population of senior citizens with little emotional support that only their own kids can give. Most of these senior citizens have their own money, plus the money their off-springs may be sending in good counts.
Yet, what these senior citizens look for is certainly not only the money, but the emotional support and love. In their lives of isolation in old age, they do try their best to live well. But they cannot erase the fact that their off-springs are located in faraway lands from where they are never in a position to approach their parents in times of serious need. But the life of a senior citizen has little value if the support is only monetary in nature and off-springs are available only when there is a need. For, life -- even of senior citizens -- does not travel from one need to another. It also has times of smooth sailing -- with only one thing lacking: emotional support. “Is that what I doted on my child for to grow up and then fly off to distant lands and leave me and my ailing husband behind?”, a graceful woman in her late seventies asked the loud-thinker. All of us come across such questions every now and then. Yet, there is not even a semblance of an attempt to seek a credible social solution to the problem. But if we spend some time at different old-age homes that are sprouting around in every city, we will realise the element of pathos in the lives of those old people left there by their off-springs (who are mostly out of India, or located in distant places within the country). There, of course, are several angles to this issue with their respective justifications. Yet, the basic question remains: Is it a proper social order in a true sense? Is there no solution to this very serious issue?