A song from Hindi film ‘Baghban’ says, “I am here , you are there, but where is life ?” But, can we experience the emotional pain embodied in this song? No, we can not. Similar emotion is also expressed in another Hindi Film by name ‘Avtar’, starring Rajesh Khanna and Shabana Azmi. There is a lot of similarity between the two films, because it is only when a person is at the altar of old age then only he/she has to face such incidents which no longer are stand-alone incidents but are a series of incidents which one has to face. Helplessness and frustration of individuals is what is depicted in these two films. I am writing this today is because 1st October is ‘World Elders Day’. This day is celebrated in honour of elders throughout the world. Some time back, well known actress and Member of Parliament, Hema Malini had inaugurated an Old Age Home. She said and hoped that this Old Age Home should remain active and energetic at all times. There was a big issue raised on her statement. But keeping these issues aside, we should think about these elders who have to look to the Old Age Homes for various reasons … One such reason being cruel /abusive behavior of the family members with the elders. We can never understand the deep wounds of the elderly hearts as a result of such behaviors within and by the family members! Let us ask ourselves, ‘What happens to such wounded elder‘. Elders in the family, our parents - when they struggle to bring up their children, their expectation from their children are bound to go up. Is it correct to use the word expectation? No, it is not correct to use the word expectation. It is the children’s duty and moral responsibility to look after the elders; because it is the parents who brought their children up. The mother offers you a glass of water, whether you are coming from school to home or from office to home. It is taken for granted that when Papa comes home from office, he will definitely bring chocolates for his children. This is not only expectation but confidence, in the fact that parents being parents will perform their duties without- anybody having to tell them. Why are we lagging behind to gain the confidence of our elders who are at the altar of their old age? Many times, our children who are apple of our eyes turn out to be counterfeit coins.
Presently, a T-V channel is showing promos of a serial entitled, ‘Basera’. You will also realize the intensity of helplessness of the elders after seeing the serial. Perhaps, you might have seen it. But, in our society, there are organizations helping elders to not only live their lives but also enjoy it. In Mumbai, an organization known as ‘Silver Inning Foundation’ is established for the same purpose. This foundation I like a walking stick for the elders. ‘Silver Inning’ is not an old age ashram, but is an organization which works for the elders. This organization helps elders in difficulty. It may be either at an old age Home or your own home. ‘Silver Inning Foundation’ also helps elders by helping them realize their talents. For instance, they organize a talent show called ‘Umang’ for the elders. The purpose of this show is not competition, but it is a search for talents which elders may not be aware that they possess such talents and also to showcase the talents to the society at large. The attempt is to bring innocent smiles on the face of the elders for a couple of hours or so by making them happier through entertainment. In such programmes, elders are encouraged to present their poems, bring out their hidden talents by presenting laughter shows, mimicry, one act-play, miming, solo song or group song, street play etc. In addition, a ‘Silver Innings celebrity of the month’ for the month is also selected. Persons over the age of 50 participate in such programmes. Fees charged for such programmers are very nominal. Elders experiencing difficult days like summer in their life enjoy the showers of laughter through the medium of ‘Umang’. Different games are organized to entertain and make the elders happy. Elders display their talent in such a way that we realize the fact that they are in no way less enthusiastic than the young. By Participating in ‘Umang’, the elders forget their mental ad physical worries. It is everybody’s privilege to be happy.
Mr. Sailesh Mishra, who is the founder of ‘Silver Inning Foundation’ says, “I belong to the corporate sector. I used to participate in a number of social programmes. During this time, I realized that the Government has a number of programmes for children and women; for the poor and alcoholics, but there were either no or very few programmes for the elderly and as such they were neglected. The elderly were generally neglected unseen and disrespected. I therefore, felt that elders need our as well as government’s attention. There are so many instances that we hear where elders are harassed for small issues or issues relating to even property. Elders should be encouraged to express out their feeling of repression. I am against Old age homes as a policy or as an alternative. The Govt. thinks, by providing old age homes , their responsibility towards elders is over. But this is not a solution.
When we talk about elders, it is not enough to talk only about elders living in elders homes we should also think about elders undergoing lots of difficulties while staying with their own children. Many times elders feel suffocated while staying in their own families. They are beset by illnesses. They need us the most during such periods. Nothing is gained by just erecting four walls for them to stay. I do not intend to blame the youth, because about 50% + of youth in the society is around 25 years of age and also many are Silver Inning members. It must be understood that problems arise due to generation gap. As far as possible we should make all efforts to help the elders. With the assistance of psychiatrists, consultants, counselors, help-lines, seminars and also through education or awareness programmes through schools and colleges, efforts are made so that problems faced by elders are appreciated. Elders, who are suffering from Alzheimer disease or dementia, need timely attention, treatment, our good wishes and love and care. It is true that right from childhood, we want our children to adopt western culture. But when we enter our “Silver Innings”, we expect them to adopt our own culture. This is the real problem. Responsibilities of the parents, understanding of the children, our religion and culture all these are important to understand the nature of the real problem. If all the above factors are understood well and coordinated, then instances of parents separating from their children would be reduced considerably. There are about 90 million elders in our country. We and the Govt., owe a responsibility towards them and we must fulfill this responsibility.
There are some famous poems –which say that even amidst our other problems, we should never forget our father & mother. There is also another story – mythological one – which says that Lord Ganesh instead of going round the earth, selected to go around his parents – Shiva and Parvati. In these instances, there is definitely some meaning which all of us should absorb and we need to think that it does not matter whether we rest in heaven or not. Why can’t our elders sing happily and enjoy to remember their younger days, when they used to struggle to keep their families happy ?
English Translation of article in Gujarati by –Ms. Hetal Bhatt for Aar Par magazine