“We live by our karma; our actions and more than destiny, our karma decides the kind of lives we live” – Anonymous
They say there is so much of pain in this world, that you cannot easily comprehend it. Tragedies keep happening all the time, in every corner of the world and the best we can do is : to accept and move on. But moving on with life, is not an easy task, especially if you are 77 years of age and it is your entire life of 77 years that haunts you every moment.
We are so much caught up and engrossed in ourselves that we barely have time to notice the changing colours of the sky, or feel summer slowly treading in the air. From dawn till dusk we are running around ‘my’ job, ‘my’ money, ‘my’ love, ‘my’ emotions, ‘my’ problems, ‘my’ life; just mine and nobody else’s because why do I care? What do I get from caring? More problems probably. So we very consciously choose to avoid and avert our eyes, fearing we might feel something. We have built a steel cage around our hearts of flesh and blood, so we hardly realise that we have the capacity to perceive things. In short, we have become insensitive and inhuman to an incomprehensible extent. And, unfortunately this insensitivity have seeped down into the younger generations , who are much more heartless and inconsiderate.
We, as students of class XII Humanities, had been to an old age home as a part of our Sociology field trip on Thursday. As seventeen – eighteen year olds we were on the doorstep of adulthood. In a few years time, all of us would be adults taking decisions on our own. We, were taken to visit, seventy – eighty year olds who were sipping the last drops of life and waiting for death to engulf them forever. It was a meeting of not only two extreme age groups, but also the meeting of two contrasting generations. It was the meeting of Instagram with Telegraph or Independent India with Colonial India. It was indeed a historic meeting of questions and answers from two starkly contrasting eras.
The name of the place was ‘Shraddha’ which literally means respect and adoration. It was a beautiful place located near the river. The surroundings were peaceful and serene. After ages I could actually hear birds chirping! There was a little garden on the front porch and the avenue leading to the house was lined up with trees of white scented wild flowers. The place was full of butterflies fluttering their silken wings dreamily and time moving slowly like the swaying of coconut leaves. When we entered, about 10 to 15 elderly ladies and 5 to 7 elderly men were sitting on the cold stone floor of the single storey house.
We sat with them and the Manager of the place started introducing himself and the residents of the place and how the place was sustained. The old age home was funded by one of the rotary clubs in the city and did not receive any assistance from the government as such. The place was run by two people single-handedly : the Manager and a Care-taker. They even carried out the cremation rituals for those who passed away. And it was a non-profit organisation, so they did not charge any money from the residents; who were mostly destitute. The Manager’s voice was filled with emotion as he was explaining various aspects of Shraddha to us and he said,” No offspring has brought these people here to leave them, they have either come on their own or have been left here by relatives. The sons and daughters have become so able that they feel ashamed to even drop their parents in an old age home.”
Then the residents were asked to speak a few lines about their lives before coming to that place and how they felt after coming there. Most of them could not speak. They stood there with their chests swelled up in agony, eyes brimming with tears and lips quivering with emotions. They looked helpless in the hands of fate. We often question our deservings, and here these people were questioning their entire existence.
One of them was an Accountant and was from an affluent family. He had 4 sons and four of them turned their back on him. He was compelled to live here after he was thrown out of house. Another man, used to sleep on a school veranda as he was deserted by his children and his wife ( who went off to live with her parents).
Another lady, was physically abused by her daughter-in-law and son, and was forced to leave after the death of her husband. She burst out in tears while recollecting her life. There was another lady who was a retired Army Personnel and was again the bearer of a similar fate.
We later went to see their rooms and lifestyle. A single bed, with a table beside it, occasionally photo frames of families and God perched on them. Some with mosquito nets rolled up, and others bare, just plain and empty; very much like the lives they lead. Further inside, a small rectangular kitchen with green marble slabs, opening into a dinning room with well wiped black mosaic floor. At the end of the narrow peach coloured corridor, there was a small door leading into the back yard and the wash basin: a huge cemented one. There were trees with fierce red flowers in bloom and little blue birds chirping all around. At that moment I realised, that your own blood can forsake you but nature, will always be by your side; your own Mother who created you will never forsake you even if you intensify deforestation and pollution. Just like the old parents cannot get over the memories of their kids even though they left them. They still hope that one day their kids will return to them.
We had gone with the intention of donating a water purifier, groceries, clothes, fruits and food packets thinking that our donations will meet their essential requirements and they will be happy. But, we saw that they were living in a different age. The way their eyes lit up after seeing us, it was obvious that for them life had ended on the day their children abandoned them. All those years after, were just a constant piercing pain in the heart and flashes of indelible memories. In that little cottage by the river, on the porous sandy soil, they all were trying to make sense of the life they lived and if they could have done better. They were questioning their upbringing, thinking if sacrifices had no meaning? All they got was, company of bearers of similar fate, similar questions, similar pain. Each one was almost toothless but all of them remember each day they have counted in hope of the impossible. And it was evident that they had already forgiven their kids, but unlike their kids, they couldn’t forget them.
The Manager said that karam will deal with those sons and daughters as no one knows what awaits them in the future. More than clean water or fresh fruits; they need their biological halves. It is difficult to wait, the generation of today wants instant gratification. But these tired souls are waiting with the last ounce of strength left in them, the interlude spanning across a barren length of time with an un-promised future at the end. The question is- will the generation of today find this wait worth it? No one knows. The society is witnessing a phenomenal shift; who knows in the future, maybe we won’t have old age homes or old people too.
People perish to escape pain, after 50 years from today, maybe that is what we all will choose.