There are too many “Days” being celebrated these days. It is as frustrating as the days in traditional Indian society, where more than 365 days are devoted to so many religious , social & cultural ordeals. Instead of analyzing the causes for elder abuse, another celebration is being mounted. What makes the elderly so unwanted?
First, the strongest support mechanism stands ruined. Family stands destroyed. In the name of modernism, the first sacrifice is family. There are hardly any happy homes now, if the number of divorce cases before the courts is any indication. The emergence of the modern woman has changed family equations. It is not only Delhi but the entire India. This development comes from advance countries, who were the first to create the new culture of the 20th century viz, the new age industrial culture. This necessitated review of all filial relationships and redefining them. The elderly were the first casualty, followed by children and then the man and the woman. This culture broke the family comprising husband and wife into simply man & woman. Its final experiment in the form of live-in-relationship awaits next development. India, as usual, moves slowly and change too is slow here. The slow speed of change slowed the death of the joint family system ultimately. There used to be joint families comprising all siblings till about 30 years ago, which provided a solid support system. This support was economic, financial, cultural, emotional, social and spiritual. The advent of modernity rejected this model of support system, which is the best social organization of the most healthy nature. It has been replaced by nuclear families in the course of these past 30 years. The elderly find no space in this opulent but extremely narrow emotional space. It was first due to financial constraints, but later simply a self centered decision. Even the mother or the father became enemies, what to talk of other elderly siblings, who had contributed in no small measure in nurturing the child to the stage of a well earning adult. But who cares for all that?
Urbanization has made its own contribution. Palm size flats cost a life time’s savings. What comes for a flat, does not have space even for the children. How can the elderly be accommodated in the small flat then? Urban living elbows out the elderly.
But the worst contribution comes from the laws, which were framed to meet the exigencies of a changing India, but are now abused shamelessly. The elderly are the target of shameless attack from the warring couple, especially the woman, who has no qualms of conscience in making false and baseless allegations against the elderly. There is an urgent need to codify all family laws into one modified code. With the change in the women’s social, economic and political status, there is an urgent need to redefine these laws. It will save the elderly from abuse at the hands of their own children. The concept of mohalla or neighbourhood is long dead. In mega cities, people stay for decades without saying even hallo to each other.
The law can only supplement or compliment the tradition, customs and mores. No amount of legislation can help the elderly in any manner. There can be no substitute for the support and sustenance a joint family provides! Financial well being is no guarantee of a happy life, although the happiness quotient of the poor will emerge to be better because of stronger filial bonding. So, while such days are celebrated, genuine attempts need to be made to either revive family living or provide a healthy substitute. There is no dearth of commercial activity in the name of the elderly, much of it perverse and obnoxious.
The Modern Age first killed God. Then it killed the Family. Now it is the turn of the individual: more people under the age of 35 are suffering cardiac problems these days in India and children’s glossary is familiar with words like tension and depression! The plight of the elderly is pitiable in this kind of a family set up. The condition becomes terrible when the elderly get bereaved of their spouse. If the children neglect their elderly parents, isn’t it appropriate that the elderly go in for some modernity by way of second marriage as in the developed countries, breaking Indian taboos? Once the elderly, like their children, undergo a change of attitude and adept to western ways completely, there would be no need for any law to be enforced against the children to look after their elders/parents/dependents nor for the old age homes etc. It would appear to be a much better option to empower oneself rather than remain dependent for ever on the mercies of their children or the daughter-in-law. Relations are valued more for their emotional significance rather than financial support. For parents, it would be 100 times more stout financial security to invest in insurance or pension plans instead of their children. What for should one deprive herself of the good life that money can give them, just like the son & daughter-in –law, while earning and live comfortably on their insurance or pension ever after? It is for the yet-to-be elderly to decide.