When does the debt end? At what age or point in life or after earning how much money does the debt of a parent end?
What I am about to write may not resonate with many but it will echo with the core Indian values we have all been brought up with.
A news in today’s newspaper gave me a jolt and I just couldn’t understand why it had to happen this way. It was regarding the death of an octogenarian who lived with his seventy five year old paralytic wife. The husband fell down and passed away at night probably due to a stroke or heart failure, the invalid wife dragged herself till the dead body and unable to shout out or seek any help, she kept sitting with the body all night. When the domestic help came in the morning and found the door locked, she sought the neighbour’s help and thus found these two in this state- the man dead and his wife unconscious, dehydrated and too weak to even cry. Apparently, these two have two highly successful sons one of whom lives abroad and the other in a metro. The neighbours maintained that they hardly ever had visitors and even the sons visited rarely.
I don’t know the circumstances of their lives nor do I have the right to judge what people do in their lives or how they deal with things that life throws at them, but I found this disturbing. Anything could have happened to two old, invalid people living all alone without a twenty – four hour help or vigilance and IT DID. Isn’t it the worst way to go? What would have been going through the mind of the survivor who spent the night looking at the lifeless body of her spouse?
In the same vein, I am sometimes irked by the undeserved praise that is heaped on me for looking after the health and needs of my father who is on dialysis. I call it ‘undeserved‘ because according to me it is just my duty towards him that I am fulfilling. It doesn’t warranty praise. It is something that we do. We just do it. There is no way around it. There is no one else who would shoulder this responsibility and there is no actual need for anyone else. Our parents raise us to be the people we become. It is their effort and energy that they put into my life that I have an identity. My education, my upbringing and even my initial thought process, everything has come from them. They are the ones who sacrificed their happiness and comfort so that I could get something inconsequential but was important to me at that time. They scraped and saved so that I could have a cushion to fall back on in my hard days. There are people who would come up to me and tell me that I am performing a stellar job managing his health the way I am and that who would miss a son if a daughter can care in such a way (the most insulting thing to say to someone like me).
All children have this ‘debt‘. Our parents don’t seek repayment, they don’t expect ‘quid pro quo‘, but it is on our conscience. I am not saying that one should not have a life of one’s own. God knows, I do. Even we, as children, have a right to go out, make friends, love, marry, have a family, bag a job, work, earn money- respect-a name of our own in the society, live life the way we deem fit, but our parents- the ones who gave us this life- shaped us- had our backs, should be inclusive in this life, not forgotten or treated like a burden. True, when we live together we have differences of opinion, we have generation gap, we do not agree on everything that our parents hold dear but that’s not a reason that love, respect and duty should wane. If we are compromising on our way of life, they are adjusting too- to a new world where they do not control everything as they did in their active lives, to the opinions and lifestyles of their kids who they want to understand but sometimes fail to, to an ever changing belief system, all of which is not easy for them too.
It is a debate that is as old as society itself. I just wrote what I believe in..
May God be kind to all the people who have lived their lives caring after their progeny.
May God bestow every child with the sensibility of love, compassion, tolerance & kindness towards their aging parents.