Prized falcons

Prized falcons

Old wine is appreciated but old whine, ignored. While people are expected to live much longer thanks to medical science, ‘moral science’ in India seems to have lagged behind in relevance. Many old parents from middle-class families are being left behind by their NRI sons to fend for themselves.

Whatever may be the reason for the sons to settle down abroad, behind the glitter of dollar transfers, the silent suffering of the elderly is slowly gaining acceptance as an inconvenient truth and an inevitable phase of life – seen more as ‘collateral damage’ in our society’s march towards ‘progress’. Seeing elderly couples holding hands may make a great poster for old-age companionship but when it is about crossing a busy killer street to visit the doctor, helped only by their blurred vision, failing reflexes, tottering gait and nervous diffidence, one can understand their predicament. Neighbours, friends and extended family members often step in to help. The definition of what is ‘family’ is becoming more inclusive in today’s context.

In most situations, their sons are now in faraway lands, pursuing bright careers. Once in two years or so, they swoop down from the skies like prized falcons; crisscross the country armed with mineral water, gifts and anglicised children in an attempt to do full justice to families on ‘both sides.’ In line with the philosophy of the land they mostly come from, they believe that all problems can be resolved with a good supply of dollars. 

The length of their visit’s duration is designed to ensure that nothing of real consequence to the conditions here is discussed, lest it calls for taking a stand. The elderly parents are also reluctant to broach issues, afraid that they would ‘spoil the party’. By the time the string of specially-made sweets, social get-togethers and the mandatory visit to the family deity runs out, it is time for the son to head back ‘home’. The affectionate hug at the airport is a great photo-opportunity. Back in the plane, the son may imagine that this trip too was ‘handled’ well, much like the familiar soulless politician who visits a flood-affected area. 

However, things are changing in the landscape. The taboo connected with old age homes is disappearing. Daughters are stepping in to support. The elderly are taking better care of their health and their lives. They are also becoming financially shrewd, ensuring that their finances are passed on to their children only after their death, in spite of overt and covert attempts of children to have them loosen the purse-strings. 

Guilt-proof sons, you may have a lot of peer-company today but I read somewhere; in matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place.