Everyone agrees, India is changing. Globalization has slowly begun to dissolve and reshape Indian society, especially in the metros. The joint family could only survive so long.
On one hand we have the lucky few- people who are financially secure with grown up children settled elsewhere who still visit regularly. They can afford to take care of themselves, with proper healthcare, treatments and entertainment. They enjoy taking a walk in natural surroundings and visiting their grandchildren on holidays.
Dr. Rajeshwar Rao retired from the ministry of Defence and Naval Headquarters. When we met in the lush gardens of Lodi Garden he had no complaints, “When I take the metro, immediately young people will give up their seats and ask me to sit. They show a lot of respect, it’s nice.”
On the other hand, the rest are ignored by society.
THE REAL CONDITION OF OLD PEOPLE IN INDIA
The people who shiver in thin blankets on the sidewalk.
People who once belonged to families.
They cannot afford their next meal let alone proper healthcare.
In old age homes it is shocking to see the state some of the old people come in.
ABANDONED & LEFT TO SUFFER ALONE
Tejinder Singh hobbles in a crouched position to the chair and struggles to take a seat. He once worked as a contract worker for the government, but a lapse in medical care left him unable to walk. On learning of his condition, his family abandoned him at the hospital. Doctors tried to contact them.
He tearfully recalls, “They sent someone to my colony and asked the Policemen to look there. Took the correct address, everything was correct. When they got there, my family said they don’t know Tejinder Singh. Who is Tejinder Singh? After a few times the person came back. Said there is nobody on the address you gave.”
We sit silently for a few seconds too long as I find words stuck in my throat.
Such cases are growing more common in society today.
Dr. G. B. Bhagat runs an old age home in Mohan Estate. He takes in people who are abandoned on the streets or bought in by the Police.
“How do they end up on the streets when they are paralyzed or mentally ill? It means their own kin has left them there. We find them in the worst condition, sometimes their limbs are rotten and infected with maggots. These old people have raised their families, contributed to society, contributed to the country- but now what? Their families have thrown them to the streets and society turns a blind eye to them. We used to get two or three cases a month when we started, but now we get thirty. I have to turn some away.”
EMPTY HEARTS & LONELINESS
One problem was common across all categories, they’re lonely. Even if they had access to healthcare and regular meals, almost every person wished they had company- children, grandchildren-no one has time to devote to them.
It is painfully obvious when they see new faces for the first time, ‘Beta come and sit beside me’, ‘What’s your name?’, ‘Come again, okay? And bring me bangles for Diwali.’
Rajesh Kriti retired from the Ministry of Petroleum. He narrates that his friend was hired 15 years ago for one job. He was hired to visit an elderly couple in Lajpat Nagar whose children had moved abroad. He was paid Rs. 5000 to pass one hour of time with them.
“He went for two or three months, but then even he got bored and left the job. That is so difficult for old people living alone in India.”
Dr. Sunita Godara has been taking yoga classes for senior citizens for the last 8 years.
“Whenever I would go home I would make sure to have tea with my grandparents. That is at least fifteen minutes. This means a lot to them.”
Graphic credits: Panache Ideas