By Akash Gautam:
It is so very difficult to say a goodbye to your ageing parents almost every time when you leave your hometown to your career cities.
As I started writing this, an episode of ‘Satyamev Jayate’ kept coming back to me where they talked about old age homes and parents and the economics behind the lack of parental care in India. Let us talk facts before we get down to emotions, the more interesting part. A 2014 report by State of Elderly in India says the count of elderly people is exhibiting an increasing trend. The population of senior citizens is projected to reach 11.8% of the total Indian population by 2016. In comparison to that, the number of old age homes available (for those who can’t be with their children) is a dismal figure. While India leads in countries with maximum youngster population, our elderly are surely growing, thanks to the advancements in medicine.
But blaming the Government for the facilities or their lack thereof for the ignorance towards the elderly would be an unfair proposition. The problem is much more deep rooted in the economy. As a Motivational Speaker for the Youth and Corporate Events, I have had the opportunity to see both sides of the coin – as I got to speak with both, the parents and the children. It’s like a vicious circle.
Parents keep comparing the indifference and disregard of their children to an era when a word by a parent was treated like a line in indelible ink. And children keep complaining of their unsupported dreams and about a generation that they feel does not understand their passions. With generations changing every 7 years, it seems like this communication gap is slowly pushing the parent-child relationship in majority Indian households towards an impasse. I have stood in the middle and often witnessed both sides, and their lacunas.
While I believe that kids certainly don’t know much about how to handle their parents well (which often leads to lost love despite their being a lot of love), parents often fail to comprehend the riling economic issue behind the discomfort in the relationship. With advanced medical attention available comes increased longevity which means more family members to take care of, probably in the same income range that average households have. As the cost of living keeps on increasing, this issue becomes more of an economic nature than an emotional one.
Added to this is the issue of lack of opportunities to flourish in small towns. As people move to bigger cities to earn a livelihood of their choice, they leave behind parents; and the pressure of running two homes situated thousands of miles apart. In every Tier 2 or Tier 3 city in India live hundreds of stories of parents who are living alone because their kids have grown up now and have moved to Tier 1 cities or abroad for opportunities. In early years; these parents almost spent all their energies in educating their kids. Today a whole majority of these parents are either fighting loneliness, depression or some chronic health issues. The situation gets worsened further if it is only a single parent surviving. If you look around yourself; you will be able to identify a minimum of 5-6 such stories which you know of but never looked at them like that.
I don’t think that kids are to be blamed fully in this. They had to move out because almost every small road in their growing up years was laid down to divert them to that highway. The present education and its deep psychological effects are scary when looked deep into. I have noticed in many cases that the bonding of children with their small towns fade because there aren’t many beautiful memories contained in there or even if there are they are lying very hidden under the weight of career pressures, tuitions, comparisons or some kind of suffocation. The pressures of making a mark in the world was such a whirlpool that it actually sucked up all small pleasures of growing up years. Most of these children don’t remember anything spectacular from their growing up years; as they look back. All that emerges in their memories is studies, studies and studies.
Memories have been blunted and tunneled into marks and percentages. These kids when they move out of homes suddenly discover a never before kind of freedom. They see an entirely new world where in they have the freedom to do things which makes them happy. After all; the mind only remembers the places, where it is very happy. It gradually assumes that this happiness place is his real own one. Even when such kids visit their homes on Diwalis, Eids etc- they want to return back to their cities very fast and soon because there isn’t much to do there, there aren’t many fantastic memories to associate with.
While I have seen some kids going back to their roots, loving their small towns and being passionate about visiting their old folks, none I know have wanted to shift back. And to be honest, I haven’t been able to go back either. There are operational issues with going back to my home town. Commute and connectivity are two huge problems. Genuine problems, for my kind of work; and for all those working in tier 1 cities.
Not that these children don’t respect/love their parents. But many of them have moved on to different worlds of their own – a common complaint that I have often heard from my senior audiences. I am going to share with you, what I have always shared with them; my own story:
Almost 18 years back I stepped out of my cozy family environment into a professional world. I then thought- my love for my family shall never wane. I will keep on loving & caring for them, chahe khuch bhi ho jaaye! (No matter what happens).
It did not happen like that. My intentions did not change/reduce — but the blindness of youth, busyness of duniyaadari, the hunger of ‘doing more well’ distanced me much from my family. I lost my father in 2003 and I took a lot of time to come to terms with this loss. My deep desires to do a million things with/ to my Dad — had come to an abrupt end. I could not do any of ‘this’ or ‘that’ to/ for him.
My mom is a doctor and she lives in a beautiful hill town, Dharamshala, in Himachal Pradesh (very far from wherever I work). I thought I will love my Maa more now and give her everything- my love, my care and an emotionally strong life. In spite of my best intentions — I was regularly failing in that also every passing year. I kept on doing more and more well in my own life; but was just not finding the right ways and the right times to express/validate my intentions with my mom.
Today, as I live forward — I see my days converting into weeks; weeks into months and then years too are just flowing by. The inescapable whirlpool of life is growing deeper & noisily charming; every passing year. I helplessly see my purposefulness about a lot of beautiful things in life especially ‘relationships’ getting veneered by my business.
From the little I understand about relationships, I know that whenever communication diminishes between any relationship; everything else too diminishes. What’s the point of loving anyone in heart; but never finding time to be with him/her?
There were so many times in my growing up years when I thought ‘what my parents are saying is not charmingly modern and befitting for me’. There were times; trust me- when I felt irritatingly annoyed too with their sermons. There definitely were times when I thought ‘they were interfering; as I have the right to live my own life- my own damn way’. But, living far from her, and listening to other parents, I have learnt to value my mother and appreciate our generation gap, even if that means a difference in opinion. For my mother, her whole world revolves around me now, and after many years, I definitely feel that if not my physical presence, she deserves my love, because at the end of the day, she is the one who brought me up, who taught me to live life and achieve my goals.