“Ek age ke baad parents khud se zinda nahi reh pate, unhe zinda rakhna padta hai!”
(Translation: After a certain age parents can’t survive by themselves, we have to make them survive.)
…said Piku to Rana in the latest Bollywood movie Piku. And I was nodding.
She celebrated her sixtieth birthday early September and yesterday she retired from her thirty-five year long teaching service. Mom.
While she is all uncertain about what she will do with her free time after all these years of working and running around children of all age groups, I was thinking of ways to keep her engaged. I know she will be depressed if she sits all alone with nothing much to do. But I want her to do something that interests her. I have just handed over a few books from my Amar Chithra Katha collection because of her interest in mythological stories. Dad is to take her for morning walk and to temple along with him everyday. I have also requested her to pick up the girls from the school in the evenings. That might keep her motivated a little.
It is very important to take care of our old parents. It is important for them. It is important for us. And it is most important for our children. Old people are the richest. Rich not because of money. But because of the experiences they have gathered all through the years.
We visit in-laws (who are staying with the brother-in-law and family) almost every fortnight. This time around my father-in-law told me, “Tum aate ho aur bachhe thoda khel kood karte hain toh dil khush ho jaata hai. Ghar sundar lagta hai.” (Translation: When you come and the children play around, our heart feels good. The house looks beautiful.) Four-five hours is all we spend there. But I know it makes a lot of difference to them.
Memories, children and festivals keep them going. They don’t need our money. But our time. A visit every week, every fortnight, or every month. A call a week or so. I fail to do that many a times. Mostly because something else takes over. And just before retiring for the day when I look back, I regret. I should have called, I think. That one call, those few words, the ‘are you fine?’, ‘what are you doing?’, ‘what did you eat?’, keeps them alive. The feeling of being cared for. The feeling of being loved. The feeling of being wanted and not abandoned. That’s important.
I know some parents are really difficult to handle with their OCD, their rigidity and their stubbornness. My Dad is one such perfectionist. Dad, I hope you’re reading this. But then not all of us are perfect…are we? I am not. We need to find ways to work together.
Aged parents are like those stubborn kids that you just managed to raise a little while ago. Oh yes, it’s now your turn to raise kids again. Slightly older ones. They don’t know a thing about growing up. They don’t know what their interests are. They forgot all of it in the mammoth process of raising you up. You. You have to tell them. You have to show it to them. The way they did for you all those years ago.
Yes. I remember Mom picking me up and doing rounds on the terrace of our rented flat teaching me Hickory Dickory Dock and Ten Little Indians. She was my first English teacher. I owe every word that I write to her. And Dad, his constant criticism in person and through the hundreds of letters is what kept me grounded and helped me improve as a human being. Now I scold him when he buys not one, but two bricks of Mother Diary ice-creams for the girls. The same mother who taught me to eat whatever was served on the table now cooks different things for the girls according to their taste. And I fight.
My mother-in-law who was upset that I wasn’t accepting the ‘rules’ of the family and refused to eat non-vegetarian food for a long time a decade ago, now cooks everything after asking her grandchildren. Father-in-law who would scold me for taking a chartered for ten rupees instead of taking a DTC for five rupees, now buys balloons, toffees and what not for all the grandchildren without occasion.
But then that’s what keeps them happy. They are themselves tired of leading a disciplined life and now look for variety with the children. And we have to just let them be. Just let them have that time with their children and their grandchildren. This is the age when they are tired of all the accusations they have been showering upon you. This is the age they have accepted you for who you are. This is the age when they want to be kids again. Let them be.
With all of this, there’s one very important thing to do. Do not burden them. Accept their help graciously. But do not expect it as their job. Let them do whatever they want by themselves. Do not force it on them. If we do that, the charm of being grandparents just fades away. I hear many people complaining that their parents do not help them take care of their kids. Why expect? They raised us. Their job is over. It is party time for them. Let them enjoy. Whenever they feel like helping you, be content. But don’t be dependent. It is not their job raising our children.
If you are keeping your parents with you, keep them wholeheartedly. Respect their individuality. Respect their interests. Don’t just be with them to save on your rent or the maid or creche fees. If staying together seems impossible, just vacate their place and give them their peace of mind. Giving a sermon was never the purpose of this post, but to just reiterate that we should respect age and experience.
Today on International Day of Older Persons, let’s pledge to respect older people and help them be alive cheerfully. It is the older trees that give most soothing shadows and help the seedlings grow beautifully.
Let’s make their world beautiful. They taught us what beauty is.