by Sudha Dixit
We strive to be good human beings, studious students, dutiful children, successful in our careers, and good parents. We remain busy and content with our handling of life. But a vacuum happens when all duties and goals are over, we are left with nothing – at least we feel the emptiness.
Many elders suffer from loneliness. Children develop wings and fly away. This is the law of nature. Elders do need help but they cannot become a burden on others. We must be prepared for the last leg of life’s journey. Mark Twain has, rightly, said, “Plan for the future, because that is where you are going to spend the rest of your life.” Everyone grows old. Hence everyone must prepare himself to live a quality life. Some are blessed with very caring children but all are not. We cannot take good luck for granted.
Those who have read the essay titled, “The Superannuated Man” would understand the plight of a retired person. An active man, working in an office from nine am to five pm, suddenly retires and finds himself without a job plus a lot of time on his hands. He reaches the kitchen to help his wife but is shunned by her because she doesn’t want any encroachment on her domain. He tries to be friendly with his children, with whom he never had time to mingle with. He realises that much water has flown under the bridge. The speed with which time has passed leaves him stupefied. His children are grown up. They have no time for him. How long can he take a walk or while away time in parks?
That is the time depression sets in. The loneliness starts to play havoc on his mind. In such a situation, the question of mental health seeps in. Irritation, boredom, sense of the futility of existence, and a kind of aimlessness drive him to insanity. I would like to cite an example. Japan is a developed country. It has one of the best technologies in the world. People, there, are financially well off. They have all the luxuries available. What they don’t have is – companionship. Population control has made Japan a nation of oldies. Thirty percent of its people are above the age of sixty-five. In our sunset years, we lose many of our companions and friends. The bond among the group of the same age people is much stronger than it is between men or women of different ages. Frankly, we are more comfortable with our own age group. This fact results in leaving us lonely and isolated from the mainstream young people. I read a news item that left me astonished. It said that in order to evade their loneliness some senior citizens resort to stealing items in the malls, not because they lack money but in the hope that when caught stealing, they would get a chance to talk to people. How pathetic! Japan or any other rich country tries to tackle this problem by making committees provide elders with some company. They are taking the help of machines. They are provided with robots who talk to them and entertain them. These robots could be in human form or in the form of pets, dogs, cats or birds etc. In the US school, children are asked to go to old -age-homes and talk to senior citizens living there.
While it is true that such gimmicks do help to a certain extent but can any intelligent person be fooled by it? We don’t need toys; we need real people with feelings and emotions. The instances of suicide are maximum in Japan and in other rich countries too. We cannot eat money. Gold and diamonds cannot give us company. There is a Hindi song that says, “Your photo cannot entertain me. It does not smile like you, does not talk to me back like you do. It does not have life. How can it give me solace if it cannot stir a feeling of pain in me.” How true! In poverty-ridden countries like India where, still, parents live with their children, this problem is not so big in magnitude.
But it does exist. Elimination of the joint family system is one culprit. Children get cultural education and knowledge of religious backgrounds and myths. On one hand, it’s beneficial to kids, on the other hand, it gives the elders a purpose in life. Still, the scenario is changing. The modern rat race is robbing us of our heritage. Even a young person, who is lonely finds it difficult to manage his sanity. Often, in desperation, they are driven to take the extreme steps. An elderly human being is worse off. We, often, hear an old person praying to God to let him die.
About the Author:
Sudha Dixit, was born and brought up in UP. Graduated from AMU, did master’s (English literature) from Lucknow university, and studied Law at BHU. Presently settled in Bangalore. Career-wise had 15 years stint in real estate. Now, she is doing what she always wanted to do – painting landscapes and portraits & writing poetry/articles on the net and in various magazines, including print media