Seventy-year-old Brij Mohan Garg, a former gazetted officer with the Ministry of External Affairs, is not asking for much on Father’s Day. His eyesight and hearing are receding rapidly. But like all old parents he expects a phone-call. An occasional visit.
“I would be grateful if Vivek (name changed) could just show his face,” Garg says, who last saw his only son five years back. He still shudders recounting the “mental torture” at his home. Left with no ‘respectable’ option, he moved into Gharonda, Chattarpur, one of the 50 state/privately-run homes for Delhi’s aged and destitute.
But in his dreams, Garg’s past still haunts him. ‘Daddyji, why are you not on the way to bring the kids back from school?’ ‘You forgot to get the milk again!’, his daughter-in-law would say. The son would come home drunk and curse his father for “not having done enough” for him. On his part, Garg even quit his job as a Programme Officer in 1991, five years before the scheduled date, to make sure his 12th pass, jobless son could be ridden of his vices. With his post-retirement savings he funded Vivek’s business plans: first, a shop dealing in sports accessories, then a PCO/Xerox facility. Eight years later, the father had to sell the latter to pay up his son’s gambling debts.
As he quietly eats his spartan meals — rice, dal and a vegetable for lunch — at the old-age home, Garg recalls the “better days”. “I had once shared lunch with the then PM Rajiv Gandhi. I was also part of the delegation of the next PM, VP Singh, to Zambia.” Now, he spends his time visiting his doctor, watching cricket on one of the two TV sets at the shelter, and thinking about shifting to “a better home” for the aged. A verse of poet Bekhud Dehlavi, which he recites, half to himself, seems to capture his state: “Aap gairon ki baat rehney dein/maine apne bhi aajmaye hain/log kaanton se bach kar chaltey hain/ maine phoolon se bhi jakhm khaye hain.” It’s still not too late. Is Vivek listening?