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No country for old men

His emotions are stacked up like matches in a box, dry but potent, writes Praveen Donthi.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2008 21:12 IST
Praveen Donthi

His emotions are stacked up like matches in a box, dry but potent. An evening peg helps 79-year-old Roshanlal Chaufla to keep them from flaring up. “My only wish is to die when I am asleep,” he says.

For him, things changed after his wife Usha, to whom he dedicated his first book, Mirza Ghalib in English Verse, passed away in 1997. “She used to handle all the finances till then. My sons wanted to squander away money and I was an obstacle.” So he divided everything into two and ‘gifted’ it to them. And left the house with nothing. He then sold his house and lived as a paying guest in Vasant Kunj, where he immersed himself in writing. Soon he learnt of Godhuli, a senior citizen’s home in Dwarka and moved in there. “I bought myself this room for life,” he says.

After initial success, his sons lost all the money. One died of cancer and the other needed Chaufla’s help again to set up a restaurant in Udaipur. Chaufla bailed him out. Now the son wants the father to move back but Chaufla is not in a mood to return. “Yahan achha hain. Good food, good service. At home you are at the mercy of sons and daughters in law. Here, I like my independence as I like to write.” Now, he’s waiting for a publisher for his poems, which give you a glimpse of his hurt. In The Unwanted Daughter, the poem on female foeticide he says: Oh Come, my dear little child, Oh come. Are you the unwanted daughter. Or the welcome son. “Daughter to jaan deti hain. Sons don’t care about you in old age,” he says.

While Chaufla insists he doesn’t need “any help” from his sons, his poem tells a different story: If always I have to be alone. It does not then matter at all. Whether I perish in hell. Or I am posted at home.