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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

‘I don’t want my children to feel as I do towards my parents’ | Let’s talk about our elderly

A son recounts the collapse of his relationship with his parents. He’s been on the verge of a breakdown, and feels disgruntled and helpless.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2018 09:54 IST
Hindustan Times
(Malay Karmakar/ HT)

While other children would recount memories of spending Sundays with their parents, I struggled to narrate such stories. For me, my dada-dadi (paternal grandparents) were the parent-like figures in my life more than my mother and father. Thirty years down the line, the situation hasn’t changed much. It’s worsened, in fact. My grandparents expired. Property disputes emerged. Our family today is the butt of jokes and nuisance in our neighbourhood in Chandigarh. There are fights between my parents, and my wife and me and they’re not merely limited to the four walls of our house. The verbal spat and beatings have reached courtrooms and police stations. These are fights that triggered suicidal thoughts and nervous breakdowns.

It didn’t happen overnight.

I remember the first time my father beat me was in my late teens, way back when I used to live with them in our native village. I used to always see my father donating most of his earnings to a widow. On expressing discontent over that once, I was snapped at. Unable to tolerate his protective behaviour towards the lady, I asked him what I get in return for looking after them, if he was going to give all his money to an outsider. When we returned home that day, I got a severe beating. My grandfather didn’t approve of my father’s behaviour and always protected me. My mother would do as my father said.

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I soon moved to Chandigarh to live with my grandfather after my matriculation. After doing a diploma course in electronics, I purchased a shop in Mohali with my dadu’s help. With god’s grace, I managed to earn enough money and purchase a house, where I currently live. All this while, my parents continued to live in the village in Amritsar and would visit us once every few months. My life took a drastic turn when my grandfather died in 1997. As the loneliness got to me, I decided to get married. I renovated the ground floor and constructed two additional floors after taking a loan and borrowing some money from my friends. I started a taxi and travel business.

The death of my grandfather helped me bond with my parents. My grandfather had left most of his property and money to me since he felt my father was happy with his pension (Rs 30,000 a month). My parents moved to Chandigarh, my wife and I ensured that we gave them all the comfort since my father was above 70 around that time and my mother, 65. Deep down, I was happy that they were going to stay with me and we could start life afresh. I saw to it that my parents didn’t have to climb stairs and so they stayed on the ground floor. My wife and my kids stayed on the first floor and we put the second floor on rent for some extra income. With the birth of my son and daughter – they are now in Class 12 and Class 9 respectively — the joy of what it means to be a family sunk in finally.

This didn’t last long. My father wanted his brother’s widowed daughter-in-law to come and live with us on the second floor for free. This, to be honest, didn’t go down well with me, as I needed the rent to secure my children’s education and future. After two months of my parents moving in, they started putting pressure on us to evict the tenants on the second floor to accommodate my relative from the village. This led to arguments and we were constantly harassed by them. I heard my father abuse not only me, but also my wife and children.

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I had a major breakdown one day and asked my father why he was against me. He yelled back that he could never forget how his father left everything to me and not him. I, for one, couldn’t forget that day. I remember telling him that this house was his too. He thought I was showing pity and screamed again, saying he could take care of himself. Our household problems now reached police stations. The police would visit our home every few days, to help us resolve matters amicably, but it didn’t help. There were days, even neighbours would come and lecture us.

It was in August last year when my father filed an application under the maintenance and welfare of parents act seeking protection of life and property with the deputy commissioner in Chandigarh. The plea was dismissed but he directed the area station house officer to depute a sub-inspector and a woman constable to visit our house to see that things were peaceful.

The situation was anything but peaceful. My parents didn’t even treat their grandchildren with love. They would yell at their friends and at times get so abusive that their parents threatened to file a complaint. I feel terrible to say this but my parents have made a mockery of us in our colony and among our relatives and friends.

My mother, on the other hand, who wants to exert her power, doesn’t even let a vegetable vendor or fruit-seller come outside our home. Recently, we noticed my mother deliberately throwing garbage in front of the staircase leading to our floor. It has become that petty and I fail to understand how a mother can stoop to this level with her own children.

Instead of joining the celebrations of my son’s 19th birthday in March this year, my mother chose to curse him and his upbringing. She lit a diya outside the house and stamped her foot on it. I was so disturbed, I remember speaking to her that evening, asking her not to blame my children at least. She said I had driven them against their grandparents. I cried myself to sleep that night.

I felt sick. I felt remorse like never before. I apologised multiple times. I didn’t want my children to earn the wrath of their grandparents. May be, it it’s too late.

At times, I feel like giving up on life. I continue to fight for the sake of my children. I don’t want them to feel as I do towards my parents. Thankless, disgruntled and helpless.

This is the fifth and last part of HT’s series, #LetsTalkAboutOurElderly. Join the conversation on @htTweets and send us your ideas and suggestions.

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 09:52 IST