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It’s all about loving your parents, writes Karan Johar

In the first of a five-part series on the elderly, filmmaker Karan Johar writes about how his parents shaped his life

Let's talk about our elderly Updated: Jun 29, 2018 15:20 IST
Let's talk about our elderly,Karan Johan,Elderly in India
Filmmaker Karan Johar writes about his relationship with his parents.(Creative: Malay Karmakar/ HT)

My life has always revolved around my parents. They have always been my world, my universe. I am in my forties now and have never ever thought of living alone. I am the only child and we have been a strong unit of three members. When my father was diagnosed with cancer and I knew he was dying, I was shattered. I felt like the epicentre of that unit was crumbling.

When I hear of families fighting, of children taking their parents to court over property, of parents being dumped, I cannot comprehend it. I don’t want to be judgmental, but I cannot understand or imagine a life without my parents. They are the only ones who give us unconditional love.

My earliest memories are of me coming home and bonding with my parents. We always had dinner together and talked about everything. I was engulfed with all the family problems from a very young age. When I was 10, I had become my mother’s friend and my father’s support. Moving out of home was never an option. The thought never struck me. We always operated as a unit. They were my universe and I was theirs. I’ve always yearned for a sibling and am envious of those who have one.

Living with my parents is a strong part of my fabric, my DNA. I don’t understand movies like Baghban (in which parents are not wanted by their own children) and will never be able to make such a film. It’s an alien concept. I had my father pinch my cheeks even when I was 30 and when I was well into my teens, it struck me that, may be, I should stop sitting in his lap.

I lost my father in 2004 and I’m still struggling with the loss. When my father, Yash Johar, was dying, he kept telling us he didn’t want to leave us and go. My mother and I cried a lot. We still do. I walk into her room and even today, I find her talking to his photograph. I have conversations with him, in my head, on a daily basis. He gives me strength and completes me in every way. I lost my father but gained a god for life.

My world collapsed for a long time after I saw my father’s remains being consumed by the electric crematorium. The thought of feeding him to an oven haunts me till today.

Fourteen years have passed since I lost my dad and I am getting vulnerable. I fear losing the only people I am attached to. My mother has been going through health issues and I start breaking at the thought of losing her, which I know is an eventuality we all have to face. I speak to her every four hours and if she doesn’t answer the phone, I start having the worst thoughts. If she wakes up late in the mornings, I worry, and barge into her room. Each time she complains of chest pain, my first question is: is it the left side?

My mother Hiroo is the Queen of my universe. We have our fights, like all parents and children do, but each time we fight, I find myself crying. I don’t like to stress her out about anything. I cannot function on days that I’ve had a fight with her. My entire day goes, and it affects my work and I’m a workaholic, mind you. I start functioning only after we’ve sorted out the disagreement and we are back to having a normal conversation. No matter which part of the world I am in, I can tell from my mother’s tone whether she is low, upset or sick.

These days I find myself staring at old people. There was a shift within me the day I turned 40 and I have been feeling vulnerable through this decade. I find myself getting hysterical about my mother’s well being and her longevity. I am told about parents being abandoned and I just get gobsmacked. I cannot comprehend how this can even be a thought in any child’s head. As I grow older, I have the fear of emptiness, of loneliness.

Having children of my own has been my big emotional investment. A light went out when my father died and a tiny light came on when my son and daughter were born. My mother and I regained some of our spirit and I think it had a lot to do with me naming my son, Yash, after my father. My mother was delirious with joy when I told her I was naming him Yash. My daughter, Roohi, takes her name, with alphabets rearranged, from my mother’s name, Hiroo.

Before I decided to have children, I use to feel very guilty about not spending time with my mother. She used to get lonely and I didn’t know what to do about it. I found myself running away from the sadness of it all, because I felt I should be there for her a lot more. Yash and Roohi have changed that.

My children are now 15 months old and for all this while my mom and I have been living a perfect dream. They have been glorious months and I sometimes think – when is the first crack going to come? I am so scared, I find myself touching wood all the time.

I may have to contend with the question of whether my children will have the same relationship with me as I have had with my parents. They are my children and I have to trust them with abandon. I hope they never take me to court – as so many are doing today – because that will be a big shock to my system.

I cannot communicate with people who make their parents suffer. I made Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, with ‘It’s all about loving your parents’, as the tagline. That is my reality. My parents are my world. My life is about them.

I do feel that a chemical imbalance might be the reason for violence against parents. I can understand siblings fighting; can even comprehend couples sparring, but I cannot understand the breakdown of relations between you and those who give birth to you. In the end, what I do want to say is that if you’ve given up on loving your parents, consider them your duty. If it is not deep love, it should be deep duty. Make it your duty, your responsibility. For me, it will always be, “It’s all about loving your parents.’

Elderly, abused
HelpAge India conducted a 23-city survey among 5,014 respondents. It’s report called Elder Abuse in India 2018 made these points
  • 25% of elders surveyed experienced abuse. The main abusers were sons (52%) and daughters-in-law (34%).
  • The most common form of abuse they experienced was disrespect (56%), verbal abuse (49%) and neglect (33%). 22% of them were being exploited financially while 12% had suffered physical abuse (beating and slapping).
  • The top 5 cities which had a high percentage of elder abuse were Mangalore (47%), Ahmedabad (46%), Bhopal (39%), Amritsar (35%) and Delhi (33%).
  • 73% of the elders felt that ‘their adult children are too busy on the phone even when at home with them.’
  • 78% of the elders surveyed agreed that social media had decreased their families personal time spent with them.
  • More than 50% of the abusers were skilled workers and working professionals.

(The author is a film producer and director)

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

First Published: Jun 25, 2018 07:12 IST