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‘Once a loving son, he turned into a cold stranger’ | Let’s talk about our elderly

In the second of a five-part HT series ‘Let’s Talk About Our Elderly’, a man writes about how he was thrown out of the house by his son and daughter-in-law after retirement.

Let's talk about our elderly Updated: Jun 29, 2018 15:19 IST
Hindustan Times
Elderly,Let's talk about our elderly,Retirement
(Illustration: Malay Karmakar/HT)

We still remember the day he was born in 1978. Our first baby, he was perfect. The little one was our world. We used to stay awake to play with him and then doze off in the office. My wife, a teacher, often took leave without pay, for she fretted about him, even though our parents would take turns to babysit him. Later, when we were blessed with another son and daughter, they would tease us that bhaiya enjoyed a special place in our heart. He did. For one, we could never say no to him. As our firstborn, he was special. We never thought one day we would dread his presence. He first got into trouble after joining college.

He got into the wrong company and started skipping classes. And then one day he sprang a surprise on us when he told us that he had decided to drop out. It was a shock for us as we sincerely believed in the power of education. My wife was devastated, for she felt she had failed as a teacher. Looking back, we wish we had been more strict. We should have yelled, taken a tough stand, but we didn’t want to lose him. Those days, you would often hear of youngsters taking their own lives. We just wanted him to be happy, and he told us he would make his own life. He declared that he wouldn’t ever be financially dependent on us. So we let him be.

Meanwhile, we pooled our savings to purchase a plot in Panchkula. It was a big leap, for we came from a village near Mohali in Punjab and had no financial support from our parents.

We were determined to provide for our children, come what may. We don’t think we ever splurged on anything. We were always saving to build our house, and our bank balance so that we could keep our children happy.

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

Life chugged along. I retired from the Punjab civil secretariat in 2004, and started working as a senior assistant with the municipal corporation.

Our son started working at the IT park, and he was happy.

First we married off our daughter, who was younger than him, in 2007. Two years later, we got him married. He wasn’t in any rush but we felt it was time since he had crossed 30. His would-be bride, seemed like a loving, homely woman. She had five brothers and two sisters. They told us how all the brothers would always have a meal together, and we looked no further.

“She will keep our family together,” my wife told me.

After around two months of marriage, Tina told us that our son will not work at the IT park any longer. My brothers will find a better job for him, she said. We were upset but we didn’t want to annoy her so we kept quiet. But since I was furious and worried about his future, I said he must earn his own living, and not look towards me for financial support. I just wanted him to continue working, for I had myself taken up a job with the municipal corporation. We don’t remember the first time Tina yelled at us. Soon it became routine. We didn’t want the neighbours to hear loud voices, so we would just keep quiet. Even our son seemed to find our very presence irritating.

He turned into this cold stranger who would look though us. One day Tina told us to stop using the front entrance. When my wife tried to tell her that it was unacceptable, she started tearing her clothes. She threatened to call the police while our son stood mute. Later, her brothers came and told her, “in case they dare to trouble you, set your dupatta on fire and call us.”

We were horrified and we did what she told us. We moved to the room at the back, and my wife stopped using the kitchen. We covered part of our backyard with a tin roof and started cooking on a table. By then, we had no social life left. Things improved a bit when Tina gave birth to a baby boy in 2010.

Though she and her husband refused to have anything to do with us during her pregnancy, they didn’t mind us babysitting the little boy, and we were content with that. It was in 2012 we asked them if we could partition the large dining room to build another room for our younger son. They agreed and we raised a wall. Life was not perfect but we had made peace. A few days later, we returned home after attending a jagran at our daughter’s house in Mohali to find a bed, dressing table and television in that room. When I questioned my son, Tina started yelling. Like always, we retreated for we didn’t want to create a scene though it was becoming clear that they wanted us out of the house.

That year on Diwali, Tina got into an argument with my wife and eventually beat her up. Our son didn’t intervene even once. There was so much hullabaloo that someone called the police. They wanted to take my wife for a medical examination but we refused, for we didn’t want things to go out of the house. It took her more than a month to get back on her feet.

The worst was to come. Our son started drinking. Come evening and he would come home drunk and hurl abuses at us. We started dreading the evenings. Our younger son was working night shifts at the IT park. There were times when our eldest would turn violent and start kicking at our door. I would always keep my motorcycle ready so that we could leave at a minute’s notice. There were nights we spent at the citizens’ club, across our house, or at a temple in a village nearby.

It was only when we could suffer no more that we approached the presiding officer of senior citizens’ maintenance tribunal in 2014. She asked me to write an application. The branch gave me the summons but we couldn’t muster the guts to deliver them.

It was only when two days were left that I delivered the summons. I filed the case in May 2015 and the verdict was delivered a month later and the tribunal asked our son and his wife to vacate the house. But they didn’t budge. The sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) wrote to the nearby police station a couple of times, but to no avail. Finally, an inspector came and told them to vacate the next day. The tomorrow never came.

They went to the high court against the tribunal verdict. The judge rejected the case, but they complained to the appellate tribunal, which again dismissed their plea. Then they appealed to high court against the appellate authority, and the case dragged on for a year and a half. The litigation only made them more high-handed. Had they approached us even once, had they offered to live in peace, we would have forgotten and forgiven everything.

It was on April 4, 2017 that the HC asked them to vacate the house. They did it on 21 June only after the Panchkula deputy commissioner intervened. We wept when we saw them leave. My wife went out and asked, “Where are you going?” They didn’t tell us.

In the interregnum, they started living in our village house near Mohali. They don’t live there any longer, but it is still locked.

It’s been a year but even today we wake up in sweat. We’ve got our life back but the sadness refuses to go. We miss our grandson. He is a very sweet child, we worry about his future. There are times my wife cries herself to sleep. Where did we go wrong? How could our son turn his back on us? Can property tear families apart?

- As told to Manraj Grewal Sharma

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

First Published: Jun 26, 2018 09:27 IST