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Driven to pain by children, the elderly show ?will? power

A wealthy patriarch had willed his property to his son. But his son grew increasingly callous, reports Neha Mehta.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2007 02:54 IST
Neha Mehta
Neha Mehta

Imprisoned in his own house by his son and his family, a north Delhi resident has willed his house to charity. He has also written a detailed account of his agony. Both will be found among his papers after his death.

A wealthy patriarch had willed his property to his son. But his son grew increasingly callous. Fed-up, he has revoked his will, and gifted the property to his daughter.

A ‘complete lack of unity, understanding, love, affection or respect’ from his four children has compelled a 66-year-old on his deathbed to leave his property to charity. He says his health failed him because of the ‘adverse role of the family’ in his life.

A widower living in a posh south Delhi colony is crestfallen whenever his son and family, who live on the upper floor of his house, pass through his courtyard without talking to him. He recently sought HelpAge’s legal advice to evict the family.

It’s an inheritance of loss for the callous Indian. The ageing, humiliated, ailing and uncared-for parent is showing an unwillingness to bequeath hard-earned property to ill-behaved offspring. For him, property and propriety have to go together. Says Mathew Cherian, chief executive,

HelpAge India, “We have seen such cases nearly double over the last decade. Children want the father’s property but not the father.” This trend is predominantly seen in urban middle and upper-middle class families, he adds.

Fuelling the trend is the elderly’s increased access to legal information. Mumbai’s Dignity Foundation gives legal advice to parents who want to exclude abusive children from their property. Delhi High Court advocate K.K. Bhuchar says that though the Indian parent still has a magnanimous heart, at least 10 per cent more seek his help on such matters than in the mid-1990s.

Talk of the bill to protect the rights of the elderly, introduced last year, has contributed to a spurt in such cases, says Himanshu Rath, founder-director of Agewell Foundation. “Only in cases of extreme exception will they take such a drastic step. Most often, it is only posturing,” he says.

And the cases will rise, says Aruneshwar Gupta, Supreme Court advocate and legal advisor, Agewell, since “people are living longer and their children have less time for them.”

According to him, parents may feel the need to exclude one or more children from their will around 75-80 years of age, when they do not get the physical and emotional support they need.

Sociologist Dipankar Gupta is upbeat about this new ‘sense of autonomy’. “Older people are saying that it is up to them who they give their property to. If the children want the property, they better behave themselves.”

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First Published: Feb 04, 2007 02:54 IST