Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Poor Old Man

My Father and I had been on our way home from the office of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) in town when he suddenly asked me to stop the car. I then found the nearest spot where I could park and waited for Dad as he went out of the car and approached an old man.

The old man lives in our village and Dad thought that, if he was on his way back to his home, he could ride with us. His name is Mahan Singh and he has 4 sons. All four live good and comfortable lives with their own families. One of the sons own a large 3-storey home that is quite spacious -- Dad and I have dubbed it the "white house" because it used to be painted white and it looks massive.

However, the old man is more often than not seen wearing old clothes, torn shoes, and an old and frayed turban on his head. He walks with the help of a long stick. A few months ago, he had come to our home complaining of an aching ear. He said none of his grandchildren would take him to a doctor. 

My Dad then asked me to hand him the antibiotic ear drops we keep around the house and applied a few drops into the old man's left ear. Then Dad asked him to drop by again the next day. I asked Dad to simply give him the medicine bottle and we could always get a new one. Dad told me that there is no one in his home to administer the drops. The eardrops episode lasted about a week with the old man visiting out home and Dad applying a few drops of medicine in his ear. 

Many months earlier, he was found running to the village Sarpanch (the village leader) late at night. He had somehow managed to climb over the wall surrounding his house (he had actually hurt himself doing it). He complained to the village leader that his grandchildren were whispering (if you could call it that as they made sure the old man could hear) that they could always put poison in his food. They meant it as some sort of cruel joke. The poor old guy is a simple man and believed they meant what they said. He was terrified and scrambled up the wall (he fell on the other side and hurt his legs but still managed to reach the house of the Sarpach). That incident somehow faded away and things went back to normal.

Two weeks back, the old man managed to wound his leg after falling over an old stand fan that had no protective grill. He had gone to one of the village quacks (believe me... the so called "doctors" here did not graduate from any sort of medical school). None of his kids, daughters-in-law, or his grandkids ever tried to even escort the old man to the "doctor's" office. They did not even give him money to have his wounds treated. Somehow he managed to have his bandages changed daily by the "doctor".

Anyway, back to today After Dad came back into the car alone, I asked why the old man would not get into the car with us. Dad said that the old guy had just received his meager pension and told his daughter-in-law (the one in whose house he is staying in -- his 4 sons have their own families now) that he needed new shoes so he would be going to town to buy a pair.

The daugther-in-law then hurriedly took a few of his clothes, stuffed them into a plastic shopping bag, handed the bag to him, and told him to stay with his other son (who has a house in town) for a few days. The old man somehow managed to take public transport to town on his own. 

I almost cried.

He has 4 sons. All of his sons live good lives -- they are not by any means poor or struggling to survive. He has numerous grandchildren. Yet... no one seems to give a damn about the old man. 

I wonder why a lot of people are unable to see further than what is right in front of their noses. Whether a person is 16, 20, 30 or 40, he or she will, sooner or later, grow old. If that person treats his or her elders like waste paper that can be easily thrown away, how can that person expect to be treated when old age come knocking on the door?

When parents treat their own parents badly in front of their kids, how can they expect to be treated by their kids when its their turn to be old and grey? 

That old man is in good health. He is much older than my Dad (who is 80) and is able to walk on his own just fine -- the stick is only to make sure he does not lose his balance while walking. He may be a little hard of hearing and his eyesight may not be sharp enough to thread a needle, but he is not bedridden by any means.  

He is known by most of the people in the village for being a good and honest man. He is not an engineer or a doctor -- he is but a simple old man who never had much in the way education but managed to raise four sons who now are living comfortable lives of their own. 

Four sons... four daughters-in-law... numerous grandchildren... yet not one can spare a few minutes to care for one old man.   
 
Posted by: Bames Pabla
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