In our country India there is an iconic ‘old age home’. Surprisingly, it has not yet been declared a national, if not an international, heritage to be protected from vandals.
It is an ‘old age home’, not just because it is ‘home’ to the old people who have nowhere else to go, but also because it has become old in chronological terms. Another unique feature of this ‘home’ is that the young and not so young are also welcome, of course subject to the terms and conditions.
Its foundation stone was laid more than 130 years ago. The most prominent co-founder was a foreigner, an Englishman. He and his friends wanted it to be ‘home’ to the English educated intellectuals. Initially, it enjoyed support of the then ruling dispensation. As the number of members started growing and they became more demanding – demanding a share in the government – the government became wary.
Under the charismatic leadership of a person who had learned the basics of law in London and partially used his knowledge in distant South Africa but who knew the masses better than others, it became so powerful that most of those who wanted to do something for the country (or for themselves) started joining it. A stage came when a great constitutional expert who until recently was not a favourite of those who managed the ‘home’ then and those who managed it later, once said that it was not a ‘home’ but a ‘dharamshala’ (inn), a ‘platform’ which was open to everyone (of course subject to the terms and conditions which were not made public). Those were the glorious days of the ‘home’.
When the foreign rulers left, those who controlled the ‘home’ took credit for that, many of the critics do not agree though. Post-Independence, the ‘home’ became more powerful and glorious but gradually it started looking like a family managed ‘home’. That happened so subtly that the people realised it only after it had happened.
Every child grows young and then old. Institutions too grow old. The great ‘home’ also became old and one day it looked like an ‘orphan’. The ‘well-wishers’ who had nowhere else to go decided that the best way to keep it running was to hand over its complete management to someone who had come from the West, who was trained in England and who had been adopted by the family. After all, the most prominent co-founder was also from the West. Those who did not like the arrangement left to set up their own ‘home’, though some of them maintaining a relationship with their previous. ‘home’ for mutual benefit which was described as ‘national interest’.
For a decade, the new owner not only managed the ‘home’ but also remotely and successfully controlled the government of the largest democracy in the world. A great feat indeed.
Time and tide wait for none. Like the ‘home’, the new owner also started ageing. Now it was an ‘old age home’ run by an ageing person with the help of old guards.
Where there is will there is way. It was decided to hand over the day-to-day management of the ‘old age home’ to a young person. The only condition was that the person should be from the owner’s family. This is true of almost all the trusts. All trustees have to be totally reliable and no one can be more reliable than a family member whose stakes are highest.
The young man became No. 2 and was declared the successor. To tell you the truth, he is co-owner of the ‘old age home ‘and sometimes behaves like the main owner. He is so dedicated to all those who depend on the ‘old age home’ for their survival that he decided to forgo the pleasure of family life. He is trying his level best to keep the ‘old age home’ running. He goes to the remote villages, tastes food cooked by the poorest, embraces previous rivals and, when tired, goes abroad for meditation and something else which being personal remains secret. He says that such breaks abroad give him new energy to serve his people.
Despite all his sincere efforts and hard work, most of the ordinary people of this country do not seem to be impressed. The iconic ‘old age home’ seems to be decaying.
The best thing about this ‘old age home’ is that whenever the circumstances demand, the elderly owner comes forward and announces ‘I’m afraid of none. I’m ready to face anybody. I’m ready to face any enquiry.’
Another good thing is that all those who totally depend on the ‘old age home’ for their survival treat the owner and co-owner as their masters, as their ‘mai-bap’ (parents). They are so loyal and so dedicated to their ‘mai-bap’ that they are ready to do anything to protect their (masters’) inherited honour and hard earned wealth. They cannot tolerate a word against their masters. If anyone speaks a word against their masters, they use their lung power and their oratory skill and, if necessary, their muscle power, inside the Indian temple of democracy and outside, so powerfully that that the opponents become speechless and look helpless. The loyal supporters make so much noise that no one can hear what the other party is trying to say.
Every now and then they jump in the ‘well’. Their lives and limbs remain safe for repeat action because the ‘well’ is well only metaphorically, not literally. (Will a day come when there is no ‘well’ to jump in or there is a real well so that no one goes near that?) They have made it clear that if necessary they will paralyse not just the government but the entire nation. For them their ‘mai-bap’, their ‘driving force’, are above the nation. The message is loud and clear: enemies will not be allowed to stall or push back the great driving force. No way. It is a question of survival for the decaying ‘old age home’. After all, devotees do their best to save their temple and idols of their Gods and Goddesses. Here in the ‘old age home’ the devotees have their real God and Goddess.
Keep eyes and ears open. There will be no end to the shows sponsored by or in defence of the decaying ‘old age home’.
By Devendra Narain at indiaopines blog
The article was originally published here