Who is your favourite superhero? Superman perhaps, or Spiderman? I used to be enamoured with Phantom when I was a kid. The mask and the ring and the beefy punch leaving a skull imprint on skin! The charmed childhood when the world of fantasy seemed more real than reality itself. Eventually, gradually the superheroes of comics started to recede and there came the new heroes. The freedom fighters, the scientific inventors, the philosophers, the writers, depending on what I was reading at a given point in time. Later, in my work as a reporter, I have seen uncommon things done by ordinary people. But last July a big change had happened. A couple of new names were added to my list of superheroes. A happy looking feisty old lady- Advocate Lily Thomas and IAS Satya Narain Shukla. While all my superheroes so far had distinct qualities, none was like them. For Thomas is an octogenarian, Shukla a few years younger.
The day was 10th of July. An apex bench of Supreme Court of India ruled that politicians convicted or under trial cannot fight polls. What a historic ruling! Of course the final nod has yet to be received. But this means that the Indian political parties will think twice before giving tickets to criminals. How did this happen after long 66 years of independence? Thomas and Shukla made this happen. True that the Chief Election Commissioner of India had petitioned to the Apex court against criminalization of politics, true that years of irritation of a 100 million people galvanized in this proceeding, yet the timber of this silent movement have been these two old people – the kind of old society relegates to uselessness.
India’s culture has traditionally been respectful to old people. But sadly, this has become a matter of the past. With the breaking of families and a universal shift towards individualism, fulfillment of ambitions amid the younger generation, old people find themselves in a tight jam. Most are lonely and half forgotten by their children who are usually busy with carving a niche in the fiercely competitive job market. Currently, the old people in India account for 7.4 % of the population. Many live in the old age homes mushrooming in and around all the major cities. Those who stay home with their kids are no better off. There are incidents of physical and mental torture; there are disgusting instances of neglect. Some even not given enough to eat. The fact that Indian parents spend their hard-earned money in raising their kids, make such incidents look even more outrageous. With no state support system in place this is a social scandal that goes on unperturbed. Incidents of abuse of aged people are painfully under reported. Hardly any suffering parents want to share their sorrows for these are deeply personal stories of humiliation and hurt inflicted by their own flesh and blood.
Yet, who can cast the first stone? Is this not an Everyman issue making it impossible to single out the culprit? Probably, you who steal a few minutes from the daily grind to read this blog and I who stare at the periodically blinking cursor in a rain drenched afternoon are guilty of similar act of neglect when it comes to visiting the parents, understanding their thoughts, spending money on them.
We could always generalise that the world is becoming a darker place to get rid of all thoughts, or we can do the right thing. Don’t feel guilty for chasing your dream in another city but do care enough to let our parents know there’s life after youth.
If you are above 60, please know the country needs you as much as it needs the 20, 30 or 40 somethings. Think what grand things you could do with your time! If you are unsure how to get through another grey evening, don’t feel at a loss. Go out, meet old friends, have some fun. If you are widowed or single consider falling in love again. Go pick at the current political state. Make sure you can slap constitutional acts to back your argument, on the next person if they want to discourage you from getting involved in active politics or life, for that matter.
Member of mature generation like Thomas and, Shukla are apt examples that old age needs not necessarily be lonely and lost. They both did what our society has stopped doing. In one fine stroke they showed how useful age-old wisdom can be. They both said in different ways that they felt de-criminalising Indian politics was their duty. At the very end of life they found a mission. What is yours going to be?
Editorial Note : The government with amazing agility has brought in a bill to undo the supreme court ruling and lift the ban on convicted criminals. One can only wish they showed at least an equal amount of urgency in tackling matters of the economy or corruption.
Elderly People – Their Financial And Physical Security
Has Our Education And The Educated Failed Us
Popularity of Mein Kampf in India
Judgement on convicted MPs and MLAs (Lily Thomas Vs. Union of India)