Seniors: How heartless one can be?
by Retd. Prof. Mr. Durgesh Kumar Srivastava
(New Delhi, India )
Talking of the plight of aged people in poor and developing countries, let me narrate two true stories - one recent, and the other about 40 years old.
Recently I saw an aged woman, who had just made some purchases at a food store, pleading with the shop keeper "Brother, please replace this torn currency note. It will be very kind of you!" The shop keeper had given her an INR 10 note which was just a bit torn. (I may mention here that quite old and crumpled, slightly torn currency notes can be used in India without much problem.) The shop keeper told her "Mother, this currency note is OK. It will be accepted everywhere!"
The old woman again pleaded with him "Brother, if you don't change this currency note, my daughter-in-law will not permit me to enter the house !" I felt deeply sad at the plight of the old woman. May be, such helpless situations are not uncommon.
Nearly 40 years ago, I met a distant relative after a long time. He was about 65 at the time. He told me his story: He had retired after about 40 years of service during which he had raised a family, educated his two sons, married off his two daughters, built a small house and lived off his small interest income as he had no pension.
He lived in his own house a joint family with his wife, his elder son and his wife, and two grandchildren. The younger son was settled in some other city.
There was constant bickering about running the household and ultimately it was decided with the intervention of relatives that the old man will manage the house and the elder son would contribute INR 100 towards family expenses. In those days living expenses were low and there was no burden of house rent. Thus the son's contribution of INR 100 was quite fair and reasonable. On the first day of the month, the old man would go to his son in the evening and his son would give him INR 100 as his contribution.
One day the old man went for a hair cut. As he gave to the barber an INR 5 currency note the barber said that he had no change to return INR 4=50. Just then the old man's son walked into the shop for a hair cut. The barber knew the family well. He returned the INR 5 currency note to the old man and said that he would take the money for the old man's hair cut from his son.
The old man returned home and the matter was soon forgotten. When the 1st day of the month arrived, the old man went up to his son's room to ask for his monthly contribution of INR 100. The son went inside his room and was gone for a long time. He then came out and put the money in his father's palm. There was loose change along with some currency notes. He was surprised and counted the money. It was a total of INR 99=50. He looked quizzically at his son who explained that he had deducted the INR 0=50 that he had paid for his father's haircut a couple of weeks ago.
There were hints of sadness in the old man's voice and of embarrassment on his face as he recalled this incident.