Satymev Jayate: And the elderly women of Baghpat.

It’s difficult to understand how a son could tell his mother to wait at a railway platform while he gets the tickets, and then never return. Or how other sons, could say they would just get the mothers’ case papers (in hospitals), and the mothers keep waiting, the sons never come back. Satyamev Jayate this Sunday was about the elderly, and once again Amir Khan did not disappoint – please watch if you missed it, will blog about it in a separate post.

But what would you do in the situation described above?

Most elderly women (women over 60? 65?) I know might try to call this son from their cell phone. Or they would take the next bus or train or a cab back home, and some might make sure that he (and everybody else) knows about his irresponsible act.

Then, when they understand his intent was to abandon them, then although deeply disappointed and even heart broken at first, they would gather their courage and they would talk to their friends and family and others in their support system.

They would get in touch with others who have dealt with such situations. They would take some hard decisions. They would look at their options (and they would have options!!) They might ask this son to move out of their home; they might sell their property, khet, land, possessions and move to an old age home they can afford. Some might move closer to their other children – sons or daughters. Many would use disinheritance (however little their wealth) to convey their displeasure.

But wait.

All this would only be possible if you were capable of finding your way home. If you were not restricted from using a cell phone. If you have a circle of trusted and empowered friends and connections you made in your long life. If you owned property and had savings. If you have worked, traveled, communicated, earned, been to hospitals, schools, railway stations and unknown cities, unescorted by a male relative, then you can’t be packed off to Vrindavan or abandoned at a public place in your old age.

Or if you were not aborted or left on a railway station as a child because your were so inconvenient to escort everywhere, protect from the eyes of gair mard, marry-off and supported life long.

What the Baghpat Khap or 36 Biradari Panchayat is doing is making it even more difficult for families to have and to raise women. Or even to be woman.

Indians claim to worship mothers but forget that mothers don’t grow on trees, they are born as little girl children, they are teenage girls with dreams and futures; and they are women capable of living their lives unescorted and unsupervised.

Related Posts:

If I made Baghban

100 per cent of the elderly surveyed stated that their daughters-in-law abused them the most.

41 thoughts on “Satymev Jayate: And the elderly women of Baghpat.

  1. Agree – what seem like simple choices are simple only for people who have never had to think through something so mundane, have had resources and the independence to get to them and then use these. A lot of women don’t manage any finances, their or otherwise – buying vegetables is not Finance 101. One is scared of the unknown – everyone who has done some management of finances knows it is not rocket science…boring maybe but one of those essential, often critical chores.

    Access to resources and the ability to handle them by oneself without dependence is key. And for a lot of women, this is a far away dream.

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  2. I’m just thinking aloud here, so I hope nobody gets offended. The earlier episodes of SMJ were about khaap panchayats, female infanticide, dowry, etc. All these injustices/crimes are undoubtedly perpetrated by the older members of society. Considering that they put their kids/sons-in-law/daughters-in-law through hell, I wonder if it is surprising that the latter don’t really feel inclined to care for them in their old age. I am not trivializing – just saying this could be one of the reasons. If relationships between children and parents are healthy in the first half of life, I think the second half will be that much easier.

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    • This episode is not about sons or rather daughters in law caring for the elderly. It’s about the elderly living rich, fulfilling lives, planning for their old age, finding partners and companionship, live0 in relationships, working till as long as possible etc.

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  3. Your point is very valid, IHM. My 10-year-old son was shocked that someone could do this to their parents. And, I would also hold the dil (a woman) a partner in crime when she eggs, motivates, or pushes her old mil out of the house. If only women stood up for other women, many problems would be solved!

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    • I think all sons (adult men) should be raised to be independent thinkers and held responsible for their own actions. I also think parents who blame their daughters in law are frequently living in denial. Without the son’s consent his wife cannot be ill treated, without the son’s consent his parents can’t be ill treated.

      The solution is not to expect a male child’s spouse to provide elder care. This has not worked for centuries, it has made women (even men, though they are generally cared for by their wives) insecure, they live in fear that if the son does not does ensure that his wife cares for them, they would be without elder care.
      https://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/100-per-cent-of-the-elderly-surveyed-stated-that-their-daughters-in-law-abused-them-the-most/

      This is why all Indians want to have sons. What about couples’ who don’t have sons, how do they live in their old age? I think the solution is to plan for old age – will blog about this in the next post.

      This post is about how it is made possible to abandon widows in Brindavan and else where, because all their lives, they are not allowed any self reliance. We are seeing how Baghpat Pachayat is working hard to have dependent and miserable elderly women.

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      • What should be done and what is finally done are two totally different things. I am not trying to lay the blame on the dil. Maybe, she had a terrible experience with her mil and no longer wants to have anything to do with her. Putting a parent out on the streets is not something one does in a spur of a moment. The reasons could be many and some were outlined in the program itself. I know of many women too who are not interested in looking after their ailing parents or even letting them live with them. This is a very complex issue.

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  4. How very true what you say…. Every mother is a small baby girl born crying and wailing for milk and who will skip and jump and play as a small girl. Its sad that they are not allowed to become the lovely mothers they would be…

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  5. Oh how rightly said. There is a flaw in our basic societal structure. To give and take respect and to respect others’ will and freedom. And nobody is obliged to take care of anybody (besides parents taking care of their children) so stop expecting. Make sure you have old age plans. If your child does plan to support you, good for you, if not then buck up and face it. Have some pension plan or insurance that pays up right at your retirement. Do something. Stop expecting that sons and daughters/ in laws will take care of you.

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    • I agree with what you say. Make sure your child is independent and stop expecting them to take care of you! Making sure that we are financially and emotionally independent in our old age is very important.

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    • If these parents actually allowed their children to be independent they might actually take care of the parents voluntarily. But the parents usually smother, bully, manipulate the children (sons in particular). Once the children are free from the oppressive environment they don’t come back, who can blame them?

      Planning for the future is imperative, either you are 20 or 60.

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      • In my part of the world parents live with the daughters. Who better to take care of a mother if not her own daughter. Is just common sense. Even if the daughter is a home maker or even if she works, she still comes home to take care of her husband, kids and her parents. We have great a relationship we our daughters. You see a daughter in law is a stranger and she is probably missing her own family. Why would you thing that she will be better to take care of you in your old age? I don’t know. I just don’t see it.

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  6. I wonder if the feet of these sons not falter when they move away knowingly that they will never return?

    I wonder if they feel any heaviness in their heart when they know they are going to leave a mother like leaving an unwanted thing, a mother who trusts him?

    I wonder if they have any heart…

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  7. Absolutely agree to your point. I saw the episode. It was heart breaking to find elderly women in such pitiable conditions without their fault! This problem some how has been originated from the fact that girls are always considered as responsibility therefore leading to circumstances like female foeticide, dowry etc. Eventually when a girl gets married, she is considered as the responsibility of her spouse and when she gets old, she is again looked down upon as the responsibility of her children. We can’t change what has happened with those women but can obviously make efforts not to let these happen in the future and for that we need to empower our girls with education, wisdom and guidance so that nobody can look down upon her as merely a responsibility or burden or some one who can’t take her own stand and responsibility.. I’ve written elaborately about it here-
    http://trishadey.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/yes-i-am-a-woman-and-i-am-proud-of-it-6/

    Truly appreciate your thoughts Indian Homemaker!!!

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  8. A visit to Puri Jagannath was a visit to hell. The number of abandoned widows – who were chased around like street dogs – was staggering. Their only source of food is the temple prasada and they sit around the temple premises begging for money and taking abuses in return. It was such a disturbing sight.

    Elderly care is very complex issue – and I think once again, the roots are in parenting. It is only in the last two decades I have seen parents actually planning for their retirement, as more and more children are travelling and settling abroad. This is a huge shift in a healthy direction – parents thinking about themselves and their old age.

    Parents who have only daughters are prepared from a very early age to live on their own – because ‘daughters get married and go away’. It is another matter that conducting marriages might wipe out their savings – but there is a mental preparation to live on their own. There are many in this forum who have questioned why daughters don’t pitch in for taking care of parents. It is because in most cases daughters have to seek permission from their husbands and in-laws even to visit their parents. Hosting parents is simply out-of-question. Also if the daughters are home-makers, there is no way they can ask money from their husbands that can be sent to their parents…or it is given under obligations and humiliations.

    When there are sons, the parents have a sense of security that they have a carer-support during old age. But as we have seen, this is not the case – and this is what hits them the hardest.

    I am reminded of an incident. Nearly a decade ago, as a new bride, I visited a relative on my husband’s side. They were an elderly couple. Daughter was married and stayed in a different city. I was told she was ‘allowed’ to visit them once a year. Their son was settled abroad. During the course of the conversation, the father spoke proudly about the son’s accomplishments. No doubt, the successes were stellar. ‘DIL also took up work,’ they said less enthusiastically. ‘She has to wear pants and go to work’ the MIL commented to me. And then, the conversation deteriorated from there. ‘DIL has become a right royal ‘memsaab’ after going to USA’ the MIL berated…’they did not have children for 5 years can you imagine? And now they have two boys, DIL has gone and kept rubbish names for our grandchildren…’ and on and on it went. Later on I came to know that the son was never forgiven for breaking a promise – he was supposed to have returned to India…but he got an offer in the US govt. When I heard all this, I thought these incidents had happened recently. Imagine my shock when I came to know that it had been TWO DECADES – twenty years since the son had settled down there. The grandkids were already in their late teens, already planning for the med school and so on. And all through their married life – the son and DIL faced harsh criticisms, untold humiliation and emotional blackmail. THe elderly gent passed on, leaving behind his old and frail wife. Now the lady will not go and stay in the USA – because the change in lifestyle it just too much…besides she hates her DIL. The only good thing is that there is no dearth of money, and all arrangements have been made to ensure the old lady’s safety, health care and so on. But at that age, what one needs is moral support and emotional support. But its too late to seek that from people whom you’ve humiliated through out your life when things were going well, isn’t it?

    In another family – things were so bad that the son decided to cut off all contacts. It is so so sad when a parent-child relationship reaches such extremes. And the issue behind such problems is always is about control. You can be old, frail and helpless – but as long as the tongue is functional – you can still keep inflicting deep wounds.

    Nonetheless, abandoning a parent is an unpardonable sin – as horrible as killing a baby if you ask me. We are always given a choice to be better, bigger human beings. It does not take much to ensure the safety and dignity of an elder…even if our physical presence is not possible.

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    • You know, my MIL went through with her MIL and FIL, they forcibly aborted two of her pregnancies because, they thought that their son’s attention would shift to their DIL. They used to beat her up badly, abuse her and what not. They even threw her and my FIL out of the door. They went and stayed with their daughter for 10 years and then, their Son In Law was not happy with the arrangement, so they started sending feelers towards my MIL, my MIL out rightly refused to have anything to do with them. My FIL tried reasoning with her, she absolutely refused. Now, they are at an old age home in Bangalore, very frail and they are about 93 and 86 years old. My MIL on the other hand is god sent, she has always treated me like her own daughter, never ever interferes with our lives, loves me, respects our decisions and much more. Because of that, we are getting ready to pack our bags and go to be with her and my FIL. Not once has she ever emotionally blackmailed us, she is very proud of my accomplishments and shares it with every one just the way my parents do. Sorry for the long comment, just felt like sharing.

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    • The issue of not enough care for our ageing population will be a serious issue that India will face in coming decades. Every couuntry goes through phases of Agriculture based economy, Industrialization and what we are now seeing – globalization. Earlier people had 10-12 kids and so even if some left the home in search of greener pastures there were always 1 or 2 left behind to take care of parents.
      In present day, even if we consider families where relationships are all good and both the son and daughter are happy to take care of the parents there is a different set of problems that arise. When the parents are in their 70’s and 80s when the most care is needed, the children have settled in their jobs either in a different city or in a different country; their kids are in crucial years of life like teens/college etc. So even if one wants to, it is nearly impossible to leave all this and go and take care of the parents. The parents are also usually set in their mold that they don’t want to leave their house/town/social circle etc.
      If they already live in cities where jobs are available, it is an option for children to move back – but then again there are lot of dimensions to this issue. But in many cases, the parents live in towns ot tier 2 cities where there are not many jobs.
      My parents and in-laws are now healthy and manage on their own very well. But I always think of what will we do if they are in a condition which needs constant care… of course you can get the best help that money can buy…but will we able to live with the guilt of abandoning them when they need us the most. But what about our responsibilities towards our kids and ourself/spouses…. There is no perfect answer, I guess.

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    • // Nonetheless, abandoning a parent is an unpardonable sin – as horrible as killing a baby if you ask me.//

      Well, although the people who abandon a parent may know this, it may be just too difficult to put up with them.. You have the answer in your post when you said, “You can be old, frail and helpless – but as long as the tongue is functional – you can still keep inflicting deep wounds.”

      I know many such elder people at home, inflicting such wounds on their children. I guess the children give up on these people at some point! Unfortunate, but they don’t have a choice!

      In the case you narrated, the son has arranged for health benefits, monetary benefits etc., but decided to stay away from the constant nagging of his parents. He has a life to live too!! The parents are just plain selfish, IMO.

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      • Agree, parents cause irreversible deep damage to children’s psyche. To control, forced obedience, shaming its all good as long as the parents fake ego is fulfilled.

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      • I agree. I think it is healthier to live in an environment where everyone is peaceful. If it means staying away – so be it. Despite all that – I don’t condone leaving someone on the streets literally. That’s what I meant – even if things have gone so bad that you cannot see each other’s faces – just ensure they are safe and have access to medical facilities, help etc.

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  9. Hi IHM,
    I agree with all your views on how to avoid the situation and why the Khap Panchayat’s decision is so wrong.
    However, this SMJ episde was not about the atrocities against women or elderly women – this episode was on the helplessness of elderly “people” and what options are available to them. The woman left in the station could have as well been a man – what difference would it have made – he would have been as helpless as the lady was.

    I was very inspired by the mountaineering man and the rifle shooting ladies – I had no idea that “age” is not a deterrent for such hobbies, since I keep telling my husband that I can do adventure sports only for the next 10 years and then I will be too old.🙂 No more!

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    • Age is no deterrent for physical activity! After a recent race, I was looking at the times of different age groups, and I was stunned to see that ALL the participants in the 60-70 age group had better times than mine (and mine weren’t bad either!)😀 And the overall winner was a 42 year old.

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  10. I would love to add a story regarding a friend of mine, not regarding abandonment – but more the notion of women living life SOLELY for the scope of their husband/children which leaves themselves without any options. An NRI friend of mine hailing from Haryana has recently become troubled by the illness of his mum. Her wonderful loving adult children have earlier moved away for work (overseas) and her husband died almost two years ago. She has gradually lost the will to live, with nothing to or no one to live for. Her life is considered stagnant now that the only things of importance to her are gone- she is only 45. This is such a sad scenario for me to watch as an Australian – I have a few friends who are either divorced or widowed in their 40’s – all who have certainly grieved, but moved on toward fulfilling lives (most remarrying) in their own time. The majority of women at this age over here have a job, friendship circle, support network, etc. The departure of children or loss of a spouse are certainly painful issues – but are not issues that would leave any woman deserted. I am not at all suggesting the western way to be superior, however I do feel that in this area there is good merit. I love my family more than the world – but they are one (albeit major!) piece of the puzzle that I call my life!

    Love the blog btw – take care

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    • I agree, having no life beyond serving one’s husband and kids is not good but our society discourages and even prevents women from having their own lives. If I have my own life, opinions etc… I am unlikely to be a willing servile maid in the family. It is systematic suppression of women in a way..

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  11. So I often wonder if children who become like this (uncaring for their parents) because they themselves saw their parents do the same to their grand-parents? Not that it’s right, but so much is handed down from one generation to the next, without us knowing about it.

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    • I think extreme cruelty and indifference is also a result of a strong sense of the world accommodating to suit their needs. Such people I am sure are not really nice to their friends, spouse and kids either. It’s only in movies and stories that selfish people are shown to caring towards some people and cruel towards some others… but of course human relationships are complex.

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  12. I believe with the average age of population growing up and youngsters having busy life, it is important for our society to gear towards creating establishments where senior citizens can live happy life by themselves in the company of their friends. As a society we look down upon seniors not living with their children or rather children not keeping their parents with them and i believe this has to change. We should create plenty of assisted living community where seniors can live a very happy independent life by themselves.

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  13. This is a difficult topic for me, I have seen my grand mother suffer & pass away recently, my grand father is still a ‘burden’ on his sons. The daughters helpless as their duty considered only towards their in-laws. I have seen elders with many kids suffer more than others as there is competition between the sons to help their parents. I liked the fact that Aamir Khan stressed upon elders to have their own funds for retirement and not give away everything out of love.
    I do not like a lot of things my in-laws do to me, but still I know I will never make their lives difficult as I consider it our responsibility to take care of them. The only thing that bothers me here is that they think that I & their son should have no responsibility towards my parents.
    Our society is extremely unfair & biased😦

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  14. Why don’t we discuss some kind of a welfare state solution for this. It is the right of very person in our society to lead a dignified life. We should discuss solutions for elder welfare- something like Social Security that they have in the US- a tax, which nevertheless ensures that all old people can fend for themselves. Salary based pensions are often very inadequate – there needs to be a more collective solution to those who are poor and unable to take care for themselves.

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  15. “Indians claim to worship mothers but forget that mothers don’t grow on trees, they are born as little girl children, they are teenage girls with dreams and futures; and they are women capable of living their lives unescorted and unsupervised.”

    That about sums it up IHM. Hypocrisy at its best, is what I like to call it. Worship Godesses, and trample on the hearts and rights of women.

    Th other thing that bothers me is that women taking care of their parents is frowned upon. I have yet to watch the episode, so I’m not sure if his is even related, but it just sickens me to see the way women are frayed when they show affection for their parents after getting married. Why? Did it take the mother any less labour pains to give birth to the daughter? Does the daughter not love her parents just as much as the son? Aren’t they just as much her family?

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  16. Old age is a cruel joke that is played on each one of us. We are strong able-bodied and so tend to think we would “somehow” manage to live gracefully always. It is clear from all the discussions here that:
    1. We should have funds to support ourselves in old age.
    2. We should not expect any help from our children.
    3. We should create our own world by having friends, hobbies etc.
    Are points 1,2 and 3 practically possible? To a certain age maybe. What do you say to a 90+ rich man/woman who cannot walk to an ATM? What do you say when old man/woman die isolated and no one knows about it! What do you say to old people who cannot have friends because they are hard of hearing? What would you do to avoid this happening to you? At times accepting disability is all that one can do!

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    • I disagree…
      I would add taking care of your own health the main priority apart from financial freedom.
      If oyu have money, you can hire someone, have other able friends to help you out but to have nothing in your life apart from family is not good.

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  17. You know, to tackle this issue, my husband and I have started saving for our retirement since the last 12 years and already have a good chunk,considering that we are 35 and 40 respectively. This fund is not for the kids or anybody else, it will be for us to spend on ourselves when we get old (medical expense, old age, hospice whatever). We already have an idea where we want to go and join some old age home. We are not going to expect our kids to “take care” of us.

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