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Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Sunset Years

This piece was written a couple of years back by a grand daughter. I, her mother, chanced on it a few days back.  I share this – in grief and in pride. Both the feelings are for the two women in this piece- the grand mother and  the grand daughter. And also for all the old people out there- alone and lonely- but still keeping their heads high.  

‘In youth the days are short and the years are long; in old age the years are short and the days long’. 

Last week I embarked on my annual visit to my Nani’s. I hadn’t seen her for over a year and though I knew that she couldn’t hear properly and also had a severe knee problem I didn't think that it was serious enough to have any impact on the days which we were going to spend together. So I sat happily in the bus which was going to take to my destination and hummed soft melodies while we passed the lush green fields and villages of Uttar Pradesh, all the time thinking of how I was going to surprise her and the food that she would be busy preparing for me, the places which I would visit with her……

 As soon as I reached, I rushed inside looking everywhere for the welcome that I had been dreaming of all through my journey. I searched for her everywhere- in the living area, kitchen, and balcony, all places that I had thought she would be in and finally I reached her bedroom. My legs skidded to a halt and my heart sank. Age had caught up with Nani. She was lying on the bed, but it seemed as if it were her ghost lying down. She had shrunk to half, her face was pale, and her hair tied in an untidy bun but worst of all she didn’t even realize that I had come. It took me a good ten minutes to shake her out of her stupor and make her aware of my presence.  I stared in shock at the house which had once been a place  fit for any king , with huge lawns ,  tall  trees, flowers of all  varieties and all fruits and vegetables grown in the backyard  itself. Now, all I could see was an  unkempt lawn and dust shining on the furniture. Where earlier no meal was complete without at least four vegetables, rice, chapattis and salad, today Nani and I had a humble meal of rice and dal. There was no one to cook the food….

Earlier,at night Nani would tell me  stories of how  the house would be full of people, their laughter  echoing  in all the rooms.  During festivals the kitchen would churn out all  the sweets that could be prepared at home. Now, she was the sole inhabitant, meeting some friends once in six months, her daughters visiting her for a week or so every year and on festivals she would have a mithai box sent to her from someone or the other, but otherwise it was just her with her memories.

If you think  that I have portrayed a picture depressing enough and that things cannot get worse than this, , let me tell you I have more to say. In the subsequent days that I stayed, Nani took me with her to visit a few of her old friends.   I saw that  the situation was as bad, infact at times it  was pretty heart wrenching. People,  who in their prime were High Court judges and barristers,  were now hobbling about with swollen feet, running from pillar to post to collect their pension, to fight against corrupt companies and  claim money that was  rightfully theirs ,but after sometime, exhausted and disheartened and   realizing  the futility of their actions , giving  up.

Friends,  my purpose of writing this article is not to force you to show sympathy with my grandmother but to give you a personal picture of the condition of the aged in our country. Since the system of living with children is slowly finishing with the advent of nuclear families more and more of our grandparents are spending their last years fighting loneliness among their other ailments. We need to take collective responsibility to ensure that we are a support system to those people who helped us stand on our feet. We need to make our policies and laws such that they are a help and relief to the elderly and  not a worry. We need to have a system where , if they need to say go to the court to collect papers, an old lady who cannot climb more than two steps,  does not need to climb a flight of stairs and that  the papers are brought to her .By the ‘we’ I mean everybody-the government, the judicial system, the private companies, the security and most importantly US-the people for whom they sacrificed a lot of their best years, for whom they spent sleepless nights worrying about  their future, for  whom they are willing to spend their last years in isolation so that they are not a hindrance to our dreams and our life…

We do owe a lot to them and I think the least we can do is to take out a few moments out of our busy life for the people who made us what we are today.  


  1. I actually grew up with my grandmother in a joint family hence I can totally connect with the feeling. The world has changed and now people are so busy that emotions and festivals have just lost their sheen.

    1. So true, Gaurab. Glad you got an opportunity to experience the warmth of a grand parents love in your formative years:)

  2. It's really a touching account and so true. I too grew up with my grandma so can actually feel the agony...

  3. Every child's voice... which is forgotten by most of them when they grow up... Only wish, let every grown up retain this child's emotions and concerns... Best wishes to your daughter :)

    The Arts & Me

  4. Reminds me of my nani and her home. It is almost the same story, except that we have brought her with us and its the empty house that lays abandoned.

  5. It makes me so happy and proud of you all- at least in your case the correct thing has been done :)