“I ASK God for just one thing in my daily prayers, to keep my hands working till the last day of my life,” said a 70-year-old man, who repairs around 100 tyres everyday at a garage to make a living for him and his family. He is the only earning member and has the responsibility to not only feed multiple mouths but also carries the huge burden every Indian father does: of getting his daughter married.
My heart skipped a beat as I saw the man’s frail, wrinkled face blackened by oily stains and eyes utterly tired, with the strain of finding tiny holes on punctured tyres - day in and day out.
The newspaper article I was reading revolved around many such heart-wrenching stories of senior citizens in India, who are struggling to make ends meet with no benefits from the Government, except for a failed promise of an old age pension – Rs7 per day.
Is this the fate of all poor and abandoned elderly around the world? I wondered. And I got my answer when I first observed a bus driver in Auckland tearing a free ticket for a crippled old woman and waiting patiently for her to be seated comfortably on one of the priority seats reserved for the elderly, before resuming the journey.
I also got my answer when I saw one of the city libraries flocked by senior citizens everyday, enjoying their daily dose of leisurely reading from a full-fledged section dedicated to them – the section with large print books.
A big and clear ‘NO’ rang in my head every time I learned about the tremendous benefits offered to people aged above 65 years in this city and how a special space for senior citizens is engrained in the lifestyle of the city itself.
There is no chance for any old person to be poor or abandoned here as their biggest caretaker is the Government. Along with taking care of their financial needs, the Government also provides them with all the additional comfort that they require in public places. Naturally, most senior citizens appear healthy enough to move around on their own, living an independent life post retirement too.
As much as my faith was reassured, I felt sad and helpless for the forgotten lot back home, who are deprived of everything from a good and secured life in old age to basic courtesy from the generations behind them. I couldn’t help but compare the humongous difference that exists between not just the life of senior citizens in India and New Zealand but also the treatment towards them.
The Indian Government sure lags behind hopelessly in providing anything close to beneficial to senior citizens. But what about the common people?
While on one hand, a bus driver too is ultra careful here about not causing any inconvenience to the travelling senior citizens, on the other hand, young passengers in India are so wary of giving away their precious seats in public transports that they more often than not turn a blind eye towards oldies standing right in front of them, struggling to balance in fast moving trains and buses.
And it would be wrong to term this as yet another obvious difference between First World and Third World.
This is a matter of attitude, which needs to be inculcated among people in our home country. It’s a pity how a country known for its rich culture and traditions is fast losing the foundation of basic courtesy and respect today.
Issues like the recent brouhaha about sexual violence towards women have always overshadowed other equally important causes that need attention, like that of the senior citizens.
It is time to give our older generation their due by showing some concern towards them, if nothing else.