I was peacefully enjoying morning cup of tea reading newspaper when a shriek from my wife made me almost spill tea. I rushed to her fearing worst but fortunately it was no kitchen mishap. She was in the bathroom pointing finger at apology of a widow which had it’s fly mash shutter closed but outer window ajar. She stated that pigeons had made nest in the little space. Asking her to relax I bravely approached the encroached site to clear it off intruders. But as I looked I saw 2 tiny eggs in the nest and told my wife that we should let the little ones come into being and then we will shoo them all off at the suitable time. After that every time I visited toilet I saw one pigeon presumably female sitting on the eggs while the other would bring morsels for her eating. A few day later we could see tiny birdies in the nest and both parents would tend to them by bringing in something or the other for them. I was fascinated to see parents taking pains to feed them and then teach them how to fly. The little nest had houseful at night and one , may be male used to stay out of it. A couple of weeks later I found only the older couple in the nest and little ones who had almost grown to full stature not home. It was so for next few nights and then realization struck that young ones had flown to be at their own, leaving parents lonely.
This set me pondering we humans are not much different. I know of lot many persons in our area who are well in twilight of their time ( not that I am far behind at 62 ) and are staying alone because their young ones have gone to be at their own – within India or abroad. Although most of them are well off but still you can see them longing for company of their children or rather more for grandchildren. When you talk to them you can see that wistful dreamy look in their eyes when they tell you of them even though they have not met them for months but seen photographs only. Visits by the children who are actually parents themselves or even some are grandparents are infrequent with long gaps. This makes the couples staying alone even more lonely and obsessed with talking at length about the ailments they face or their grandchildren, not in that order necessarily. Their befriending all and sundry particularly those who keep changing often eg domestic help, maintenance persons like plumbers, electrician, carpenter, cablewallah or whitewash people at time exposes them to high risk as they confide freely in them about how well off their children are and their own loneliness. There have been number of cases of crime committed against such elderly persons – including murders. On meeting such persons even I feel pangs of guilt for not having visited my old parents ( who are no more now ) more often but at least I have consolation that they were not lonely as they opted to stay with my younger brother at home town rather than having nomadic life with me. Present scenario is leading to vanishing bond of love & affection between today’s youngsters and grandparents making joint families redundant – just like pigeons family which set my thoughts on this line. We all talk a lot about such issues but what are we doing to check this erosion of values and exposure of lonely elderly couples to criminals? Presently I can suggest that locals RWAs and Police join hands to involve such persons in more social activities, make them have friendship clubs, inculcate habit in them to inform someone of their group whenever outsiders as stated above are let into the house. If possible let their children understand importance of visiting them regularly , not all at one time but in turns so that they have someone or the other with them most of the year. Even grandchildren should be encouraged to be with them whenever they can. Well, any more suggestions?
Note : A modified version of this was published in South Delhi Plus of Times of India last year.