A newspaper column contained woes of senior citizens in India, who are living alone with their children abroad on in some distant land. It threw up a very pertinent question – ‘Should the (Indian) parent be selfish enough to refuse funding or discourage their children from settling abroad?’
Some Indian parents assume that it is the responsibility of the children to take care of the parents in their old age.
Parents brought up their children, hardly giving any developmental space to the child. They used the children like sounding boards where they tried out all those they could not do. It ended up with Engineers and Doctors without any consideration for the interest and passion of the child. The parents tried to live that ideal life (which they themselves could not) through their children.
Parents ended up paying large sums of money for admission of their children and for their grandchildren from LKG onward. The money was paid to the school, mostly owned by various religious institutions or god-men. No receipt was given for this money, thus creating Holy Black Money, all in the name of God. Praise the Lord!! Halleluiah!!!
The same was repeated at every stage of education up to graduation or post graduation or even PhD. Its all-Dad’s Money.
In developed countries (USA, Canada, etc,) the students fund their university education. If the same is followed in India, not more than 40% students are likely to pursue graduation. They bunk classes, have at least two subjects as supplementary per semester (as they did not qualify the semester exams) – all because its Dad’s Money. If it is the children’s money like here in Canada, they will make every penny count.
In Canada, any supplementary will not entail promotion to next semester unlike in India where in the tenth semester they may be clearing their first semester supplementary. The bigger catch is that the bank financing the education will not release the next tranche unless they know that the student is likely to graduate. I suggested to many of my friends to ask their children to take student loan even if the parent could afford to pay. In Canada, grades, marks, assessments, progress reports are confidential and are never disclosed to parents, hence difficult to keep track of the child’s progress. In case the child is on student loan, the bank will keep track.
Parents of Indian origin in Canada still carry their Love for their children and end up funding their children education. Result is the same as in India.
Indian parents buy swanky motorcycles for their teenage children on the pretext that it will save them time which they can spend fruitfully on their studies. Does it happen? Children are often seen racing and stunt driving on their motorcycles, with scant regards to the rules of the road. Wearing helmets is often to ward off police fines than saving one’s head. The children, if they must, should buy their motorcycle with their own money and not with the Dad’s money.
Now comes the greatest of the greatest landmark event – MARRIAGE.
Indian immigrant families consider it their right to select and to decide whom the children will (date and) eventually marry. They do not accept the fact that arranged marriages among Indians is on the wane. Some parents do not hesitate to send marriageable children home to seek a spouse in case there are few or no eligible candidates. Some parents even ‘import’ a Mail-Order Bride/ Groom from India.
Some parents do permit culturally exogamous dating and marriages and most children prefer selecting, dating, and eventually marrying someone of their own choosing, based on the North American criterion of romantic love. Parents complain that children’s refusal to accept an arranged marriage as a rejection of them and their culture and negatively reflect upon them as parents within the community and loss of face within the community.
Most wedding parties are attended by less than a hundred guests in North America, whereas it cannot be less than a thousand in India. Again, it is all because of Dad’s Money. In North America, the bride and the groom must arrange for their marriage expenses and sometimes parents chip in.
The amount of money the bride’s parents in India spend is well known including dowry and jewellery. It may be to make up for the money spent on the groom’s education, may be to finance the groom’s higher education, may be to finance the education of the groom’s siblings – possibilities are endless. Legislation and enforcement can control this menace to a limited scale only. Despite enactment of the Anti-Dowry laws, ill gotten money still changes hands and the Gods also seem to be enjoying it.
Next comes housing. Everyone seems to be building a house bigger than their neighbour’s. It is never based on family needs, but in many cases only as a status symbol to show-off one’s mostly ill-gotten wealth. In North America, old parents down-size and move to smaller homes, or to a gated community, or to an old age home once their children move out for education or jobs. In India it is always up-sizing, even when one is on his death bed. Only social awareness can eliminate this problem.
Now comes the ultimate – to get even with the Gods who must forgive and remit all sins in getting this wealth. Huge offerings are made in the God’s houses to please Him. Most of the offerings are of no use to humanity like golden crowns, golden crosses studded with diamonds, chariots, elephants and even one’s hair. It is not understood as to which God is going to be pleased with these offerings. In North America, most old people donate all their wealth or part of it to charities, which could help the humanity and may be the Gods will always be better pleased with them.
Many of the seniors in India are restricted to their homes – the children respect them too much to be send out for a haircut, for manicure or pedicure, for drinking coffee from the nearby coffee shop, buying vegetables, haggling with the vendors etc. We claim that the children are there to do these for them.
Wait a minute! They also have their feelings too and would love to feel the tomatoes they buy, haggle with vendors to save a few rupees, exchange a few gossips, look pretty and smart.
In most homes in India, the seniors have limited movement or accessibility. To say the least, many are swept under the carpet/ bed. Now days a home nurse is provided to take care of them. Some of our friends here in Canada want to admit their old parents to the available old-age homes. This involves paying a hefty amount as admission fees and monthly payments, which will surprise many. Even though one is ready to pay these, many fear for the social and family stigma that the son has pushed the old parents into an old-age home and is enjoying in Canada/America.
All these critics will never do anything to mitigate the problem of the seniors but will be the first ones to raise shackles of cultural and social values.