The day before yesterday my daughter was quite excited , she was one of the selected few of her class who were being taken by the school to visit an old age home. She made a handmade card , got us buy eatables for all the naanis and daadis she was going to meet, she even wanted me to cook halwa for them, but since this idea dawned on her in the morning when there was only 10 minutes left for the school bus to arrive we could not do anything about it, she also had plans to buy a few saris for them and so on… I was quite happy to see that my daughter actually looked forward to this and wanted to really spend time with the old age home naanis, may be it’s all the good effect of being with her grandparents during the day, I thought.
In the afternoon I gave a call to her, as usual, to ask her how was the day, what did she do at school etc.( for that day at the old age home), from the other side the voice that came was quite a sad one, all the enthusiasm and excitement was gone from her voice and she sounded dull. I was quite taken aback and asked the reason, she told me that the Naanis in the old age home , around 9 in numbers were very unhappy people, they were constantly quarreling / arguing with each other, excepting one or two. They were only interested in seeing what was brought for them by the children, meanwhile, the management of the old age home had given instructions to the children and the teachers who accompanied them that anything that they have brought for the inmates should be submitted to the management who will distribute it, inspite of this some children gave away things to some individuals and it created problems among them. My daughter told me that one of the old lady saw the packet of toffees in my daughters hand and forcibly asked her to give it to her saying that she shall distribute it, my daughter had no choice but to give it away. She then said that the they (the children) started a game of Antakshari with the Naanis , wherein after around 5 minutes they seemed disinterested and asked the children to stop it as they were giving them a headache. My daughter was quite upset, she had also given the hand made card to one of the naanis who had taken it but without much interest.
It was very difficult for me to explain to my daughter that she should not have any ill feeling for these naanis because it is possible that they were bitter with their life as they were living away from their loved ones, they might be feeling angry and helpless and they unknowingly expressed their feelings like this, and that she should be happy that she was chosen as one of the few who were suppossed to make them happy at least for a day. I also told her that they were not rude or quarrelsome and irritated because of you all, that is the children, I told her that they are upset with their lives, they want to be with their families just like your own naani and daadi lives and seeing all of you, may be they were reminded of their own grandchildren, and they did not want to give away their feelings therefore camouflaging it with rudeness to distract themselves.
I do not know whether I did the right thing by way of this explanation but I could see that my daughter seemed to have understood, at the same time she asked me a very poignant question "why do their families keep them away from themselves"?? This was such a question which had no answer, at the same time it had so many answers in the form of so many incidences , so many sad stories… but at the end of the day it is a question which haunts all of us.. and the fact that it is not a question which can have a straight and simple answer in today's scenario is quite a depressing thought.
I wish all of us who would also reach old age sooner or later shall try to understand the emotions of our elderly people , be a little patient with them and do not forget that it's only a matter of time that we shall be in their age, may be then we would realise the intensity of the pain they go through, know the reasons for their decisions, their likes and dislikes, irritiations, fears, insecurities etc. but somehow I have a gnawing feeling that by then it will be too late...