Posted by: kulanjiyil | May 5, 2008


An appalling trend in the contemporary Indian society, reported both in the Indian and the international news media, is the changing attitude towards aging parents. An increasing number of incidences have been reported in many parts of India where parents are being abandoned by their children to the streets. After securing paternal properties in their names, parents are asked to vacate their homes to find shelters else where. No where else to turn to, many of these parents end up in public places, often wandering through the streets and public parks. There is report that the Indian government is taking firm steps to mandate Indians living abroad to financially support their parents living in India. What has happened to our centuries old cultural traditions and values? Is this the glory of India and the people of Indian origin in the 21st century?

One of the hallmarks of the Indian culture is the sense of filial duty. We are taught that children are morally bound to provide for their parents in their old age. For centuries, the Indian households typically consisted three generations, at least. Though often inconvenient and difficult, children bore the responsibilities for their aging parents, providing compassinate care and comfort until their death. They were given a sense of family and belongingness. Though nursing homes and adult retirement homes are slowly showing up in many parts of our country today, to keep up with the times, we must remember that for generations, the acceptable Indian social norm was to look after our parents at home. This was true irrespective of our religious affiliations and social backgrounds. I submit that certain changes are inevitable in the way we provide care for our elderly today, especially when a greater number of Indians live outside of India. Good and high-quality living and caring arrangements, such as old people’s homes and retirement homes, might be necessary in these days. But the difficulty I have is with regard to our general attitude toward the elderly today.

Traditionally Indian society has been a community-oriented society, where the value of interdependence is fostered. Regrettably, with the assimilation of post modern values, we are becoming more and more self-oriented and individualistic. Our material affluence has short-sighted us to our filial duties. Now, instead of taking it as our moral duty to care for our parents, in the most difficult and needed phase in their lives, we are treating them as mere liabilities. It is unfortunate that we have turned out to be a generation that despises and discards the old. We have lost our appreciation for the very lives that gave us lives; the lives that sacrificially cared for us and nurtured us. Let us not forget that the way we treat our older generation reflects the ethos of our society. Our parents are to be our heritage and pride. Let us be awakened to our filial responsibilities.


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