Seniors citizens: Once the most respected, now the most vulnerable
“Blessed are you when you enjoy the company of elderly people. They are always ready to share their rich experience and wisdom with young people.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita
Sunday afternoon… having done with lunch, I went into my study… and, to have a few moments of ease, switched on the radio…. Oh!! to discover one of my favourite, and the most beautiful ghazals crooned by the late Jagjit Singh… “Mohalle ki sabse puraani nishaani, wo budhia jise bachche kahte the nani” (The oldest remnant of the town…an old woman, whom kids used to address as granny).
Suddenly, a pair of tiny hands felt like wiping tears rolling down my eyes…. “Oh! I didn’t realise when you came in”, I said to my 10-year-old nephew, and told him that the song I was listening to took me to nostalgic reminiscences of my childhood…!! He instantly questioned, if my childhood was full of THAT despair and hence, this ‘look’…!!
Fondly I told him about a stern-looking woman who used to be addressed as ‘nani’ by the entire colony we used to live in. I still don’t understand why I used to avoid being around her… I think I had not found her ‘friendly’ enough to interact with.
We used to live on the first floor and she, with her family, on the ground floor. I was probably around 3-4 years old. It was the time of Holi festivities. As a mark of respect to devotee Prahlad and as a ritual in Hindus, sugarcane stems are burnt in bonfire called Holika dehen… and I, having a sweet tooth, just loved to have sugarcane.
So back then, I used to accompany my father to participate in Holika dehen and my only objective used to be to grab at least a portion of those sugarcane from the bonfire. Tiny tots are always focused towards their goal, and not the surroundings and the outcome……!! I too had ‘sugarcane’ in my mind, and certainly not the ever-staring eyes of nani. Nevertheless, I felt like a winner after I managed to get a piece, though a small one… and, that too without being noticed by my father.
Next morning, I proudly took out my ‘trophy-cane’ and came into the balcony to relish it. While enjoying my cane, as I looked down the fence, to my surprise, nani was right there, down my balcony, staring at me… I don’t know what happened, but my hands trembled and the ‘possession’ slipped from my hand and fell just beside her. She instantly fainted. There was an uproar everywhere… nobody knew the cause…!! “Why she fainted” ….?? Asked my nephew…!! “Oh! Out of shock” … I told him. “When she came back to her senses, I was summoned to her place. By that time, I had prepared myself for a shower of admonitions.” “
Oh, poor you…. She too must have scolded you badly,” my nephew asked.
“No, on the contrary, she gave me a hug along with a big sugarcane and told me that it was unsafe to take out anything from the bonfire as it could prove fatal…and alerted my parents, too, to be more careful with small kids. After that incident, a beautiful ‘granny-child’ type bonding formed between both of us….!! We stayed there for a few more years, and moved from the place after my father got transferred to some other place. We haven’t met since, but she still remains as a special person in my heart.”
“Oh! How great that granny was…!!” He reacted.
“Yes, all senior citizens are great… they are full of experience and knowledge… we should all try and learn from them, respect them.” I said.
“But, a few days back my friend was telling me that someone killed his granny and the police were investigating the case…,” the little boy murmured.
His words drew my attention towards this gruesome reality that the crimes against elderly are on the rise not only in India, but in the whole world.
In India, murder, robbery, cheating and causing grievous hurt are the most frequent crimes against senior citizens. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows that crimes against senior citizens rose up to 10 per cent in 2015. A total of 20,532 cases of crimes against senior citizens were recorded in 2015, compared to 18,714 in 2014. In terms of number of cases, Delhi stood third with a share of 6 per cent crimes against senior citizens. Sikkim was the safest state for senior citizens in 2015, recording just three cases.
Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State were other states with high crime rates against senior citizens. Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State had a share of 17 per cent, 12 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively, out of the total registered cases 20,532 in the country.
It is true that when crime increases, the weaker sections in the population are hit hardest, and the aged are one of those weaker sections who are affected most. Owing to the decline in the joint family systems, many old people have to live alone or with younger members of the family, who are out in day time due to their jobs. Thus the aged become a soft target to the criminals.
Unfortunately, the criminals have become very bold because the criminal justice system in India is so soft and sluggish, that only a few are punished. Approximately, over lakh people are murdered every year in India but not even 100 are punished.
Another important reason behind the murders of rich old people is the lack of communication with their neighbours. They mostly live in big houses which are separated by boundaries of concrete and status. Analysis of crime against senior citizens has shown that they have been victimised by their servants, casual labourers, relatives and other persons finding them easy targets for depriving them of their cash and valuables. Hence, it becomes imperative for the elderly to take precautions for the safety of their life and property.
Crime prevention is everyone’s responsibility, not just a job for law enforcement. And crime can be reduced by simple measures like remembering to lock a door, knowing about common con games and watching out for your neighbourhood. Many senior citizens are so worried about crime that they shut themselves up in their homes and rarely go out. But isolating themselves behind locked doors and not interacting with neighbours actually makes it easier for criminals.
Seniors are the pride of a society and a nation. They are the embodiment of love, affection, compassion, endurance, patience, experience and knowledge. In their physically deteriorating and painful phase, seniors expect only a little morale boost from their loved ones… as Suzy Kassem quotes, “Right from the moment of our birth, we are under the care and kindness of our parents. Later on in life, when we are oppressed by sickness and become old, we are again dependent on the kindness of others. Since we are dependent on the kindness of others at the beginning and end of our lives, then how can we neglect projecting kindness towards others in the middle of our lives, when it is our best time to share it?”