With changing times, values are changing as well. Sometimes, for the better, at others, for the worse. Here is a fictional story depicting the stark realities of the 21st century in which old parents are being increasingly abandoned by their children. Now it depends on us whether we follow the herd or decide for ourselves what is right and what is not.
P.S. This short story was published in the annual Magazine of King Edward Medical University: KEMCOL 2011.
“They can not run away will all my gold and money…! I will not let them! After all I’m the daughter of Major Pasha and the wife of Justice Mahmood…! Do they think me weak? Do they?” Mrs Mahmood was now getting highly agitated while she explained her situation to a renowned neurologist of the country.
No, she wasn’t mentally challenged. Her only problem was that she still lived in the past. Her father had died 10 years ago and her husband was now a retired justice. So she was as weak as a person next door who had a simple salaried job and had no ‘contacts’ with higher ups to get their menial jobs done in a blink of the eye. She had to stand in a line like all others for her passport to be made. She couldn’t threaten the traffic police with job dismissals on giving her a chalaan. The ‘kitty party’ aunties didn’t come to her house as often as they did before perhaps because they felt it was better to spend time with some influential people rather than an ‘old’ useless couple who had been deserted even by their very own children.
Aaah children! This was still a very sore topic for Mrs. Mahmood. She couldn’t come to terms with the fact that her own ‘Hammad’ and ‘Abdullah’ were no more hers. They had married of their own choices and then settled abroad. It had been five years since she had seen the face of her youngest one. She had heard that he had a son and a daughter…! Her grandchildren! How she longed to touch them! To get a glimpse of them! Perhaps they resembled her or her husband! She often dreamt that they had come to visit her but her dream always remained that…a dream!
Dreaming to see her grandchildren! Who would’ve thought it would come to this? That wasn’t how she had brought up her children! She had always taught them to respect their elders and never hurt anyone’s feelings. And not just by words but also by actions. Mr. Mahmood’s parents had always stayed at their house and she had gone to all pains to make them comfortable and happy. They had died content with their daughter in law. Hadn’t Hammad and Abdullah seen this? Then how could they even think of cutting off completely from their parents? At this old age, when all they wanted was to see the happy faces of their children and grandchildren! The cruel sons had deprived them even of this small happiness.
Why? What had gone wrong? She could never get this answer. She had pondered on it for years. First, blaming her job for being the reason that she hadn’t been able to give quality time to her kids. Then, accusing her husband for sending them off to the States at a very young age. And lastly, the Western values of polarized families that were being taken up by the new generation.
But she had never been able to blame her sons! After all, they were her blood. She firmly believed that they would come back. Her love would bring them back. She didn’t want to believe anything else. Weeks turned into months and months into years without any sign of them. Thus she was forced to believe that she really had been abandoned. Life became listless and purposeless.
This harsh fact was too hard to digest for Mrs. Mahmood. Her moods started changing. Sometimes she talked so much and so irrelevantly that the servants were bored to death listening to her. She was always irritable. Even her husband was unable to pacify her.
When matters became worse, he decided to take her to a neurologist. And there she was now. “Mrs. Mahmood! No one will run away with your gold. And ofcourse you’re not weak. Just try to relax yourself.” The doctor addressed his patient gently. “Relax? These servants are such a pain! They never listen to me even if I beat them up.” The doctor raised his eyebrows at the mention of physical aggression. This case was more complicated than he’d thought. “Doctor sahab! My wife also shows this unbridled passion for shopping. I can understand it is common for women but this is something more! Last week she bought a dozen unstitched dresses of the same design saying that she was buying them for her niece’s wedding. That niece is only 4 years old!” Mr. Mahmood explained. After much discussion, the end result was the same as is after every visit to a doctor. The doctor prescribed a bunch of medicines, told the patient to take some rest and re visit after 2 weeks.
For the next 2 weeks, giving medicines to Mrs. Mahmood became a huge ritual for the entire household i.e. half a dozen servants and Mr. Mahmood. At first, she’d refuse point blank from taking the medicines at all. If she were coerced, she’d become highly violent. Then after much pleading and persistent pestering, she’d give in. Sometimes, her will power proved too strong for all of them and she’d succeed in not taking the medicines.
And with this, the 2 weeks were over and they were back at the doctor’s. This time the doctor prescribed heavy dosage of sedatives to calm her down. She was then too sleepy all the time not even getting up to take meals. She’d dose off even when she was made to sit. Mr. Mahmood was greatly worried.
After consultation with some of his friends, he decided to change the doctor. Then during the course of treatment, it was discovered that neurological disorders ran in Mrs. Mahmood’s family. Her father had had a nervous breakdown after his son’s death. Her distant aunt had also faced a similar fate. And now it seemed like she was headed the same way. But there was a difference. She had the means to live but no meaning to live for. And so her health status continued to decline.
When no medicines could cure her, the doctor decided to hospitalize her. That is when Mr. Mahmood tried to get in touch with his sons but could find no trace of them. What a pity it was!
World indeed had become too fast paced. Children no longer had time for their parents; the same parents whose entire lives had revolved around their children. He still remembered the day when his eldest son was born. He and his wife had been so ecstatic. They distributed sweets in the entire neighborhood. Their newborn was the apple of their eyes. They could never let him out of their sights. Mr. Mahmood worked day and night to ensure a bright future for him. They had so many plans for him. All of which were shattered one by one.
And now the last straw, their mother was on her deathbed, and there was no sign of either Hammad or Abdullah! And so Mrs. Mahmood died quietly one day. Her last wish had been to see her sons for one last time. Unfortunately, that wish remained unfulfilled. Her sons were too busy with their own lives.
50 YEARS LATER
He was thirsty. He wanted to ask someone for water but there was no one around. Well, no one who could get him water. All the people were too old like him. They were all dependent on others for their petty needs. Yes, he was living in an old home. He had been abandoned by his wife and kids when they felt he was no longer of any use to them. Much like he had once done with his parents.
aaah! His parents! These days he remembered his mom a lot. She often came in his dreams, saying, “Hammad! My dear son! Where are you? Come to me…” He wished he could turn back the wheels of life. Just to get a glimpse of his parents. Just to talk to them once. Just to say once, “MA, I’m sorry…!” But alas, it was too late. Too late!