I visit a lot of old people during my stint in the City of Joy, yet each visit sometimes leaves me grieved,sometimes wondering and definitely with a lot of unanswered questions..
Old women primarily discuss domestic help issues, grandchildren,food,recipes,books-few of them who can still manage to read despite their failing eyesight and various aches and pains..I remember my grandma, she was so different and yet seemingly normal, would mix into the millions of (vermillion-hair parting) women all across the country, to describe her it would probably take another series of posts but at the age of retirement she was busy learning to paint,sing and live her life, she did all the mundane household chores and still managed to read and knit and sew clothes for all of us..There is an old relative who is always lamenting at the loneliness she has to face and why she has to live alone with a domestic help, the fact is wherever she goes she is unhappy,caught between cross fires..on one hand she misses her children and grandchildren , on the other she wants to stay in her own house which is in a separate continent, it is true when someone said “in life you cannot have everything”….On the other hand another old relative who has also lost her husband but is rich and quite miserly about money is quite happy staying alone in her mansion eating traditional Bengali food and going about her daily routine..
Elderly men on the other hand, my grandpa’s park group talk about history,literature,politics,old achievements and work related chit chat laced with problems faced by them while depositing money for various bills at Public offices.
What I saw on my visit was a completely different scenario..A beautiful empty house with just an elderly person on the first floor and an attendant..He had his books lined up by his bedside and greeted me with words of a Bengali poem which is famous and well known..He told he how lonely and desolate his old age was yet the books and verses he chanted from spiritual books that kept him going and it was his last leg of a journey..He was deaf almost,could barely hear, had a racking cough, yet the spark in his eyes and the smile on his face will stay with me forever..I may have no connection yet their seemed to exist an unknown human bond which connected our thoughts and minds, I could feel the pain of his old bones, the pain of staying all alone, the pain of being friendless , more so the pain of neglect and the absence of a loved one close at hand…
I was so helpless and dumb struck as I walked out and away after my visit, I forgot to mention his hospitality was something I being a “Bengali” am so proud of, it was just like the Old days where he shouted to the attendant to offer me some fruits of the season and made sure I ate them..This was the hospitality which existed in Old undivided Bengal, something which my grandparents have grown up witnessing and something that is dying in the modern technological age where money replaces values and machines replace humans…I rarely find it in my counterparts or same age people, I rarely find it in the 30,40’s generation..
But the Golden Generation may be old,may be weak but their hospitality is worth more,much more than real “gold”..…..