Our Vanaprasthas-Retirees or house slaves?
It is J’ouvert morning in Trinidad and Tobago. Rajesh and Sandra are on the streets of San Fernando playing J’ouvert with friends. They left their home at Palmyra at 12 midnight with other siblings, relatives and friends.
Rajesh and Sandra are in their mid-thirties. They have been married for six years and have a five-year old daughter. Her name is Candy. They don’t have to worry about Candy. She is safe at Rajesh’s mother. She loves to take care of her granddaughter.
Rajesh’s mother, Samdaye or Nani is sixty-six years old and a beneficiary of the old age pension from the State. Samdaye is in good health except for the occasional arthritis. She lives with Meena, a fourteen-year old grand-daughter, who is a Form Two people at a secondary school. Meena’s parents have separated and both of them are in new relationships. Busy with their lives, they have forgotten Meena. Samdaye is now worried that should she die, who would take care of Meena.
Vanaprasta or retirement is a dream for Samdaye. Her only hobby is going to the temple on a Sunday. Sometimes she cannot attend because Rajesh and Sandra would call and request her to prepare lunch. Samdaye never seemed to mind but she knows she needs some rest but she feels helpless. When her younger sister, Kissoondaye, told her that her children are taking advantage of her she would not say a word.
This is the predicament of retirees in T&T. They are a new breed of house slaves to grown up children and grand-children. People like Samdaye are destroying the life of their children and grand-children by not allowing them to take charge of their responsibilities. Rajesh and Sandra could go to J’ouvert because they have the eyes, hands and heart of Samdaye to care for Candy.
Duty or dharma is the essence of our existence. Water has its dharma, the fruit has its dharma and so also individuals at all stages of their lives. A retiree or vanaprasth should be engaged in voluntary, not compulsory service. Candy is Rajesh and Sandra’s responsibility and not Samdaye’s. Both Samdaye and Rajesh and Sandra are guilty of dereliction of duty. As parents they have a dharma to care for Candy. Samdaye as a mother has a duty to let her son, Rajesh, knows that taking charge of his responsibility is healthy and will benefit him in the long run.
Whose responsibility is Meena? Meena’s father does not provide any support for her. When he visits his mother, he holds no conversion with Meena. He never offers to take her on an outing to the zoo or other places of interests. Meena is living in a prison with a grandmother who can only do this much.
In most families today there is no sense of direction. The student age or bramacharya is not observed. The average youth is focused on music and fashion, the opposite sex and the sewage that flows out of the internet. There is a growing culture of teenage pregnancy and truant bahaviour that disrupts learning. In many schools the teachers have to spend 15 to 25 minutes per session settling disputes ranging from fights, verbal abuse, throwing of paper on the floor, damaging furniture, etc.
The failure experienced in the student age transfers to the householder stage. Mothers like Samdaye are guilty of destroying the life of their children. Had she insisted on discipline, her son Rajesh would have been more responsible and not jumping J’ouvert with and equally irresponsible wife. As for Meena’s dad he appears to have no sense of responsibility. Samdaye must have interpreted parenting as simply providing the physical or creature comforts-house, food, clothing, etc. She appears not to know the difference between minding hog and bringing up children!
Higher values such as accepting responsibilities and looking beyond one’s self-interest was never taught. So long as there was a mother in the person of Samdaye to fulfil their whims and fancies, Rajesh and his brother couldn’t care less. As for Sandra, she appears be happy with a husband who has no sense of responsibility. Sandra’s abandonment of her five-year old daughter to go J’ouvert says much of her. Definitely, she is the ideal match for Rajesh and they are lucky have ‘a house slave’ to help them support this life style.
When Meena has Parents’ Day at school it is Samdaye’s responsibility as guardian to attend. Meena’s mother cannot be found and her father knows that Meena is the responsibility of his sixty-six-year old mother. With her pension she sends Meena to school, pay bills, buy food and runs the entire household. Rajesh and Sandra and Candy regularly enjoy the meals prepared in her kitchen and would not contribute anything to the household.
Vanaprasthas are the new house slaves (Nanis). Today the Vanaprastha migrates to North America to baby sit their grand-kids until their services are no longer needed. They are only left to return home and wait on Yamraj to pass and take them away. As for the grand kids that they baby sit “they really don’t like Trinidad.” The reality is they are a bunch of disgusting lousy descendants of the flotsam and jetsam of the Gangetic Plain. Like Samdaye, they will be casualties not of Dr Keith Rowley but the very snakes that they have fed with the milk of selfishness and self-centeredness.