My father, just before his death, left me with an account in the National Savings, a Government Savings Bank working since 1873. I was surprised at his decision to put me into extreme mental trauma of visiting a Government outfit which is well known for its exemplary worst customer services with long queues and stench infected surroundings. My first thought was of my father settling a score with me for so many unintentional pains I must have caused to him; the ones I now realize while raising my own kids. Today, nearing the end of my life, I realize that it was the best gift which a father could give to his son.

Thus beganmy journey into understanding life when I started visiting these centers regularly. The place is crowded with old people, mostly pensioners, who after retiring from the Government jobs have deposited whatever they had earned during their days in service. With the meager profits offered through these schemes, these senior citizens are coping up with living a white colored life in extremely difficult financial times.

No matter what their status used to be, now they have to stand in Queue, waiting for their turn to be called by the officer. The sitting capacity at these centers is less; hence most of them have to endure the physical trauma of standing for hours. However what really stands out is the silent pain visible on their faces as they interact with old friends and acquaintances. Under the joy of meeting and talking with friends, remembering old times, hidden are the miseries of loneliness manifested in so many ways.

When their turn to do the paper work comes; with shaking hands they try to write or tend to find someone younger to help them out. They try to engage the officer sitting at the counter for a long time by asking many questions or initiating some general discussion. The underlying fact of life is that what they are looking for is companionship. Most of them have practically lost touch with their children who have walked away to secure a better future abroad and the ones still living with them being busy building their own lives.  

Getting old is a reality which all of us have to face one day. But with the changing times, the older people are somehow treated like old furniture which has to give way for the new one. If they are lucky, they will be placed on displayby their children to cosmetically boast about the family structures and care for the older generation. The relatives who visit them after months generally exchange few pleasantriesand then leave them alone to stare at the empty walls. Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. To counter this loneliness and social isolation, these souls then try to find love from their grandchildren, but that happiness is short lived too as the children drift away with every passing day leaving behind only cosmetic ritual greetings every morning, if one is lucky.

The older people somehow find it hard to reach out. There is a stigma surrounding loneliness and they tend not to ask for help because they have too much pride. A lot of parents won’t even tell you about the problem because it’s so frightening to them, and they feel like no one will understand. And then when they do look around for help, there’s not any or very little. It is painful to note that the parentswho helped their children take their first step can’t seem to find the same reciprocation while taking their last steps in life.

Parents are the roots of the tree of life. They should not be considered as the ladders used by the children to grow up; but are the ones who provide strong foundation for their success.  Instead of hiding them in closed rooms, it is important to remember as to how they have toiled in bringing us up. As Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Monk, author, writer & peace activist puts it “If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people”.

The writer is a PhD in Information Technology, alumni of King’s College London and a social activist. He has authored two books titled Understanding Telecommunications and Living in the Grave and several research papers.The writer prefers to avoid human interaction and finds peace & happiness being alone, in silence with his own self.