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Articles Section > The Generation Gap [Part 5 of 5] by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui Sahib

The Generation Gap -- Part 5 of 5:
by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui Sahib
The Light (September 1, 1976)

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Also Read Parts: || 1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 ||

I suppose my readers must by now be tired of reading about this subject in my previous four articles on this topic. But this, I hope, will be my last write-up on the subject. And for a change, there will not be much discussion in this article, but more of an account of a visit to an Old People’s Home in Paris by a Pakistani writer named Mr. Ataul Haq Qasmi. 

Before I begin the narrative, let me refer to one of the vital points I had made in my previous articles. According to the Holy Qur’an, old parents should not be cast into an institution (such as an Old People’s Home, as in Europe and America) but should be kept by their children with themselves. What the parents in their old age need most is personal care, affection and nearness to their children who were, and still are, dearest to them. Living like derelicts in an institution, denies them all that and, in course of time, drives them to melancholia, mental disorders and even suicide. This is confirmed by the following account of Mr. Ataul Haq Qasmi’s visit to an Old People’s Home in Paris. It appeared in the daily Nawai Waqt of Lahore recently. Mr. Qasmi visited this institution with a lady named Zola. When they entered the room where the old people were passing an evening, this is what he witnessed: 

Zola’s eyes were searching for her mother. Eventually they were fixed on an old woman who was reclining in a rocking chair at the end of the hall. Zola went behind the chair and put her hands on her mother’s shoulders. The old lady opened her eyes and, on seeing Zola, sat up at once. She kissed Zola again and again on her cheeks. She was taking stock of her dress with intent eyes. It seemed as if the old lady was lost in admiration and love. After they had talked for ten or fifteen minutes it appeared from Zola’s face as if a great load had got off her mind and she was feeling lighter and happier. 

Zola told me later that her mother was insisting on going home. But on Zola’s persuasion, and because I was in Paris, she had very reluctantly agreed to stay a few days more in this institution. 

Zola said to me: "I told her falsely that I will take her out of this institution next week. Mother said that she would not come in the way of my engagements; on the other hand, she would cook for me and do all the shopping for the cooking." 

"What else did she say?" I asked with a sad heart. 

"She was complaining about my elder brother that he had not visited her for two years. Nor has she been able to see her grandchildren for a long time. Mother is very fond of them," said Zola. 

An old inmate of the institution addressed Mr. Qasmi: "Do you people also have such homes for the old persons?" 

Mr. Qasmi answered: "No, we do not have them. They live in our midst till they die. And we feel pleasure in serving them. Some of us don’t do it, but our society does not look upon them with approval." 

"Then you people are certainly more civilised than we are," said the old man with a catch in his voice. "If we are spending the remaining days of our lives away from our children, nobody but ourselves is to blame. Our own parents also used to long to see us." 

"That means your children do not come to see you?" asked Mr. Qasmi. 

"In the beginning when they enter us in such a place, they come during the weekend. As time passes, the gap between their visits lengthens and they do not visit us more than once a month. Gradually even the monthly visit is replaced by an annual visit at Christmas. Later, even at Christmas a greeting card comes instead of our children. And then one day, on getting intimation from this institution, they come to receive the dead body of the parent. The corpse’s eyes remain open to catch the last glimpse of its children." 

"I felt as if somebody had wrung my heart", says Mr. Qasmi "and I did not want this topic to continue. But the old man went on ...." 

"We have here the necessary comforts and facilities. But we long to see the faces of our children. Previously the administration allowed us to keep pets here. So the inmates kept cats or dogs and gave them the love and affection which they wanted to give their children. But now the administration has banned pets. So now several mothers take to bed with them dolls to whom they talk, sing lullabies and put to sleep. We may appear to you to be laughing and playing indoor games. But our hearts are empty, our laughter is hollow and our breasts suppress cries of heartache. When a visitor comes, our faces light up for a while. When he leaves, we sink back into the depths of sadness and loneliness …." 

Mr. Qasmi continues: "Although the old man was speaking in English and most of the others present could not follow him, the pain and sadness in his voice made the faces of those sitting round our large table a picture of sadness and loneliness. The atmosphere was that of a graveyard and, in the silence that followed, one could almost hear dead spirits pass-by. I felt as if the pre-occupied children of these men and women had already clothed them in shrouds and entrusted them to the undertakers for burial." 

I caught hold of Zola’s arm and came out. Her mother came to see her off till the outermost gate. Her face was a picture of helplessness and humility. She was reminding Zola again and again not to forget to take her out of that place to her flat next week. She would be content to live in the storeroom. She would not come in the way of Zola’s engagements. She would fetch the bazaar and cook for her. She was following us like a beggar. Zola looked back at her mother with disdain and caught hold of my arm to take me out. 

That ends one glimpse of the life in an Old People’s Home near Paris. I have read in the world-famous Readers Digest, whose circulation probably now exceeds twenty million copies, interviews with the inmates of the Old People’s Homes in USA. The inmates had a sad tale to tell of how their children deposited them in these Homes on false pretexts and promises and then gradually forgot all about them. These old parents even then forgave their children, but begged that they should at least write to them occasionally. 

Let this be a lesson to our youth who have been blinded by the spell cast over them by the Western civilisation into following it slavishly. Today’s children will become tomorrow’s parents. What will be their fate then? Let them remember the Holy Qur’an’s direction that old parents should be kept with themselves, whatever that may involve, in the same way as the parents kept them next to their hearts, whatever the suffering and sacrifices involved, and did not consign them to an orphanage as the children are apt to discard them into an Old People’s Home.

Also Read Parts: || 1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 ||


Articles Section > The Generation Gap [Part 5 of 5] by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui Sahib


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