Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I am always a bit nervous on way to Mohali with Aqseer.

Fluffy was her birthday gift when she turned five and the animal lover that she is, the dog gets a thorough and prompt run over even as the front gate is sliding open in our welcome The event invariably ends in a frown. If it is not the ingrown toe nail, it is the tick under the chin; if it is not the curtain coming down over the pooch’s eyes, it is the lump in the neck; if it is not the dull fur, there are the inexplicable shivers.

This time it was worse. There was the odour of age and a bladder that had lost its elasticity. Horror of horrors, the dog had been consigned to an outhouse for these two reasons…a comfortable, cosy and blanketed corner but under the stairs and ‘out of the house’ as far as the young owner was concerned! It did not matter that she was regularly cleaned, fed, aired and walked. In the cataract induced collisions of Fluffy and her depressive gnashing of teeth, Aqseer was seeing the waste that is called growing old. No living being needed to come to ‘this’ was her argument and that surely there were solutions.

I remembered an airport ride from Los Angeles to catch a flight to San Jose during which, a discussion ensued on how tough families in America found, having to take care of their old. A certain gentleman had opined the dire need for a machine that could dispense with those above ‘past self-sufficient’ dates in a painless manner. It made no sense for them to continue in a non-productive and vegetative state was his theory. It cost too much! Imagine a seven feet high and two feet wide metallic, circuit ridden column with a switch to the right. Just as soon as the family senior began signs of incontinence and dementia, well…step into the ‘Senior Dispenser’ and press the button. Voila! One clean whoosh and the weary souls go streaking up in a clean smoke.

No diaper distress, no indignities of dependence and no elderly abuse.  In this context, Aqseer’s overriding thought was perhaps if it would be better for everyone concerned to just let Fluffy go. Call it the ultimate act of love! The mother of tough decisions? What thoughts though, one did wonder, swirled in the senior Eskimo’s head as he stepped out onto the ice floe as soon as he began to feel a burden on his family? Did it make evolutionary sense to spend precious resources caring for the aged and infirm? How much of it was a cultural thing? What part of it had to do with us being the highest primates?

Is it not after all, about morality? About paying dues? About rights and responsibilities? About the continuum of past and present? About remembering that very often it is as tough to be cared for as it is to care for. About the abiding affirmation of life and the universal truth that so long as the breath rises and falls, the sanctity of life must be preserved.

Pearl S. Buck said, "Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them for the test of a civilization is the way it cares for its helpless members."

And lest we forget, the elixir of youth has not be invented yet!

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