Piku to Rana from the film Piku by Shoojit Sarkar: “Ek time ke baad bacchon ko apne parents ko zinda rakhna padta hai.”

Perhaps I have never identified with any statement as strongly as this one. It is indeed true that after a point in time children have to keep their parents alive – this could be through love, excessive cajoling/mollycoddling, treating them as our child/children or even arguing with them.And all this is because we want to hold on to them for just a few extra years; it is also because we wish to delay the inevitable by some more years!

Sometimes it becomes increasingly difficult to put up with their idiosyncrasies which often indicate of them being reverted to their childhood. And this at times honestly becomes tiresome, frustrating and nerve wracking to say the least. However in the end we know that the love we harbor for them, the care that supports every action that we take for them and the fact that their leaving this world will be the greatest pain ever will diminish our hurt, our ego or our frustrations some day.

Recently when both my parents tested positive for SARS Covid-19 hell broke loose on us -my sister, my husband and I were engulfed in disillusionment in no time. It was long before rationality and pragmatism took over. Living in a different city (thankfully not different timelines) made the situation harder and more painful to be aptly put. A sense of unending mayhem played with our mind constantly tearing us between being practical and remaining emotional.

Eventually when good sense prevailed my sister decided to travel down, stay separate from them but close enough and monitor the situation. As predicted this move was highly condemned by the parents who ultimately yielded in seeing no other option in sight. The initial days besides being traumatic also became mentally exhaustive as the urge and the necessity to care was constantly being thwarted with disinterest, negativity and allegations that we were outsmarting our parents.

This is a common scenario in most Indian households where parents irrespective of their children’s age refuse to pass the baton in most situations perhaps to maintain their authority or it could be their way of justifying their sense of responsibility which voluntarily or involuntarily have come to them. Their idea of negating the children’s efforts or shunning them by saying, “I could have preferred it this way” leaves the latter quite disillusioned and confused to the extent that they dread the word responsibility in every aspect. Sometimes it helps in households where the child/children shirk their responsibilities however in most cases it affects the parent-child relationship eventually.

Having monitored our parents constantly and quite minutely we have been able to help them feel better and thankfully they acknowledge that fact. However as children do we really seek acknowledgement? Does that “pat on the back” for fulfilling our basic roles and responsibilities matter at all? I am sure the answer to both these questions would be a unanimous “NO”; all we care for is some acceptance that we have aged too…and quite wisely at that too!

However the best revelation that have I derived out of this calamity is (just like how our parents have always read us bedtime stories with “morals” in the end) that parents and children share a love-hate relationship and that should be normalized by one and all. Gone are the days when parents need to be kept at a pedestal where they constantly need to be worshipped by abiding children.

It is time we understand and accept that the journey of parenting, being parented and in turn be taken care of by the later generations is an uphill task at every stage. None of these come with instruction manuals that can be referred to; every step is intertwined with the other. Every action will either have results or repercussions and these need to bore by each of the individuals who are part of this relationship. There is no way one can or should abandon the other. Standing by each other both at their highs and the lows is a mandate.

As parents complete their 11th day into this dreaded ailment there is both hope and fear-hope that every tunnel has a light in its end or like how the darkest of nights usher in the brightest of mornings and fear because of the uncertainty and frailty that old age brings in. It takes us one step closer to the inevitable. The fact with parents ageing is the scare and apprehension that perhaps they had undergone when we were kids-our wobbly first step, our first fall, our first day of school.

Just as those fleeting moments which our parents wanted to capture we now wish to capture their precious moments pleasant or unpleasant. Somewhere their desire to stop time in our childhood is akin to what we feel as they age. Our parents’ aspiration to hold us close to them for as long as possible is similar to what we feel when we spot their increasing greys or stooping backs!

Just as a journey has its adventures and stumbling blocks, life too exhibits the same. The parent-child relationship should be natural, spontaneous and not bound by judgements or anger. It is agreeable that parents do a lot to put their children’s future ahead of theirs however great parenting often believes in not verbalizing this. Children do not see the light of the day because they wanted to but rather their parents chose them to do so. But their choices should take a back seat when it is necessary to do so; they should believe in their children and their decisions. Even if they fall, a parent must help them to stand up again-as they say “behind every child who believes in himself is a parent who believed in him first.” Likewise children need not return favors by merely fulfilling responsibilities; they should identify the need to give their parents space when they solicit. They should not be expected to nurture their children or their grandchildren all through life. This should be a voluntary act.

Perhaps the best way to cherish this relationship would be to embrace each other whole heartedly including the shortcomings-best summarized by the character Champak Bansal (played by late Irrfan Khan) in Homi Adajania directed Angrezi Medium where he says…”jab talak balak aapki ungli chhodega nahi … tab talak aake gale kaise lagavega!

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