Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

Milchar

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

  Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

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Milchar
October-November 2003 issue

Kashmir's Silk Embroidery with floral patterns

Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

 
  Editorial

P. N. Wali

Elderly in the community                             

One of the serious issues presently coming up is the problem of the aged. This does not only concern society as a whole but has special ramifications as far our community is concerned. It is time we start thinking seriously about it.

     With the increase in average life span (63 years at present) the number of old people in the society is increasing. These are people who have already spent their working life. They have less income, if any, at this stage. Even the savings made in the past have started yielding less and less of returns due to the decrease in the interest rates. Their needs for increased medical attention increases expenses on this account. A stage comes when they are not able to fully look after themselves and need physical help even for day to day activities.

     Besides the physical and financial needs, there are the psychological needs, need for expression and need for association. With the age, insecurity also increases. One looks for support from those around him. The psychological needs are sometimes more difficult to meet than even the physical ones.

     The needs of the old people have become more pronounced due to the breaking up of the joint family system in our country. Under the umbrella of joint family, the old received both physical and psychological support. And they were many times given the honour of heading the family unit. The fall of joint family system is an accepted fact now and we need not go into its causes, whether they were inroads of the new patterns of thinking among the young or the imperatives of the clustered city life etc. The greatest victims of the demise of the system are the old people.

     Let us see the problem from our community perspective. We have stuck to joint family system much longer than others have, and nuclear families have invaded us less till our young people were forced to look for greener postures outside Kashmir where all opportunities of occupation and progress were denied to them. The old generally stuck to their homes in the Valley, visiting their offspring in winter months and getting their visit back in the summers. While they enjoyed the partial family union for part of the year, they had the sense of security in their homes and society. Even this has fallen apart with exodus. The secure epicenter in the Valley is lost. Youngsters are scattered around the country if not the globe. Such places can not often accommodate the old. Where will they go? Many of them have opted for Jammu city, even constructed a couple of rooms to accommodate themselves to escape payment of monthly rent. They find many of their relatives at least of their age in Jammu. They can meet them more often. Jammu not being a very big town, travel within the city is possible and effortable. To fill the psychological gulf, the temples and ashrams build in Jammu with their enumerable havans and annual days, do their spiritual best.

     But how far will this quasi settlement of old and the weary continue. Further increase in the age and losing of life partners will make things more difficult. World over efforts have been made to help this situation institutionally. Old age settlements are coming up. These are not necessarily charities. The inhabitants pay for keep. But hey provide all the facilities, physical security, medical attention etc. What is more important is that they become communes for the old. They mix and socialize among themselves. Few of such places have come up in some other places in India.  

     Could we think of something like this for our community. I wish we would. They will be needed before long. And our elders will feel more at  ease with their own kind rather than in a mixed crowd. Old age homes of this type, partially or fully run as charitable institutions may also be required. These will for beneficial for the people who need old age support of all kind. If initiative is taken in setting up these places their will be people ready to support the cause.  

            I wish the thinking in the community should start now.  This year has been declared by the UN as year of the old. Many suggestions have been given in the UN declaration. But note worthy is the fact that it also wants special attention for old people who have been refugees. We are a typical example of the refugees in our own land. Our old people therefore come in the category envisaged by the UNO. We need to follow it up. 

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