Morally Punishable-Not Legally

Old Man

A recent report in print media actually baffled me and had sent me into a thought-spin. The headline read something like this-
“China is considering passing law which forces youngsters to look after elderly parents or face jail.”

The Chinese government is considering asking the employers to grant special leaves to the employees- on the same lines as we have the Sick leaves- to visit their elderly parents who don’t stay with them. The growing work related stress, the migration of the youth to more suitable location in search of occupation and trade-or it might be the abhorring truth of utter negligence of aging parents by their progeny- that have made lives of elderly quite lonely, with a shadow of helplessness that seems always looming over. The uncertainty and melancholy of the single surviving parent- who have lost their spouse- is even more palpable: they are probably not scared that the inevitable is round the corner, but more by the nature of it-petrified of lonely deaths, or by the heartrending incidences of abandoned bodies being discovered after it is rotten and neighbours complain of unbearable stench. Considering that one in every eight citizens of China, is above the retirement age, so we a speaking of a sizeable chunk of the population.

The tidings of such a law in China, very much on the expected lines, invited a lot of debate, discussion, about the impracticality to put such law to use and even disbelief.

Some legal luminaries opine that any law or rules in the book would not be good enough to solve the malice- very rightly, I believe. Can the legal system force anyone to look after their parents- or even it manages to force the progeny to stay with their parents- will it really solve the purpose in the truest sense of terms?

And consider for once, will a self-respecting elderly lady or gentleman ever seek legal help to punish or reprimand his or her offspring for not taking care of them? – I don’t know what reaction it would meet in china, but in India, more than anything else- it would invite unwanted comments about the ‘upbringing’ of the child, about not being brought up with ‘proper ‘values, and so on and so forth.

It is amazing, even disgusting, that our education system (with all the due respect) is found wanting in helping us deal with the larger aspects of our life. And probably we have accepted education to be just that: in a very broad and realistic way, we are supposed to mug up some written lines or formulas from textbook, and put them on the exam sheet and secure reasonably good marks, percentage and all that. A good percentage of mark secured is a testimony of the fact that we have been sincere and hardworking, and have amplified acceptability in our society-whose approvals we always hanker after. And then it gets us a job, fetches us money, and the purpose of our education is COMPLETE!

Unfortunately, neither education nor the fat legal books ever told me to be Kind to fellow beings, to be helpful, to be generous, to look after parents-and the basic things that actually make us a good human being.

I still remember, we used to have chapters of Moral Science in our primary schools. I, as a kid, loved it more than Mathematics, Science, Geography or any other subjects as it seemed relatively easily comprehensible- to be grasped quickly. Moral Science soon became extinct on reaching higher classes-I was told that it is ‘useless’ – not important enough to be studied at higher classes. And very soon, I started taking interest on those subjects which were deemed to be vital in our future prospect of life. We have to get along with the Wave-need not us?

I am talking of a childhood friend of mine, ambitious as he was, always wanted to study in the best of institutions available in India and abroad. Sometimes his merit failed him -sometimes his lower middle class background. Eventually, while he was on onsite assignment in UK on his job, he managed himself a Management degree from an institute none other than the prestigious Oxford University.

A fat salaried job beckoned him –his humble roots were soon to be a distant memory. On visiting my native last time, I was surprised to meet him and discover that he had left London and settled there.

“My ailing parents brought me here- I am the only offspring of my parents,” –he said without a semblance of repentance of having abandoned a high life.
No wonder he used to secure the highest marks in Moral Science, I can still recollect.