“The thing Beta is, no one wants old people”
This fabulous man standing tall & proud, looking ageless, is Doctor uncle – the man who took care of my medical needs all through my childhood. He’s phenomenal not just because he’s the only doctor who gives injections so smoothly that you won’t even realize it but because he’s dedicated his whole life in serving those who can’t afford to pay for medical treatment.
He never married because he felt he was needed elsewhere, wholly.
“In my hey days I bought this apartment” he said pointing toward his first floor flat, in the same building where I had lived for 11 years of my life as a child. “I decided to give it to my older brother because he had a family and I felt he needed the security of a home more than me. I stayed there with them and their children and we were getting along great.
A few years back both of them passed away, my older nephew moved to another place with his wife and daughter and I continued to live with my younger nephew’s family.”
There was a pause as he looked around and surveyed the dilapidated structure of the garage he was seated in. The quarantined room smelled of old wood that was rotting, dust that hadn’t been cleaned in years and the moisture seeping in from the walls and the roof of the garage.
“Since then my nephew’s wife began showing her resentment toward me. I never came in their way, I did my own things, kept myself busy with my practice. Yet somehow she was hostile toward me. Her animosity for me has reached such a stage that she has discontinued me from seeing patients at home, and wants me ousted. So I spend most of my time in this garage here. I give patients appointments here and they come to get checked. But she continues to keep a watch on who visits me and arbitrarily creates a big scene about it. So I keep the garage shutters three fourths down.”
Mid way through the conversation he mentioned that it was his birthday. 90th birthday! So I wished him and touched his feet. “You’re the first person to wish me”. It broke my heart a little to hear that.
“20 years back I decided to get married to a dear friend of mine. I knew we were old, this probably would be a taboo, but my main objective was to ensure that my friend, who lived all by herself, had some company and after me she could benefit from my pension. But today my nephew’s wife won’t let her in the house. On some days when I don’t get fed at home, my wife comes from her place only to feed me”. My heart broke a little more. “I don’t want to contest with anybody about how the house is rightfully mine. I’m not going to take any of this with me when I die. I will only take peace and that’s what I want now.”
He suddenly took my hand, looked at the unruly lines adorning my palm and said “you will have a long, fulfilling life. In 10 years’ time you’re going to do something great. And when you do, remember me. I won’t be around but remember my words.”
I thought I would break down, and begin crying any moment.
And then just like that, as if he had read my mind, he spoke softly. “The thing is beta, no one wants old people”.
It broke all of me……….
(As narrated by Sneha, Silver Innings to Suhana Bhatia of India Pages (name withheld in interest of the elderly person)