Editor at COLL
For generation people worldwide saw matrimony as companionship from a reliable, bankable someone; who ensured their security and comfort in the length of life that time awarded them as a couple. Children meant duty but after roughly 40 years, there was role reversal and children looked after the aged parents. East of the world is especially strong on these sentiments and continues to uphold them. The last 50 years which is called the world economy’s “Golden era” created more smashing change than blooming change for urban human society.
What it smashed are dependencies, intimacy and communication. The growing boom in markets and global trade lent a grander canvas to the generations that came after 1950’s. In the times since – human equations became more individualistic than ever before. Dependencies moved from the partner – a real person – to machines, gadgets and technology. In almost 60 years that followed many aspects of interdependence has paved way to depending on programmed technology instead which meant it is now far easier than ever before to live without a life partner. Social media fills up the void of the mind to a large extent. New jobs and new opportunities are far easier to find. Travelling has become a MUST do on most people’s list. Being engaged with ones own time and life is no longer a challenge. The incidence of single people is thus growing and will be a far bigger percentage in the years to come.
The single old man and his preparation. 2015 I met a man who was to change the way I saw life and living. He was about 80 and lived alone all his life. he lived in my apartment just a floor below. Until about 10 years ago he had his mother with him and then she passed away leaving him in abject loneliness. I visited him at least twice in a week and took some food in the hope he finds it a small refreshing change from eating all those packed ready made foods he was eating for the last 3 years. His means were few….savings had dwindled….and all he had was this beautiful house he lived in. Worst case he told me, he would sell it and move to a smaller place and use the remainder of his money to live off it. One night he came home with a piece of paper in his hand and told me he needs a favour. He had been getting a fever on and off and while medicines were on, could not be sure how long his weary body will fight things like this now. The names on the chit were his brothers numbers and his nephews. He told me without a quiver in his voice – absolutely emotionless “If my news paper and milk are not picked up for a day or two, know that I have gone and please don’t wait – break open the door and make sure my family comes to conduct my last rites “. I didn’t sleep well for days and checked on him everyday until he was well again. For the time I lived there, I was making sure Uncle Khan was doing okay; but there is only so much one can do as a friend. The thought occurred for the first time in my 40 years, our exits won’t be really in our hands. While we work and earn, much in our control. What withers away as we age, is control on life and …..love.
Marriage does not guarantee company towards the end. Just as I was discussing with a friend who lived in the same apartment about such inevitable ends… I was reminded of a very successful man I once knew who had a roaring business, a loving wife and 3 sons. Unfortunately all sons turned out to be callous and uncouth. Each walked away to do their thing and left a mother dying of cancer with no care. The old man nursed and looked after her till she died. Then he was left alone and lived with a servant for years. But in time Dementia began to eat up his sanity and he would ask for his dead wife through the day. He would then be told by the house help that his wife died years ago-he would remember, go into fresh shock, cry bitterly, deal with it and then after a few hours again call out to her “Vasanti”…..the tired help would give up at times. He died miserably – a lonely man despite having 3 sons and having provided them the best life they could ever have expected.
Realisations : We as human beings do our best to think for today and now; but seldom travel to the distant tomorrow that may look so unlike anything life is today. We partner as best as we can, with who we think tomorrow will be safer, secure and warmer in love. When two people have found deep affection, there is comfort in knowing no matter what happens – whether children show up at the door or they forget, this spouse, these loving hands will be around to give you that last sip of water you want before you shut your eyes and will see no more. The hand that shuts those eyes will weep the most, because quality of death is guaranteed to only who has a living spouse. The one who gets left behind may or may not have a caring face at the time of parting. And in that reality one must conclude marriage and children don’t mean any shape and form of success. Being single does not mean despair either. If a Single person eventually found love and care with relatives who step up when it matters the most – they have indeed had it far better than someone who bent backwards all their life to finally fall and go alone.