It is International Mother’s Day and 82-year-old Farida Begum*, who gave birth to and raised seven children, does not have anyone to wish her on the occasion as she will be spending the rest of her days at a shelter home for old people, with none of her offspring by her side.
“One of her ‘distant relatives’ left her here two years ago,” said Akber Ali Rana, the founder of Sahara Welfare – a shelter home near the Punjab Chowrangi. He suspects that the distant relative was none other than Farida’s very own daughter.
But he maintains that he doesn’t care much about the background because his job is to provide immediate care for anyone who arrives at the home’s doorstep. “When people come to admit their old parents, they often introduce them as distant aunts or uncles, so it’s nothing unusual”
Farida apparently suffers from amnesia. She talks in broken sentences, mingling her story in a bundle of non-cohesive anecdotes. “All she wants is attention and care,” said Rana. He claims that in many cases, young married men and women drop their parents to his shelter home as they have become too involved with the city’s “fast-world, so they avoid their responsibilities.”
Most of the people admitted are “declared senile.” It’s a trick people often use to dispose off their parents,” he says.
“I have a number of old men and women in my shelter home who were admitted because they turned cranky and unmanageable, according to their family members.”
However, he believes that the elderly simply crave attention, or in other words, care. Those who want to get rid of their parents arrange for a medical certificate from a doctor that declares the parent “mentally unstable” and the children bring them here “without considering that such a step can never make them better.”
Renowned humanitarian Bilquis Edhi believes that doctors declare someone mentally unstable prematurely because they have turned their honourable profession into a business. “These days, people do not respect their parents and once they grow old, children avoid the responsibility of caring for them with the help of doctors.”
Edhi said that a mother is the prime minister of the house. She moulds the nature and temperament of her child. She gives all the love and care it needs. The humanitarian said that the youth must learn to respect their parents and realise the significance of having their mother alive on occasions such as Mother’s Day. “One should ask the true importance of a mother from a person who has lost her,” she adds.
Dressed in a faded red Shalwar-Kameez, Farida lies on a recliner in the terrace of the shelter home, staring blankly into space. Her story of being abandoned and declared senile by the same children who she so fondly cared for is similar to that of most people that inhabit the home.
Rana said he often receives calls from people who want to adopt children. “On Mother’s Day, I advise people who do not have parents to adopt these old people and treat them as their own parents,” he says, “because once they grow old, these people turn into children.”
*Name changed to protect privacy