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India had been a nation of values, tradition and love where mythology speaks of Shravan, Ram and Lord Ganesha – famously known for caring and loving the elders.
According to Population Census 2011, there are nearly 104 million elderly persons in India which are likely to increase in days to come. The number speaks of the responsibility that the immediate generation needs to shoulder on. But the situation, to a great extent, differs from the present reality that generates the need for many organisations to come forward for the help of the elderly people of our society.
Every year ISKCON gears up for the Rath festival amidst the monsoons and Lord Jagannath watches the preparation with full glory. The glory comes from the assurance that the inhabitants of Earth still believes in good, however, the good seems to be in threat with the statistics looking at the dark side of Indian culture as a whole.
As per the HelpAge India report 2018, the most common form of abuse the elders experienced was Disrespect (56%), Verbal Abuse (49%) and Neglect (33%). 82% of the elders who are abused do not disclose the matter. The life expectancy rate has increased with the developing medical science that has increased the number of elderly people in the society, though it is a piece of great news the thought of the imbalance of attitude between both the generations is a grave concern indeed.
Coming back to ISKCON, this year their theme project is ‘Empowering Elders’, Prem Swarup Das, the Project Director speaks, “Elders are the treasure of life, if we see Srila Prabhupada we can understand that in his 78 years of age he travelled to the West to preach spirituality. He made several sacrifices to make others happy but what people do in their life as they are miserable they try to make others miserable as well. On the contrary, Srila Prabhupada showed us the path to illuminate the lives of people and pointed to the truth that an elder person is an asset to the nation if treated in the right way.”
The launch of the project was done through an art exhibition where artists from different walks of life contributed to the art exhibition. The artworks will be on sale and the preceding will go to the charity for elderly people and an amount will be given as royalty to the artist. Special mention of Shubla Verma is a must who has donated her painting to ISKCON.
Everyone must inevitably turn old someday in his life and things done in youth will bear fruits in the old age. It is always advisable to make things right in the present than regretting about the past. “According to Varna Ashram, there are three systems – Brahmacharya, Grihasti and Vanaprastha. Vanaprastha is the time when a person is ripened with experience, wisdom and has seen life from all dimensions and that is very useful for the new generations. It is the time to churn all their knowledge, expertise and skills for the benefit of the society at large”, says Prem Swarup Das.
Dr Mahul Brahma, an author, artist and CSR brand manager of mjunction, says, “This exhibition is an effort to throw a message how elders should be respected. What I like about this exhibition is that every artist has given their thought and time. Every artwork is different from one another though addressing the same subject.”
He further adds, “Stress is making us more and more intolerable. Earlier there was a joint family system that helped every family member to cope up with any problems but with the increasing nuclear families, every individual is being frustrated in making the smallest adjustments. We are ready to make adjustments outside but not inside.”
When you selflessly serve you feel happy but when you grab something you feel accomplished but not happy. Education and training with human values are must, to upgrade the human value system. It will take time but change will come.” says Prem Swarup Das.
A scholar of Rabindra Bharati University from Bangladesh, Shimul Das, who participated in the art exhibition explains, “There are four stages of an individual – Jonmo (Birth), Mrityu (Death), Jora (Old age) and Bedhi (Illness) where old age is the stage where people feel helpless. Hence, the old age people want to get devoted to a spiritual entity. When you minutely think what we can take with us when we leave our soul it is only the fruits of your deeds or Karma, the attachments and the Bhagwad. Everything else will leave behind us. Even one’s body will perish and cannot be taken elsewhere.”
Ramesh Juneja, the ex-VP of Vodafone, says, “This is a very important step and meaningful too. A great way to make people aware of the dire situation that elders are currently facing. Each individual if take the initiative to join the project a lot of difference can be expected.”
This ISKCON’s movement will be a torchbearer for the generations to come and a great way to protect the elders against the prevailing situation.