August 21, it’s National Senior Citizens Day here in USA. The day
is observed to celebrate and honor our elderly population. On this day, we are encouraged to recognize and show appreciation for the value and contribution of elderly people to home, family and society.
In his Presidential Proclamation (August 19, 1988), President Ronald Reagan said "For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older."
Various events and activities are organized on Senior Citizens Day to raise awareness of supporting older people and recognizing their achievements. Some people raise awareness through social media and news stories, while others organize special community gatherings inviting senior citizens, their families, friends and volunteers. Some businesses give special discounts or deals to senior citizens on or around August 21. Most places, especially in buses, trains and many restaurants, the senior citizens are not only given special discounts, but also a special place. The government gives them free health insurance for the best medical care, besides other social benefits, including social security and supplementary income. Getting old has its advantages in the U.S.
The cultural compulsions might have motivated President Ronald Reagan to sign the Presidential Proclamation declaring August 21 as the National Senior Citizens Day, but, as in Indian and other Eastern cultures, the act of encouraging our loved ones’ happiness and social interaction should happen throughout the year, not just on Senior Citizens Day. There’s never a bad time to make our loved ones feel special, and there are a lot of different ways to reap the benefits of connecting with seniors, from simple day-to-day check-ins to intergenerational family activities. Having observed the contrast in Western culture for years now, I believe such a proclamation is, indeed, a thoughtful leadership decision to inculcate spirit of dedication towards senior citizens, who are generally left alone to lead a lonely life. I remember when we had just come here, an elderly lady living next door was so happy to have us as friends and openly acknowledged that we, specially my wife Jeet, had given her a new life with our interesting interaction daily when her husband was gone to work and her son and daughter-in-law living in a distant area of the city, visiting the parents once in awhile. She once even suggested to Geet that she could introduce her to a friend, another lonely lady, who would be ready to pay her at least $25 per hour if she could go to her place and just talk to her for as long as jeet could spare the time. Of course, Jeet declined the offer as she could never reconcile to the idea of taking material advantage of her friend’s loneliness.
In contrast to Western culture, depicting the importance of parents in our life, the finest anthology of verses from Indian scriptures for guiding towards better life, happiness and peace teach to respect and treat parents above everything else. If we keep our parents happy and satisfied then every god will be happy and satisfied with our deeds and acts. There is a mention in the Indian ancient scripture that if you have bad impact of Sun, you pray and seek the blessings of your parents and you will be alright. It is advised in Indian culture that every morning, immediately after waking up, we should bow to our parents and seek their blessings for better day and fulfillment of our wishes and desires. Even today, in traditional Indian family this practice is followed like a ritual. So, to be happy and live life with utmost happiness, we must love, respect and offer our duty to our parents and elders.
Before concluding, I must mention Abhishek’s movie SHARARAT (2002). I had absolutely no expectations while slipping Shararat into my DVD player, I thought it would be yet another worn out tale of perhaps a teeny-bopper romance trying to be an eternal love story. The beginning did not disappoint me, Abhishek Bachchan(Rahul Khanna) speeding along in his fast car, involved in an inexplicable race with another gang etc.. He gets thrown in jail, and only then does the story begin to unfold. The judge, nudged on by an ambitious reporter Neha(Hrishita Bhatt), wanting a unique punishment for him, sends him to perform community service.. and that too, at an Elderly Peoples ashram! His indignation knew no bounds, and with disgust written all over him, he sets off with Neha(wanting her scoop!) to perform this torturous penance. He finds the place exactly as he anticipated, and doesn't hesitate to turn his nose up at everything. But in spite of his rude and disrespectful ways, the elders accept him, and try and get him involved.. all except Prajapati Saab, Amrish Puri.. a cranky and snooty man who made his millions in mining. I must admit I rather enjoyed the scenes between Puri and Bachchan.. had me laughing more than once.! Rahul begins to mellow.. but can he actually change all his ways?
Rather enjoyable a movie, very different from any other Indian movie I have seen recently. If you're looking for a change from the running-around-trees scenes, this is a good choice. And the undaunting spirit of the Senior Citizens at the Ashram provide good fun along the way.
With regards and best wishes