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Whither dignity?

"You Speak, We Listen", the grievances cell of Dignity Foundation saw senior citizens express some of their problems. There was also an illuminating talk by actor Charuhasan.

RAMNATH C. Dore was fidgety. "I'll wait for just three more minutes," he threatened. When those three minutes were over, he issued fresh three-minute threats. Dore was not the only one forced to play the waiting game recently at the Andhra Mahila Sabha. There were other senior citizens like him who were also waiting for lawyer-turned-actor Charuhasan, who was to be the chief guest at the Dignity Foundation's "You Speak, We Listen", a grievances forum for senior citizens.

As if he had read the minds of the Dores in the congregation, Charuhasan apologised for having kept "my fellow senior citizens" waiting.

"I have done a number of things late in life. I did not go to school till I was nine years old, because I was suspected of being afflicted with polio. I went straight to class V without having learnt the alphabet. I entered the film industry at 49. My brother (Kamalhasan), who is 25 years younger and my daughter Suhasini, 30 years younger, received the National Awards for acting long before I did," he said. "But, let me tell you that this is the first time I am late for a meeting."

There were more quips from Charuhasan as the event progressed.

"We senior citizens have nothing to worry about. Our country is run by senior citizens. The President, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are all senior citizens," he reassured.

But the evening was not all humour; there was pathos, too. Some seniors aired their problems before the panel of experts.

One said he was suffering from insomnia, while another related his misadventures with the pension department. (Incidentally, senior citizens with pension-related problems can contact A.G. Chako, general secretary, All-India Federation of Pensioners' Associations, 22, Kavarai Street, Saidapet West, phone: 3715031.)

Savithri Vaithi, founder member, Vishranthi, said setting up more old age homes for the poor was not the panacea for problems of senior citizens. Society had to help them be self-reliant. Her organisation was involved in a project called "Oondrukol". Volunteers provided rations to needy senior citizens. (Senior citizens can call 4994806 for help.)

Another senior citizen made out a case for ramps at railway stations as most of them suffered from knee-related ailments. There were accounts by elders of how they had been ill-treated by their children who wanted to deprive them of their property.

"My father was active till, at 80, a stroke rendered him bed-ridden. We appointed a 19-year-old nurse to attend on him. One day, the boy treated him roughly. When I was about to punish the boy, one of my brothers stopped me. He said, ``We don't know what the old man did to the boy. He might have provoked him."

Some expressed the view that daughters took better care of their parents than sons.

"A son is a son till he is married, a daughter is a daughter forever," said Charuhasan. "I have three daughters."

"You are blessed!" said a voice from the audience.

By PRINCE FREDERICK

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