Human Melancholy
Magnificent India

Human Melancholy

Vijay Sanghvi

Dr. Ashok Mehta was under tension for long. He felt unhappy but could not understand the cause of his melancholy. It did not allow him to be relaxed. Perhaps the cause of his unhappiness was in the realization that he had not been able to win the affection of his granddaughters. Sustained brooding brought him a realization that made him even sadder. Even though he had reached the age of 75 years a he had not won the affection of anyone. Even in his work as a scientist with the Defence Research and Design Organisation, he preferred to work alone.

He was virtually indifferent to his colleagues during his forty years of work. He rarely shared his meals with them. He spent his lunch hour at his lab desk rather than sit with colleagues and coworkers. He was a member of the Gymkhana Club though he disliked the idea of spending evenings at the Club. Yet he went along as a company to his wife who was fond of visiting the Club as often as she could. It provided her a sense of superiority over other teachers at her school.

Dr. Mehta could sense that his wife was not popular with other teachers at the school as she put on lots of airs. She behaved as if she belonged to the British era. The British had left the shores of India but had left behind their living culture. She was perhaps the last remnant. The feeling gave her a self acquired right to feel superior to others. She did not point out what she thought was absurd in their behaviour but she mocked them when they were not around, mostly in front of her maid servants at home.

Dr. Mehta was used to it for forty five years of marriage. He had seen similar behaviour in wives of other defence forces officers for they behaved with each other also with similar attitudes. But he had not been able to make friends with them as he was a lone wolf all his life. Even his brothers, two of them and their families were disinclined to build closer relations with him. They came in contact only at the social events in the family. Earlier he thought they shunned his family because of the superior airs that his wife put on in her behaviour with them. But on deeper thought he was forced to realization that his behaviour of remaining reserved in crowds was also responsible. He was not given to engage in small talk. He could have and often did also to expand his views on several public issues.

No one thought it necessary to point out to him that his dislike for the Congress regime and the Nehru family was not based on merits or demerits of the previous regime or his understanding of issues. He nursed a grudge not only because he was conservative and traditionalist in his approach but also because of his belief that he was not sufficiently rewarded according to his work. His colleagues could not find any extraordinary brilliance in his work. He had virtually done routine research all his life. He did not as he could not hide his intense dislike for elevation of Dr. Abul Kalam. He could not comprehend the political compulsions of vote banks had prompted the Vajpayee government to elevate Dr. Kalam rather than his achievements. Of course Dr, Mehta also knew his limitations and had not aspired for anything more than extension of his service with the DRDO for few more years. His craving was not over the feeling that he was leaving any meritorious research project uncompleted but out of realization that he had nothing more to keep his life engaged in so activity.

He felt more uneasy on the realization that he had not made any intimate friends or developed any close relations with anyone with whom he could share his moment of elation, his anger, his melancholy or his depressions. He regularly visited the Club as accompaniment to his wife but mostly spent his time with glass of his drink at the same table. Occasionally some member waved their hand while passing him at his table, often alone but sometimes with his wife. She had a habit of flitting around to say hello to other members. She did not realize that she was rarely invited to take a seat among them. The reserved nature of her husband was also a contributory factor in her not being invited. Even from a distance they could see him sitting alone lost in his thoughts.

It is a strange phenomenon. In old age everyone craves for company, an intimate relationship with someone with whom he or she can share the joys and woes of their life but it also can turn out to be a time of feeling a sense of abandonment. Most old people feel pangs of loneliness. It is a natural phenomenon, for elderly persons cannot travel alone and their working children cannot find time from their busy schedules at work. Even if they manage to reach home early, they have their children and their needs to attend to. It is a natural process of life and yet it leaves old people unhappy without a realization ever dawning on them that they had done much the same to their parents too.

Neglect of old parents by youngsters is not deliberate but a part of compulsion of circumstances of life. However young parents can encourage their children to attend to grandparents, keep them company so as to ensure they did not feel abandoned. But it is not encouraged or the fear that old parents may teach children their outdated practices.Or may be some young couples have a humanitarian consideration that children may be a burden and hence tend to keep their contact to a minimum. Dr. Mehta also realized that his daughter was keeping her two daughters at a distance from him only with her earnest desire not to burden him. Little did she realize that her father was craving for company.

Such situations are common all over India. The bond of a grandparent with his grandchild is very special. It is a bond of true love and concern. Youngsters who make the most of this with understanding and sensitivity are the true wealth of society. For, is not the family unit the real foundation of a strong society? Our Indian culture encourages and supports love and respect for our parents. Magnificent India!