Source : Google photo
Synopsis : We all face the empty nest syndrome in our life when the children grow up and leave to make a new life for themselves somewhere. We learn to cope with the empty nest as best as we can because it is inevitable that children leave one day. The sentimentality attached to homes that color our memories fade with time until it becomes irrelevant in the modern world because after all it is fleeting.
I just watched a video on the life and struggle of Naushad who came from Lucknow and at a very young age left home for Bombay (now called Mumbai) to try his luck in music and the film industry. He loved music more than anything else in life so his father gave him the ultimatum. Stay home and learn a trade to earn a living or leave home. He chose to leave such was his love for music , wandered alone in a friendless and cruel city called Bombay where he slept on the side walk and often went without food for several days but he struggled on.
Slowly the movie industry learned of his extraordinary talent in composing music and gave him employment but never had they imagined to what height he would soar in the music world. All this young and starving boy needed was a sympathetic ear that recognized his latent and opened a door for him. He stood on the balcony of a house when he was rich and famous and silently cried. When someone asked him why, he said that it took him 16 years from that sidewalk in front to this balcony. The rest is history.
His music became the reason many movies went on to become successful along with its stars who became his lifelong friends and who stood by him when he was old and sick. I used to remember a few lines of his most popular songs when I was a child some 70 years ago. But slowly and inevitably his music faded and the most popular movie stars became just a twinkle in the sky like Naushad himself leaving behind his faded memories , his numerous trophies and awards. His love for Lucknow and his grandparents and parents never diminished and he often cried remembering his childhood there when he was happy.
Today I want to write about the struggle of life that every generation has to go through to establish himself or herself somewhere often very far from home like Naushad that may be traumatic for some like him who gathered the courage to go to a strange city like Bombay. There he knew no one and slept on the sidewalk with empty stomach where he dreamed of one day becoming a successful music director in the movie world.
We are the fortunate ones who would not wish our children to go through what Naushad had to go through in his life so we save some money and try to give our children better opportunities in life than what we got ourselves. We watch our children grow up day by day , month by month and one day suddenly realize that they are no longer little babies needing our attention but growing teenagers with their own dreams and aspirations that may be very different from yours.
While in high school we hire tutors for them for some subjects and encourage them to participate in science or other competitions and are thrilled to see them bring home trophies and medals that we mount in frames to display in our home. We take photos of them to fill our albums and keep their toys and books lovingly to remind us that once they were a part of the family but now they have left the nest like most children with aspirations do leaving only memories behind like Naushad.
In the animal kingdom we see the tigress or lioness fiercely protecting their young ones, feeding them and teaching them how to hunt and fend for themselves but one day the tigress stops feeding them because they are now grown up so she growls if they still behave like cubs and makes it very clear that they should leave and be on their own just like she was weaned off by her mother. This is the law of nature although it seems harsh to push young ones away at a certain age.
I would not even think of pushing away our children the way Naushad was and would worry how they will survive without food and money in a strange place where they have no one to take care of them so we are not like animals or harsh parents . Most parents are not that way and care for their children to the extent that it may lead to over sheltering that can have its own consequences. (Read blog The curse of sheltering here) The animals are smarter than us because there is no scope for over sheltering their cubs so they follow the law of nature that takes its course.
The instinct for survival is strong in birds and animals so you will see the young eagle chicks push out of the nest the weaker chicks so that they have more food for themselves. This is very harsh and cruel but the eagle chick thinks only of its own survival and will push out other siblings to get most of the food.
But we are not like the animals because we teach our children to care for each other and learn to share their toys, their time and their attention so that a bond is created between them that may be enduring because it is the caring, sharing and loving that creates the bonds. Parents who have one or two kids can afford more resources for them than the parents who have a large family and meager income to raise them on. Often the poverty makes parents harsh on their kids so they push them out of their nest so to speak the way Naushad was given ultimatum. I do not know if his father worried about how he was doing in Bombay alone, friendless and without food and money but I am sure his mother shed tears for him secretly.
Mother’s love for her children never wanes. She would rather go hungry herself but will feed her children first. She will sit whole night nursing and fanning her sick child with high fever. She will not hesitate to make whatever sacrifice needed of her for her children because she is the mother who takes her role seriously.
So one day comes when the daughters grow up and get married to leave the nest and the sons seek opportunities in the real world on their own but until then they require the support of the parents. The parents who fail their children due to their own poverty can only blame themselves because they make more children than they can afford to feed and give them education. This is the sad story of the very poor but reckless people who live from day to day yet do not think of the future for their children.
The parents try to make a good home for their children and keep an eye on all their needs but often the kids fail to remember what the parents did for them so neglect them when the parents are old. ( Read my blog Getting old here.)
Here is a classic story that I read somewhere long ago but remember well.
There was a stern father and a loving mother who had three kids. They lived in a big house in comfort because their father was a manager of a firm while the mother was a doting housewife who took excellent care of her kids. She celebrated their birth days and showered them with gifts. She took numerous photos and 8 mm movies of their birthdays and other occasions so she was an ideal mother.
Soon the kids grew up and left home. One joined the army and was stationed in Germany while the second son went away to California but did not keep in touch with anybody. The third was the daughter who was sent to an elite school for girls in the East but she dropped out and became a hippy smoking pot and giving away free sex . None of them kept in touch with their mother who was now alone and lived in a hospital because her husband had died. To pass her endless time , she read every volume of encyclopedia but she was lonely as no one ever came to see her.
One day her hippy daughter showed up and asked her what she planned to do with her house and property because she was to die soon. The old woman replied that she had given away her house and everything to charity that made her hippy daughter very angry because she had expected to reap a windfall. This is how she repaid all the loving and caring she had received when growing up.
This sort of story is repeated in all societies. The neglect of parents and the indifference some people show toward their ageing parents is a social phenomenon and a product of the competitive and fast living world where parents do not matter any longer. Many who can afford move to pricey Old Age Homes but others suffer in silence who remain poor and neglected by their children. ( Read Old age deserves respect here ) .
The nest the parents built with love and care to raise their off springs one day becomes empty. The mother lovingly cleans their empty room and even changes the sheets of their beds regularly. Their toys and books are kept in glass cabinets, their medals and awards are kept in glass frames that hang on the walls and their numerous photos are lovingly preserved in albums that no one looks at. Now the house once filled with their laughter and pranks has fallen silent and has simply become a moot witness to what it once was. The parents lovingly wait but they too one day die.
One day the house is locked up and the last resident moves away to a distant place so the clean and shiny floors now collect dust and imprints of mouse and shrews. The spiders take courage and make huge webs in the ceiling hoping to catch their dinner. The house once vibrant and cheerful becomes dark and silent . Only the walls now remember but they remain silent too. The garden now fills up with weeds and other plants wither because there is no one to care for them.
Finally one day the house is sold. The new occupants do not know anything about who lived and made the house a home and they do not care. They now start to make the house a home again so the cycle continues generation after generation until one day the house is abandoned and razed to the ground to make a new house or a shop or a parking lot . This is the fate of millions of homes that revert to house and then to a parking lot. Then the memories start to fade until people do not remember anymore or care.
How fleeting is life and how fleeting is the time we spend together as family !
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