The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, May 25, 2003

Life Ties

Paying the price of faulty parenting
Taru Bahl

POST-PARTITION, Satish moved to Mumbai with three children. Armed only with a sturdy disposition and a never-say-die attitude, he had confidence in his ability to "do anything." He worked for days without food and rest and when he took up odd-jobs as tea boy, attendant, security guard and typist, he knew this phase was transitional. Better times would roll as he found his bearings.

The big chance came when he worked as an apprentice to a jeweller. Frequent trips to Jaipur for sourcing semi-precious and precious stones gave him an insight into the trade. Back home in Mumbai, he was privy to the process of shaping the raw material and hammering it into marketable, top-of-the-line products.

After five years of extensive research, he was ready to branch out independently. His vision, however ambitious, was backed with a realistic assessment of the market and his ability to deliver. Soon he had a flourishing business.

As his business expanded, he dabbled in exports. His sons were opposed to hard work. They were steeped in material comforts and an opulence which they took for granted and believed would last forever.

Satish’s saga of sorrows began when his wife was diagnosed as having cancer. He gave up control of his business to his sons so that he could devote time to his dying wife. The duo, however, started swindling their father to finance their lavish lifestyles. After his wife’s death, Satish’s priority was to settle the children. The next decade was devoted to their marriages, children and marital problems. With the wives entering the fray, their scheming machinations did not work in tandem. Soon they were daggers drawn and the bone of contention between them was money. They were completely alien to concepts such as love, loyalty to their father or honouring the family name.


Since Satish still had control over the business, the sons were forced to maintain a facade until they could transfer everything to their names. Unfortunately, the negative atmosphere at home had made domestic life hellish. The kitchens were separate and there were divisions in the house, created after convincing Satish that it was the only way they could maintain a semblance of order. Unable to resist their arguments, he gave in without a fight.

It was Radha, his daughter, who coerced him to concentrate on work. By the time he managed to disengage himself from his sons’ lives, he discovered accounting discrepancies. Huge loans had been raised from the open market by using his name to fund unviable ventures. What hurt him was the fact they had been hiding this from him and not seeking his advice. As he began seeing reality for what it was, his visits to Radha’s home increased.

Unburdening his frustrations and anxieties, he drew strength from her pragmatic advice, though he rarely acted upon it because of his blind spot for his sons. He did seek her out more often. Initially, she gave him the support he needed but gradually he realised he was unwilling to act on it. Radha had no ulterior motive for her husband was doing well, she did feel let down by her brothers and she worried for her father’s advancing years. Forget about adding to the wealth, he had singlehanded created, they were not even safe caretakers. She wondered if they would look after him. They were parasites who, without any regret, could live off others all their lives.

Satish knew that had he pulled up his sons the moment he got wind of their misdemeanours, or had threatened to disinherit them, things might have changed.

By turning into a willing victim, he had emboldened them. As he pushed 70, he began to fear for his safety. He had heard elders saying how important it was not to give children access to all that you had materially accumulated, he found himself unable to act on this advice. When he would find creditors at his doorstep or hear calls which threatened to kill his sons, he would dip into his savings or sell of a property and bail them out, hoping they would learn a lesson and turn over a new leaf. Very soon all they were left with was the palatial house they lived in. In severe depression by now, Satish feared the day he would be bullied into selling the house.

He wanted to hold on to this last asset because he knew his sons were not to be depended upon in his hour of need. Although he wished his death to be swift and painless, he was aware that hospitalisation could be a nightmare.

Logically, he should not have succumbed to their emotional pressures but knew he would buckle under when the time came. His grandchildren were cast in their parents’ mould. Disinterested in studies, used to a good life, they were unwilling to curtail expenses. The family decided to split the financial burden of running the house. Three equal portions were made and Satish was asked to contribute his share. He started staying out of the house and was forbidden from visiting the shop. Left with no option but that of visiting old friends and spending time in local trains, he spent more time with Radha who was now beginning to find the intrusion tiresome. While she sympathised with him, she held him responsible for his downslide.

For, though he had little control over how his sons shaped up, he should have led his life the way he deemed fit. He needn’t have been reduced to the state of penury contending with a life of daily insults at the hands of his sons, their wives and children.

To top it, he succumbed to their demands of selling the house and moving the entire family into a smaller accommodation to raise funds for his grand-daughter’s marriage. Gradually, he found himself being shunted from a room to an attic to the verandah and finally, to the kitchen. This crushed whatever strength Satish had. The final straw came when they physically overpowered him and got him to sign a document which willed the flat to the sons, leaving him with absolutely nothing.

This is when Radha stepped in. She and her husband wanted nothing for themselves. All these years, Satish had refused to live with her saying the boys would ultimately look after him. Now he was willing to move in because he was hounded with thoughts of being murdered. She got him to submit a court deed saying he was forced to transfer his property and that the said will was to be cancelled. For the first time, Satish acted in the right manner where his sons were concerned. Blinded by love for them, he had helped them to turn into vicious and unscrupulous criminals. In spite of being an epitome of hard work and sincerity, he had failed to transmit the same values to his sons. He also realised he had been unfair to Radha. Whatever was left of his property, he divided into three equal parts. Though he died unhappy, he was happy to have been blessed with a daughter and son-in-law who valued life and relationships more than money.

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