Our filial duties

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Family Matters

Thomas Kulanjiyil, PsyD, PhD, is a founding member of PARIVAR International. He currently serves on the faculty of College of DuPage. He is co-editor of the book, “Caring for the South Asians-Counseling South Asians in the West.” Dr. Kulanjiyil can be reached at tk@parivarinterntional.org. For any personal or family issues contact Parivar Family Helpline:(877)-743-5711.

By Thomas Kulanjiyil
One of the hallmarks of the Indian culture has been the sense of filial duty. For centuries, the typical Indian household consisted of at least three generations. Though difficult and hard at times, children bore responsibilities for their aging parents and provided care and comfort until their demise. Sadly, this caring attitude toward the elderly is slowly disappearing among Indians today.

Traditionally, Indian society has been a community-oriented society, where the value of interdependence is fostered. Regrettably, with the assimilation of post modern values, the society is becoming more and more self-oriented and individualistic. Our material affluence and changing value system have short-sighted us to our filial duties. Now, instead of considering it as our moral duty to care for our parents, we are treating them as mere liabilities. It is unfortunate that we have turned out to be a generation that despises and discards the old. We have lost our appreciation for the very lives that brought us to the world; the lives that sacrificially cared for us and nurtured us. 

In recent years, a number of incidences have been reported in India of parental neglect and abandonment. After securing paternal properties in their names, children force parents to vacate their homes to find shelters else where. No where else to turn to, some of these helpless parents end up in public places, often wandering through the streets and public parks. There are also reports that some Indians livings abroad have relinquished their responsibilities for their aging parents, and that the Indian government had mandated them to financially support their parents living in India. 

In the North American context, most Asian Indian households have elderly parents living with them. Yet, the quality of elder care ranges from compassionate care giving to mere neglect.  In cases where the Indian elderly are transitioned to institutional care, most are dissatisfied, and the American elder care system is not adequately prepared to meet the needs of the Asian Indian population. Language, food, life-style, cultural sensitivity, socialization and recreation opportunities are major problems for them. 

It is not reasonable for Indian immigrants to bring their parents to North America, and put their welfare in jeopardy. Families must come around the elderly, and must do whatever it takes to provide them security and comfort in an alien culture. Our aging parents are to be looked as our heritage and pride. Let us be awakened to our filial responsibilities.
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