We imagine that it is only the rich or well to do who are able to take care of their disabled or handicapped members of the family. How do the poor cope in a similar plight.? Most of the time we dont know or do not care to find out. But the burdens of such care and rearing arise universally whether with the rich or the poor. For the poor without resources and facilities its an unimaginable burden with which they struggle to cope. I have two vivid examples which shows how the poor react and cope. Basically it is no different from what the rich my do in such unfortunate circumstances. That is the wonder.

We have a maid who comes to sweep our house every morning with a smile on her withered face and a greeting. She lives in the slum near by with a family of husband and son who sweep sewers for a living and a grandchild.  To add to their miserable plight he was born totally disabled, unable to move much or speak or respond. A virtual vegetable. With rare courage and determination  she decided not to let him pass away through neglect. They had no resources and lived from hand to mouth. Earning a pittance for their mean labours. there was no medical support or help from any source. Her name is Anu. Anu took on the entire burden of caring for the unresponsive child, feeding him, bathing and cleaning him, and his waste, dressing him and giving him all her love. He never became a toddler, spoke no endearing words just lay there.  With her heart and soul she did all one would do for a normal child with no compensatory response to egg her on. we did all we could to help the family by paying for the marriage of their daughter. But there was little we could do for her trials with the disabled child apart from suggesting free help from a government hospital. but in such a case they too could do little. so she accepted her fate and carried on like a noble warrior. Thus ten years passed. The child was now no baby but she cared for him as ever before, her life’s purpose. every night she would cling to him and give him her love till he slept. She also cooked for the family cared for her husbands needs and her son and daughter in law who had abandoned all hope for the child. and she was there every morning to do our housework and chat about his welfare. She only talked about her eternal love for him. At ten years he finally passed away and she became inconsolable. If any one deserved to be sanctified as a saint it was Anu. Her resolve, determination  courage and unresponded love speak of a rare humanity in the poorest of the poor which the best of us cannot match in similar circumstances with all our resources and riches. She never smiled again though she was finally blessed with a normal grandchild. In my view she had graduated through her selfless trials to a life of being born again as a queen. How did a poverty stricken outcaste slum dweller achieve this miracle is beyond my imagination. And with no complaint, rather as if it were a gift from god . We always wondered what the family would do when the child turned into a helpless adult. Fortunately they were saved from that eventuality but she remained inconsolable. She fasts on religious occasions with fervour. We asked her why given her sorry circumstances. Her reply, that i be born in my next life not as a sweeper who is not allowed by the conservative to even enter their kitchen!! Fortunately Anu’s daughter thanks to our financial support has married well in their terms and is leading a happy life.

The second case is that of a washer-man family who live down the street in a mud hut. they press and wash the clothes of all our colony. the washer-man is now old bent, and unable to work so he sits in the sun on a cot on the road while his two able sons do all the work. good for him to have fathered such help in old age.  One of his two daughters is married and visits with her children to the old man’s delight but the other daughter was born disabled and mentally incapacitated. She cannot speak though she grins whenever greeted. The remarkable thing is despite their poverty and manual labours they have taken care of her in every conceivable way. The washer man’s old wife washes and combs her hair daily in the sunlight on a winters day. They provide her with all her meals and help her feed herself. they dress her adequately each day and allow her to sit in the sun with her father shoulder to shoulder. When you see and greet them she reruns a wide smile. It is as if she is their good luck mascot and no daughter ever received the care and love she has. Can we compare this to a similar case in say a rich family. There there would be medical help, nurses to care for such a one and the occasional visit from family. i cant imagine more concern from a caring family. But here there is daily care love and unbelievable concern, with no resources to feed and take care of a member who does not contribute in any way. It is quite clear that she is their darling and her broad smile is the only compensation for their untiring efforts.  Its not just the old father who no longer works or the mother either but the two young able sons who have families and children of their own, who see to it that despite their limited resources they work night and day to feed and care for their parents and the beloved disabled sister. What a family to learn lessons from? My heart goes out to them every time my car turns a corner and spots them. What has the good Lord in store for them in their next life i often wonder. They must be great souls who have incarnated to experience these trials and evolve.

These are just two examples but what of the millions in poverty who suffer just not from poverty and the ability merely to feed themselves through hard labour in the sun but to take care of such eventualities with no help from any source. They must be the great souls we never heard about in our complacent comfortable lives. What of those who are well provided for East and West who don’t care a hang about their ailing parents or unfortunate siblings. There are in-numeral examples of people who have deserted their parents and handicapped siblings, particularly in the West where the tradition of joint family no longer exists. In india too as families become more nuclear the same plight effects ageing and disabled people. All they want is an inheritance. So ageing people hang on to their assets lest they suffer a similar plight. Daily one reads about ageing people having been abandoned by their progeny after assets were given over. its sad but true.

For this reason we have found many families with ageing grandparents not letting go of their succeeding generations. All they want is help when being taken to hospital or the ICU and for that they sacrifice the careers of their kids and grand kids. We know of many examples when  young promising youths have been denied the opportunity to build their careers and have never progressed. Well we decided to let our kids free and they are today far away and leading fulfi;lled lives. When the time comes to die in a hospital surely some medical service will take us there. No need to ruin lives for just such an instance. while we learn lessons from the likes of poor people in like circumstances there is no need to subject our own to that if you have enough resources to to take care of yourself

This is a complex issue and i would welcome a feed back from my friends and visitors at word press and elsewhere.