Recently, the Kaieteur News wrote about an elderly man’s abandonment by his relatives. Mr. Ovid, also known as ‘Joku,’ of Enterprise, East Coast Demerara, was reported to have been abandoned at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) by his children. The same publication reported in a subsequent report dated August 6th, 2021, that “a total of 33 patients were abandoned at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation for the year so far.” The publication asserted that this was according to Clayton Neuman, Head of the Social Work Department at the hospital.
This ‘epidemic’ is truly horrifying, cruel, and plain wicked in my opinion! I say epidemic because we are seeing an emergence of similar instances, in which children, in particular, abandon their elderly parents later in life. We see this not only in Guyana, but also in India, the United States of America, and other countries where parents are frequently placed in wards or facilities to be cared for while their callous offspring pay little or no attention to their well-being and subsequently abandon them. Regardless of intent, I will never fully fathom what drives such children to perpetrate such atrocities against the parents who gave them birth, supported and nursed them in their infancy — people who fed them, taught them, and protected them. As a matter of fact, there is no crueler act than abandonment of another human being, especially when that other human being is your parent. Consider the mother, who bore the child in her divine womb for 9 months in excruciating pain, or the father, who sweated, toiled, and suffered to ensure that the child was clothed and fed.
Unfortunately, like Mr. Ovid, there are hundreds more like him on the roads of Guyana, abandoned and forgotten. While there are shelters for homeless elderly people maintained by charitable organizations and the Government across Guyana, namely the Palms Geriatric Institution, The Night Shelter, and even the Venezuelan funded Hugo Chavez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration, these shelters are generally overcrowded. And, while the Government of Guyana, notably the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, led by Honorable Minister Dr. Vindhya Persaud is working excellently to assure the provision of services to our senior population, the question remains, how much can they do?
Unfortunately, if one was to walk along Regent Street, they will come across many people who have mental illnesses caused by a number of factors, one of which is being abandoned by their children. This is exacerbated by the fact that they do not bring in any income since their previous employers would have stolen their NIS contributions. As a result, they have been left to suffer. Others stated that their children were fatigued and annoyed as a result of a lack of finances to support themselves at home and that they were abandoned either in the corner or at an institution to die. To me, this is cruel, genuinely horrifying, and completely unacceptable.
Abandonment has disastrous effects. If an aged person develops dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they may forget who they are, where they belong, or even what they need to do to receive medical treatment. Even if they do not have a cognitive impairment, abandonment can cause depression, sickness, and even death.
It is unfortunate that some selfish and uncaring children with no conscience and humility may dump their old parents on the side of the road or take them to the hospital and abandon them there, while forgetting that their body, bloodline, and existence all stem from that parent. This is not only abusive, unprincipled, immoral, and unethical, but it also reflects poorly on who the child that abandoned the parent is, what they value, and the true nature of their character.
Yours truly, Hajji Dr. Roshan Khan, firmly believes that abandonment should never be an option for any child to inflict on his or her parents. As a result, I am convinced that, in the same manner that a parent is charged for neglect and abandonment, the child who neglects and abandons his or her parents should be charged as well.
Being dutiful to one’s parents is a religious obligation in Islam. It is essential to treat parents well in all circumstances, all of the time. As stated in the following Quranic verse, special emphasis is placed on caring for our parents when they reach old age, as this responsibility becomes even more fundamental. The Holy Quran states: “and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.” (Quran 17:23–24) In another verse, Almighty God states, “And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years. So give thanks to Me and to both your parents, unto Me is the final destination.” (Quran 46:15). Not only in Islam, but all other religions stress on the importance of treating one’s parents with love and compassion. The Holy Bible teaches, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12. These values are so important in Hinduism as well, so much so that when performing a religious ceremony, the worshipper honors and respects the parents first before the Pandit. According to Hindu texts, parents should be treated as God. The Vedas teaches: “Do not neglect your duties to the gods and the Manes. Treat your mother as God. Treat your father as God.”
When parents speak, God listens! And so if the parent can cry out to God for the child’s salvation, why can’t the child sacrifice and cry to God for the parents’ salvation? We should all note that when we fail to address the needs of our elders, we are just writing a terrible prelude to our own eventual fate.
Hajji Dr. Roshan Khan Snr.