Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thoughts on Filial Piety

Yesterday I attended a focus group discussion on Filial Piety, as part of one of my CCAs for this semester. The discussion proved to be really interesting, especially in the context of Singapore, which is probably the only country in the world where a Parents' Maintenance Act is implemented. As per the Act, a parent can sue his/her children if they are denied of any financial help from them in their old age.

But I wonder whether filial piety revolves around only money. After all you could provide for them financially and yet, abandon them right? Many people take their aged parents to old age homes. In an attempt to remove the social stigma associated with 'dumping' old folks, these homes are now called 'retirement villages.' So you could put your parents in one of the best retirement villages in town, and thus provide for them financially, but nevertheless, isn't that still a form of abandonment? Some people say that parents would probably feel better in such a place, given that they get the necessary medical care. Further, their loneliness can also be addressed, through the company of people belonging to the same age group. However, despite these benefits, isn't it a signal that you're either too busy to care for your own parents, or worse, you just don't care? A sign that we have become more selfish, more materialistic, another fervent attempt to win the mindless rat race? A student in the discussion yesterday said that parents should not expect children to take care of them in the future, precisely because of this reason. And to a certain extent, I agree. But regardless of whether parents expect love and affection from their children in the future, I still believe that it is our duty to do so. Not just because of blood relations, not just as a form of 'repayment'. Because that is the very least we can do.

I remember a day when I had a bitter fight with Appa long ago. It was a stupid thing, really. I don't remember how it exactly began. But I do remember getting angry and refusing to apologize. I do remember telling Amma that I'll never speak to Appa again, never. In fact, being the immature, impulsive tenth grader that I once was, I told her 'I'd repay Appa for everything he did for me, but will not speak to him at all'. And that's when Amma just looked at me- no, she didn't get angry, she didn't raise her voice at all. She just said softly, 'Do you really think that's possible?' And that was when it struck me that it would indeed be impossible. Once again, it makes me reiterate that being filial is the least that we can do for our parents in their old age.

The discussion reminded me of an elderly lady, whom I will simply call Aunty. I have known her since childhood and as far as I can remember, she has stayed alone. Alone in a tiny flat, with only the radio and television to keep her company. This, despite the fact that she has two well settled children, who are presumably too busy to care for her. I am not blaming them; after all they also have their burdens to shoulder. But is it really fair? Aunty would have slogged to ensure that they have all the comforts in life and in the end, she becomes a liability to the very children she helped raise, the very children whom she thought were her only assets. Life is so ironical!

That's why I believe being filial is not all about material wealth. Just a warm hug, a telephone call, a sincere smile, a word to show that you care- that's what brings them happiness.

I remember Aunty goes to the temple and spends hours together there. Presumably, it's her only refuge from loneliness. In old age, solitude is often sought out eagerly. Solitude is acceptable. Loneliness is not.

The Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said 'The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved'. In my opinion, achieving success in life becomes immaterial if the filial bond is lost, or worse, snapped off. Simply because it means one has forgotten the past. Because it means one doesn't care anymore. Because it shows that wealth helped unleash the worst form of poverty ever. And what kind of success would that be?

1 comment:

  1. Parents are manifestations of God's selfless Love. It seems since God could not love His children much, he gave a portion of His filial Love by embedding them in the heart of the father and the mother. And it is the duty of every son/daughter to give the respect, love and care reserved for God to His/Her parents.

    ReplyDelete

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thoughts on Filial Piety

Yesterday I attended a focus group discussion on Filial Piety, as part of one of my CCAs for this semester. The discussion proved to be really interesting, especially in the context of Singapore, which is probably the only country in the world where a Parents' Maintenance Act is implemented. As per the Act, a parent can sue his/her children if they are denied of any financial help from them in their old age.

But I wonder whether filial piety revolves around only money. After all you could provide for them financially and yet, abandon them right? Many people take their aged parents to old age homes. In an attempt to remove the social stigma associated with 'dumping' old folks, these homes are now called 'retirement villages.' So you could put your parents in one of the best retirement villages in town, and thus provide for them financially, but nevertheless, isn't that still a form of abandonment? Some people say that parents would probably feel better in such a place, given that they get the necessary medical care. Further, their loneliness can also be addressed, through the company of people belonging to the same age group. However, despite these benefits, isn't it a signal that you're either too busy to care for your own parents, or worse, you just don't care? A sign that we have become more selfish, more materialistic, another fervent attempt to win the mindless rat race? A student in the discussion yesterday said that parents should not expect children to take care of them in the future, precisely because of this reason. And to a certain extent, I agree. But regardless of whether parents expect love and affection from their children in the future, I still believe that it is our duty to do so. Not just because of blood relations, not just as a form of 'repayment'. Because that is the very least we can do.

I remember a day when I had a bitter fight with Appa long ago. It was a stupid thing, really. I don't remember how it exactly began. But I do remember getting angry and refusing to apologize. I do remember telling Amma that I'll never speak to Appa again, never. In fact, being the immature, impulsive tenth grader that I once was, I told her 'I'd repay Appa for everything he did for me, but will not speak to him at all'. And that's when Amma just looked at me- no, she didn't get angry, she didn't raise her voice at all. She just said softly, 'Do you really think that's possible?' And that was when it struck me that it would indeed be impossible. Once again, it makes me reiterate that being filial is the least that we can do for our parents in their old age.

The discussion reminded me of an elderly lady, whom I will simply call Aunty. I have known her since childhood and as far as I can remember, she has stayed alone. Alone in a tiny flat, with only the radio and television to keep her company. This, despite the fact that she has two well settled children, who are presumably too busy to care for her. I am not blaming them; after all they also have their burdens to shoulder. But is it really fair? Aunty would have slogged to ensure that they have all the comforts in life and in the end, she becomes a liability to the very children she helped raise, the very children whom she thought were her only assets. Life is so ironical!

That's why I believe being filial is not all about material wealth. Just a warm hug, a telephone call, a sincere smile, a word to show that you care- that's what brings them happiness.

I remember Aunty goes to the temple and spends hours together there. Presumably, it's her only refuge from loneliness. In old age, solitude is often sought out eagerly. Solitude is acceptable. Loneliness is not.

The Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said 'The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved'. In my opinion, achieving success in life becomes immaterial if the filial bond is lost, or worse, snapped off. Simply because it means one has forgotten the past. Because it means one doesn't care anymore. Because it shows that wealth helped unleash the worst form of poverty ever. And what kind of success would that be?

1 comment:

  1. Parents are manifestations of God's selfless Love. It seems since God could not love His children much, he gave a portion of His filial Love by embedding them in the heart of the father and the mother. And it is the duty of every son/daughter to give the respect, love and care reserved for God to His/Her parents.

    ReplyDelete