Next morning Dhritharashtra and Gandhaari wear clothes made out of fibre and a cover of deer skin and proceed towards the forest. Carried right in front is a pot of sacred fire and Kunti walks just behind, Gandhaari, her eyes covered with a cloth, puts her hand on Kunti's shoulder and the blind Dhritharashtra follows; his hand resting on Gandhaari's shoulder. With them are the Pandavas, Draupadi and Subhadra, Vidura and Sanjaya. The day is similar to the day when pandavas left town, many sad citizens throng around them. Dhritharashtra makes his way through them with folded hands. The people return once they reach the main gate of the city.
Vidura and Sanjaya have come prepared to be with the royal couple. At the gate Yudhisthira asks Kunti to return along with his daughters-in-law. But Kunti continues to walk, 'I will go with them and take care of them as if they are my parents-in-law and wash my sins. Not speaking about Karna earlier turned out to be a big mistake. Do not forget him. You and your brothers offer numerous gifts in his name. Do not hurt Sahadeva, he loves me a lot! Always behave in a way that pleases Draupadi.' Yudhisthira pleads with her to change her mind and return home. He tells that it is because of her words that he went into war and is worried how she will manage in the forest, but Kunti continues to walk.
Bheema asks 'Don't you want to see your children rule the kingdom and feel happy? If not, why did you ask us to fight this war? Where is the need for you to go to the forest. If you wanted to live in the forest, then why did you, while we were boys , bring us out of it? Please have mercy on us mother and do not leave!'
She keeps walking as she has decided that to go to the forest is the right decision. The pleadings of her sons, bring teas into her eyes. She tells them, 'What you say is right! I lifted you up when you lost the kingdom in gambling, were insulted by your cousins and had lost everything. I propped you up as I did not want the pandu lineage lost, your fame destroyed and you get into new difficulties. I supported you so that the raja vamsha did not end with you. When my husband was the king I enjoyed plenty of royal privileges, offered many many gifts in charity and drank nectar. Also I did not encourage Krishna for my sake. I do not want the fruits my sons victory. What I want now is to perform enough penance, as I aspire to go to patilokha and join my husband. I will serve elders who live in the forest. Take Bheema and others back to the kingdom'.
Pandavas duly chastened give up and turn back. The efforts of Dhritarashtra to convince Kunti to go back through Gandaari, Vidura has no effect on Kunti. While Pandavas return feeling like orphans, Dhritarashtra and the rest walk a long distance and arrive at a grove near Bhagirathi river. Being used the comforts of a city, the first night is hard on them. Having rested the night, they bathe in the morning and walk to the hermitage of Shatayoopa, a king who is there to perform penance after handing over his kingdom to his son. Vidura and Sanjaya change clothes and begin a severe form of penance.
My thoughts were about how it would be if I were one of the seniors around that time. Life would be different. Simpler? I am not so sure. I cannot imagine myself doing severe penance. It is certain that not many seniors would be around those days. Surely no blogging or golf.
As it happens there is TOI report on seniors.
The report, 29/9/2012, said that every third senior citizen in India is abused, mainly by his son or by his daughter-in-law. The study said that in India, the family has been the mainstay of social support. "Even in this age and time, 58% of older persons in India are living with the family. The findings of this report also affirm confidence in the ability of the family to care for its older members,".
The National Policy on Older Persons has also recognized the importance of family for the well being of older persons and has decided to have programmes to promote family values, sensitize the young on the necessity and desirability of inter-generational bonding and continuity and the desirability of meeting filial obligations.
"State policies will encourage children to co-reside with their parents by providing tax relief, allowing rebates for medical expenses and giving preference in the allotment of houses. The policy also says that short-term staying facilities for older persons will be supported so that families can get some relief when they go out," the study said.
The report made an interesting recommendation. In order to prevent elder abuse, it said there should be nationwide programmes in schools and colleges for sensitizing children and young adults towards the ageing and the aged, sensitization of healthcare workers to recognize and develop a protocol for treatment, develop a robust social security system that not only ensures income security to the older persons but also gives them opportunities for income generation.