Let me respect my elders

Noel Manuel

I was often reminded by my parents to look up to people who are older to you in good words, good actions and good thoughts. Not aware of what they really meant by this, I thought it necessary to ask them the idea of being good to elders. And so I did. But ironically they had no immediate answer. In fact my grandmother advised me that one day when I grow tall and strong and able to look down on people who are younger and shorter than me, would I then understand the significance of this.

In our childhood we seldom stop to think of how we should behave and go about our interactions with our elders. Be it our own parents or relatives or for that matter even strangers. 

During my days in school I used to catch a particular bus at a particular time in the morning in order to be in time for class. Being the wee hours of the morning there was hardly any traffic jams to obstruct the smooth flow of vehicles. But, the bus was never empty. I had to make the entire journey of 40 minutes standing. I would have been lucky enough to get a seat. 

In the course of my daily commuting, I also came across an aged man who also took the same route. He boarded the bus before me and his destination, I was to never know. Like me, he too, often had to make the journey in a standing position. Once it so happened, that I stood beside this aged man and to our luck a person seated in the front had reached his stoppage and decided to get off. The bus was crowded and the old man was entitled to the seat, as he stood right in front of the man, who was seated earlier. Instead of sitting, he gestured me to take the seat. Initially, I refused and asked him to be seated. But the old man reluctantly caught my hand and pulled me to the seat before anyone else could occupy it. I sat and looked up in admiration at the old man’s concern. Coincidentally, on that day the man got off with me at the same stoppage. Since the bus stopped on the right side of the road, I had to cross over to my school, which was on the other side. Lack of subways, often compelled us to wait for about ten minutes till the traffic lights turned red so that we could safely cross over. 

I crossed over immediately after the traffic lights turned red and out of curiosity looked back to see where the old man had gone. To my utter dismay he had fallen on the tram tracks and was having a hard time getting up. He too, tried to cross over as quickly as I did but was not as successful. People had gathered around and some started to help him. Traffic had come to a standstill. The man suffered a cut on his forehead. I felt guilty for not offering my services to the man that day. I went to school with a heavy heart and a grieved mind. It was a disappointing day for me. If only I had been able to ask the man whether he wanted to cross the road, I could have possibly averted such a disaster. 

My goodness in actions words and thoughts towards my elders had miserably failed and I began to recall what my grandmother had told me.

The recess was over and I rushed to have some water before going to class for the second session. I was late and the teacher was already present there. “May I come in sir,” I asked. Yes you may, the voice replied sounding quite familiar. The man turned and to my utter surprise it was the man who had offered me the seat before meeting with a minor accident. His forehead had a band-aid and he smiled. “Please come in,” he said. He was our new history teacher. Hanging my head in shame and with no courage to look up at the teacher, I walked past and sat down.

The teacher had taught me through example. He was not only a teacher in the class but also a teacher in real life. 

Our parents and elders do so much for the younger generation in terms of counseling them, setting a good precedent, teaching them and building a future that is conducive for their survival. To do all this it takes years of hard work and consistent dedication. But it also needs the support and obedience of the younger generation. Until we, the youth extend our support and obedience there can never be a future conducive for our survival. 

Respect is one of the most important forms of support. And it is the only means by which we can understand the ideals, plans of our elders besides helping them journey of the future.

Sometime ago, while on my to Delhi, there was this middle aged man seated beside me in the train. We often experience children boarding the train from different stations to sweep and in return they request us for a few coins. Soon after our bogie was swept, a child came to collect a few coins. He said, “Uncleji, please help me.” The man shot back angrily, “How dare you call me uncle?” “Am I your relative?” The child looked on in wonder not really knowing what to say in reply. 

It was only out of respect that the child had approached the man and thought that the best way to respect him was to call him ‘Uncle?’ The ignorance of the man had probably made the young child feel whether it was really worth extending our respect to elders. 

But no, it was not the child that was to blame but instead the ignorance and foolishness of the man. During the course of the journey, I began taking to the man and soon we got to know each other well. After, a healthy discussion on various topics, I asked the man, What if your child was to call me uncle and I respond by telling him that he should not do so because I am not his relative. How would you feel about it? Trying to hide his guilt, he finally admitted that his behaviour was unbecoming and regretted for the same.

Respect is something that we can earn and not buy. If we are to respect our elders they need to earn it, like the teacher who offered the seat on the bus. And no matter how difficult or insulted we feel by the behaviour of our elders, we should always remember that good actions, words and thoughts towards our elders promotes our image. For the person who gives respect is far more superior to the one, who receives it.        

noelmanuel@rediffmail.com

The writer is the Bureau Chief (Nagaland) of Eastern Panorama (News Magazine of the Northeast), Coordinator of the Northeast Region (Poetry Society of India) and Life Member of the Poetry Society of India, Phonetics Trainer.