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Sonali's crime result of 'lack of social support' to families seeking to care elderly parents

By Rosamma Thomas* 

A two-column news item appeared in The Hindu newspaper on Wednesday, June 14, 2023. “Woman kills mother, takes body to police”, read the headline of the report that said Sonali Sen admitted at the police station in Mico Layout, Bangalore, that she had killed her mother.
Biva Paul, Sonali’s mother, had been living in Bangalore with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson for five years, ever since her husband passed away. The mother and daughter would quarrel frequently, and the report mentioned that after a recent fight, Biva Paul had asked her daughter to kill her. Sonali Sen force-fed her mother an overdose of blood pressure tablets, which caused the death.
Police have arrested Sonali Sen. This situation of caring for an elderly parent in a city to which the parent has moved to be with a child is fraught with tension – the parents who move often leave behind their friends and other kin, and are excessively dependent on their children for all social interactions; the children working jobs in metropolitan cities commute long distances and work long hours, and find it hard to take care of every need of the ageing parent. In larger cities, even neighbours seldom visit, and there might not be acquaintances to drop in for a conversation with elderly people.
Sonali Sen obviously took on the responsibility of caring for her mother, but found herself stretched to the limit. She could probably not think of any solutions for her problem.
Sonali will be wracked by guilt. Her punishment will follow her through life. She was a helpless woman attempting to be a good daughter
If she had asked around, perhaps someone would have indicated to her that there are places where one could admit an elderly parent – old age homes, for instance. Some of those are also quite expensive, but in Pala, Kerala, there is Maria Sadanam – a home where people with mental illness, which also admits elderly people when families find it hard to take care of them. Voluntary donations are welcome, and there is no set fee for admitting a family member; many of the residents are admitted free of cost.
Sonali Sen could have explored places where her mother could be encouraged to move, but then who can tell whether the mother would agree to live away?
Sen’s crime appears a murder perpetrated by an individual, but it is actually the result of the way society is currently organized in Indian cities; the lack of social support for families caring for little children or elderly parents has dire consequences.
Sen will be wracked by guilt, and her punishment will follow her through life. She was a helpless woman attempting to be a good daughter; she was angry and despairing, and found little support. Sen’s crime implicates us all.
---
*Freelance journalist

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