IT is a part of our culture to pay respect to and take care of our elders at home. We generally try to look after them as much as we can within our means. In fact, we take them as a blessing for us.

But somehow this sense of respect for seniors evaporates when we are outside our homes. We treat them as healthy and equal as we are, whether we are standing in a queue or shopping or travelling.

I occasionally go to the US to see my son. Among the few things which impressed me is that at many shopping malls there are small battery-operated carts for senior citizens parked at the entrance . They comfortably sit in these carts, move about to do the shopping and then park the cart back at the entrance when they are done . Then they are allowed concessions on many purchases. At many places there are separate windows to serve senior citizens.

Recently I had an occasion to go to Istanbul. The respect the Turkish people show to elders is very moving. Just to give an example I must narrate an incident which really touched me. Lots of people travel in the thickly packed fast-moving buses. These have few seats but large standing space. On many occasions people gave up seats for me (I am 70 plus) . On one occasion I saw a couple sitting with a small baby in the lap of a lady. When she saw me standing close by, she literally threw the child in the lap of her male companion and got up to offer her seat. I declined but she insisted that I should sit, perhaps I looked a bit groggy.

When will such culture and such facilities will develop in Pakistan to give some respect, some consideration to senior citizens in the twilight of their life. At least this deseves a thought.

Tail piece: On returning to Karachi from Istanbul on Dec 14, 2012, I was pleased to see a separate immigration counter for senior citizens at the airport. But the pleasant feeling was shortlived as many younger persons went past me and formed a queue ahead of me at the senior citizens counter. I trudged along and when I reached the counter I did enquire from the lady manning the counter why she was entertaining everybody. She had no answer but a sheepish smile.

SMA Karachi

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