The emotional and physical turmoil of elder abuse — a first-hand account

An 86-year-old woman shares her story of forced eviction, physical violence.
Published 01 Oct, 2021 01:10pm

Earlier this year, President Arif Alvi promulgated the Parental Protection Ordinance 2021, under Article 89 of the Constitution, providing protection and security to elders against forced eviction from their homes and making such acts liable to punishment such as one-year jail term or fine, or both. Below shares a story by an 86-year-old woman of elder abuse (names have been changed to protect privacy).

My son Nauman was studying in college in Karachi when he fell in love with his classmate Zeba. My husband and I lived in Lahore where he was posted in a government department and I was teaching in one of the city’s popular private schools.

They got married soon after completion of their studies and my son decided to settle in Karachi. It was a tumultuous relationship from the beginning with her controlling the trajectory of their married life since my son was afraid of her temper and tantrums.

When their first child – a son – was born, my mother (the baby’s great grandmother) lovingly stitched a layette for the baby, but the gift was sent back much to our bewilderment. My mother was completely heartbroken. They kept the gift money I sent from Lahore, which was my month’s salary as a school teacher.

Two more sons were born in quick succession.

I remember one January when their kids were young, they came to stay with us. It was very strange but she refused to eat with us. My husband was very sick but she would not even enquire about his health.

Then Nauman found work in the UAE and they moved there. My grandsons, after completing their high schools, went off to Canada to complete their university degrees.

I continued living in Lahore with my husband. When he passed away in 2011, I gave my apartment on rent and moved in with my sister. I spent half the year in the US (where my other son and my daughter live).

On my way to the US, I would stop for a week in the UAE to meet them. One time, when she found out about my travel plans, she rang me up and told me very rudely that I cannot stay as their son and daughter-in-law were also coming around the same time. I had no choice but to put up with a cousin in the UAE for a week and made some excuse to my son why I could not stay with them that year.

After their graduation, Nauman’s younger two also got jobs in the UAE.

After living and working in the UAE for over a decade, Nauman lost his job and returned to Pakistan in 2020 just as the coronavirus was raging and jobs had dried up. This time, Nauman decided to relocate to Lahore.

One of his sons decided he wanted to explore more options and returned with his parents as well.

Since Nauman had to restart his life all over again after returning to Pakistan, they moved into a rented apartment but asked me if they could sell my flat for all of us to be able to move into a bigger and newer one since mine was in a rundown state. His siblings and I agreed, and gave him the power of authority to do that.

But living in the same space was not comfortable. The minute I would go towards the kitchen to grab something to eat from the fridge, Zeba would come behind me. I would make a weak remark that I was filling my water bottle. She made me feel as if I was raiding her fridge. She even taunted Nauman for spending money to feed me mangoes!

Two weeks after we settled into our temporary abode, Zeba told me to leave. This was also two weeks after my son and daughter living in the US sent their power of attorney to Nauman, giving up their share of the inheritance.

Once secure on that account, she decided to get rid of me. She said the house did not belong to Nauman as the rent was being paid by my grandsons. The words she uttered, "May you burn in hell" and "I hate you!", in a fit of temper keep resounding in my ears. After she threw me out, she sent a text to my daughter which read: "I have thrown your mother out on the street; go and collect her, and take her to your house."

Next she lunged towards me with my walking sticks. My grandson and Nauman came from behind to hold her from hitting me. But she still managed to strike me.

I sat down unbelieving of what had just happened. She looked at me and shouted at me to leave. Then she screamed saying: “You will not take Nauman, and you will not take the car.”

But Nauman came with me. She screamed and threatened: “I will tell everyone that you abandoned me.”

With my two suitcases, I was unceremoniously made to leave the house. Nauman came with me and I was fortunate to have friends who took a widow and her son in, and we were able to move into a one-bedroom spare room.

Shocked at the nightmare that had befallen me, my health took a nosedive. I lost the ability to walk while my hemoglobin, that was 14.4 in April, plummeted to 6. I suffered from internal bleeding and needed two blood transfusions. The doctor said poor nutrition and bleeding gastric ulcers from the traumatic experience had caused this.

I had never faced such emotional and physical violence before. And hopefully never will.

October 1, 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons.